A friend who is particularly fond of grass fed beef was at the Union Square Farmer's Market recently and asked his favorite cattle farmer for advice on cooking techniques. He had splurged on a couple of grass fed strip steaks, an expensive cut of beef so tender that it can be served rare and still sliced thick. Here is what the farmer advised:
Bring the steaks up to room temperature - take them out of the fridge a solid two hours before cooking. Do not salt or season them in any way until right before cooking. Put the steaks in a 275 degree oven for 25 minutes (the steaks were about an inch and a half thick), and then sear them in a hot pan on the stove top for just moments per side, only for color.My friend was skeptical - he thought the steaks would be overcooked. But he followed this advice and said the results were great. So the other night when I had a hankering for a good steak, I decided to try this method of cooking. I went to the food coop and grabbed a pound of beautiful strip steak by Slope Farms, without question my favorite source for grass fed, no antibiotic, no hormone, free range, yoga practicing beef. I did this at about 4:30 and since BrooklynLady and I would eat at about 7:30 after our daughters were (hopefully) in a deep sleep and would not hear the clanging of cooking pans, I left the steak out on the counter to come to room temperature.
I followed the instructions exactly - seasoned the meat just before putting it in the oven at 275 degrees for 25 minutes. Potatoes finished roasting, a simple green salad composed, and after 25 minutes I took the steak out of the oven. Nothing had happened - it looked as though it hadn't cooked at all. It was deep purple and still marbled with fat. Okay, to the pan and we'll eat in 10 minutes. But touching the steak, it was clear that it had, in fact, cooked a bit, and the side touching the rack was a bit gray. It felt essentially the way steak feels when it's cooked rare to medium-rare. Weird. So I continued with the plan and seared it for a moment or two on each side, and let it rest on a cutting board for a few minutes.Can I tell you that this steak was fantastic? The inside was perfectly rosy and meltingly tender, and the outside was seared for that caramelized complexity and great texture, but there was no gray layer of overcooked meat between the outer char and the rosy interior, as I usually get when I pan-fry a steak. This one was just perfect, and I'm totally sold on this method.What wine with this simple but still decadent feast? BrooklynLady requested a Rhône red, but the only bottle I had in the house turned out to be corked, an Ardeche Syrah by Joseph Gonon. We decided to open a special bottle, a 1999 Chateau Musar, $36, Imported by Broadbent Selections. I've had this famous wine from Lebanon on several occasions and enjoyed it each time, but this was far and away the finest bottle I've had. It was simply stunning wine, and we savored every drop. It was a perfect pairing with our meal, which may in turn have elevated the wine a bit, but it was perfect nonetheless. Can you imagine spending $450 for a top left bank Bordeaux when you can buy this wine for about $40? Okay, not exaclty the same thing, but similar style of wine that pairs with the same types of food.
This iconic wine is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Cinsault and Carignan, all old vines, and all grown at high elevation where there are cool breezes and the grapes can retain lots of acid. Gaston Hochar, the proprietor of the estate, holds wine until he feels it is ready for release, and 2000 is the current vintage on retail shelves.
The nose was vibrant with sweet fresh berries and cassis, and refined leathery and herbal undertones. There was not even a hint of the volatile acidity that sometimes plagues this wine. The palate was energetic and alive, a very complex marriage of fruit, soil, acidity, and secondary herbal notes, beautifully balanced with a tender mouth feel. This is a deep and powerful wine, and there is still great structure - it could probably age indefinitely, although if I could be assured that all bottles would be this perfectly resolved, I would happily drink what I have this year. Why not? It's absolutely fantastic wine. And you know what they say about a bird in the hand...