Written by Dawn Tyson
Flank, chop, loin, filet, round, sirloin, hanger, skirt — I’m talking STEAK. And the steakhouse of today is not what it used to be. Visions of men in suits chomping down on rare cuts of meat; scantily dressed women walking around serving drinks and cigars; a large dark mahogany wood bar surrounded by men smoking and drinking bourbon, is this your vision of a steakhouse? That’s so last season.
Today’s steakhouse is the place to be seen, the after work hang out, the meeting place for today’s FEMALE Moguls and Moms. Women; Yes, the “power brokers” sitting, eating steaks, making deals over lunch and ending their meals with a great glass of scotch. The “face” of the new steakhouse has changed and the resurgence has begun.
There are the good ones. I mean the great ones! The ones you come back to time and time again. Then there are the “newbies” that have just opened their doors, who try to “reinvent”, “take it to the next level”, or “mold into” their “new vision” of what a STEAKHOUSE is.
First, entering the arena are the “great bulls”, the institutions of meat, potatoes and creamed spinach. They have been around for years because they know their steak. You always get a great steak. The service is impeccable and you leave satisfied. Peter Luger’s Steakhouse in Brooklyn is a bonafide New York institution that has been around for more than 100 years. For 26 consecutive years, Peter Luger’s Steakhouse has held the rank of being “New York’s #1 steakhouse” according to Zagat’s. Luger’s has hosted the “who’s who” of the last century, from Alfred Hitchcock to Robert De Niro to P. Diddy. For the past 30 years Smith & Wollensky has been a cornerstone in Manhattan. Smith & Wollensky, as many of the “top bulls” do, use USDA prime cuts, they have an in-house butcher and dry age their meat. The Prime Rib in Baltimore, Maryland opened its doors in 1965. The waiters still wear tuxedos and to get in, jackets are required for men. You can even borrow a jacket from their coat check girl. The atmosphere is reminiscent of old money. And finally, I call him a “great bull” because of his years in the business although his steakhouse concept is relatively new. In 2006, Wolfgang Puck opened CUT in Beverly Hills, California. Award winning restaurateur, celebrity Chef Puck is credited for redefining American cuisine. He opened CUT, a contemporary take on the modern steakhouse in the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. CUT has already, after the first year of operation, earned a coveted one star ranking from the Michelin Guide, not a small accomplishment.
Now, for the “young calves”, driving them one by one into the vast arena, each one of them fighting for their place in the herd. There are so many…Laurent Tourandel’s BLT Steak – NYC, Chef Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak – Las Vegas, Chef Tim Love’s Duce – Fort Worth, TX, Chef Kevin Rathbun’s Steak – Atlanta, Ken Oringer’s KO Prime – Boston, restaurateur Myles Chefetz’s Prime One Twelve – Miami, restaurateur & Chef Rick Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood – Chicago. They are good – really good. The décor is hip, contemporary and clean. Their service is commendable. They all boast presenting steak in a “new way” or “with a twist”. Some have salt aging rooms that have been designed by the best. Others have classically trained butchers on site (classically trained to carve meat?). Most have sommeliers and some have cigar bars. So to pick from the arena of the grazing herds (I’m done with the analogies), what you want to do next time you are in NYC, is to drop by Quality Meats on west 58th street between 5th & 6th. Fourth Wall Restaurants opened Quality Meats with designer AvroKO, who created a warm, industrial décor of stainless wood and white marble that plays homage to an old meat locker. Chef Craig Koketsu claims a “rustic new American menu”. What that means is American steak done well. Great appetizers, extraordinary cuts of meat and their presentation of steak sauce made at your table…simply. How do you say “finger licking”? Quality Meats menu has the classic side dishes -“steakhouse fare” – potatoes mashed, crispy and such, but has introduced the “new classics” – buttered edamame with mint salt, corn crème brulee, gnocchi and cheese, broccoli & cheese bits – try them all. And for most of you, a meal is not over unless you have something sweet. Well, at Quality Meats their pastry Chef has designed individual pies. Scrumptious and delicious in several flavors of “sweets”, these pies are divine. You could share but I would not recommend it.
If you like a sweet finish to your meal as I do, try this warm fruity dessert, with a cheddar cheese crumble.
Apple & Pear Tart
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 large egg yolk
7 tablespoons cold butter, cut into ½ pieces
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons ice water
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup almonds – toasted
2 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled – cored and cut into wedges
1 ½ tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 Bartlett pears, peeled – cored and cut into wedges
½ cup sugar
Preheat oven to 375 F
Using your food processor to make your crust is quick and easy. Position knife blade in food processor bowl; add salt, flour, nutmeg and sugar then top with cover and pulse. Add cut butter to flour mixture and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolk. With processor running, slowly add water, a teaspoon at a time, until dough forms a ball leaving sides of bowl. I like to take my tart pan and place it on top of a sheet pan dressed with parchment paper. Press dough into tart pan, forming bottom of tart. Make sure you press into the corners of the tart pan and up the sides. Because the tart dough is so buttery there is no need for greasing the pan. Put the crust aside while we work on the filling. Chop almonds in a food processor until a small ground and spread it in the bottom crust. In a large bowl combine apples and pears. Mix sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon in another bowl. Use half the sugar mixture to toss the apples and pears and pile into crust – you can arrange the fruit on its side in a pretty pattern so your final tart looks presentably. Take the remaining bit of sugar mixture to sprinkle over the top of the fruit. Grace the top of your tart with a tablespoon of butter. Bake tart in the oven for about 1 hour or until the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool.
You can serve this tart with ice cream or whipped cream but try some cheddar cheese crumble melted on top.
You will love it.
Check out these Cooking Tips to bring that Steak-house flavor to your home.
Tip #1 –MARBLED MEAT – GOOD!
Do you know how to pick your steak? Your butcher does. Are you familiar with the different “cuts” the cow produces? Your butcher is. Long gone are the days when your mother or grandmother stopped at the local butcher for that “butter flied pork roast for the holiday dinner”. No, those days are not gone. The man or woman in that white coat with the cleaver at your local grocery store is your butcher. Introduce yourself. Ask questions. My butcher’s name is Jack and he is a third generation butcher. He knows meat. My favorite steak cut is a Rib eye or T-bone steak because meat on the bone, I feel is more flavorful. More marble – meaning more fat through the meat – means more flavor.
Tip #2 – FOR A GREAT STEAK – KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Some people have very elaborated marinates; Thai ginger orange, Hawaiian pineapple and garlic; Blackened pepper and ancho chili with a balsamic reduction. Well, all that is flavorful but for a great steak, to have great flavor, it is all about the cut, not the marinade. With a great cut of steak you only need salt, pepper and a bit of butter.
Please note: When I talk butter I mean real butter. Not margarine, which is basically a fatty solid spread colored with a yellow dye… I digress.
Tip #3 – FIRE – GRILL – COAL – HMMM!
I love to grill a steak on the BBQ outside. Yes, even in the winter you can find me with my big winter coat grilling a steak. I still like charcoal. Yes, I know gas is the way to go and I have a gas grill but grilling a good steak should be over charcoal (my opinion). It is about patience, firing up the coals and waiting for the coals to turn white. Most steaks should be placed about 3 to 6 inches away from the heat source; however, thicker beef cuts should be placed farther away. This is to prevent the outside of the thicker cuts from charring before the inside is properly cooked. Below find “The best way to check doneness of a steak”.
Tips #4 – DON’T TOUCH YOUR MEAT.
Don’t poke the meat. Don’t prod the meat. Leave it alone. Turn the meat only once. When grilling meat to a medium or greater doneness, use your grill lid to assist in cooking. A closed lid will decrease the cooking time by applying heat to all sides of the meat.
Tip #5 – LET IT REST.
Let your meat rest. Once the steak is cooked to the doneness you require place it on a plate. Don’t cut or poke the meat. Place a pat of butter on your meat. No fuss. Get your fork and steak knife and enjoy.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Best Way to Check Doneness of a Steak
There are three ways to check the doneness of a steak:
First – “wing it” – basically you are guessing
Second – “use a thermometer” – did I say don’t poke your meat. You do not want to puncture the steak. You puncture the steak and all the juices run out and you are left with dry, unappealing meat.
Third – “the finger test” – yes, there is a test that most chefs use and with practice you can master it.
Here we go. This test will be done with the palm of your hand. It is important that your hand is relaxed. Each test will involve you using the index finger of your other hand and pressing on the meaty area between your thumb and base of your palm. You will COMPARE the feeling in this area of your palm with the center of the steak you’re cooking.
Your hand is open.
Touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of your index finger. The meaty area between your thumb and the base of your palm should give and not be firm.
MEDIUM – RARE
Press the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your thumb. This will feel more firm and less giving but still spongy.
Touch the tip of your ring finger to the tip of your thumb and it should still give a bit but feel a bit more firm.
MEDIUM – WELL
I usually take the steak off of the flame and let it rest for about 5 minutes. The steak will continue to cook from medium to medium well.
Touch the tip of your pinkie to the tip of your thumb and this should feel hard yet springy.
“Keep It Cookin” Chef Dawn