Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Art of the BBQ

Once again, I haven't written in a while but yes, I've been sailing my butt off and bbqin' up a storm.  Last weekend a group of us sailed over to another yacht club, stayed the night and sailed home.  Always a great time and the gang allows me to do dinner.  Of course it's usually steak.  The cost of beef is way up so I try my hardest to find a great cut of beef that is affordable for everyone, I think I bombed this year with a wet aged Bavette - sorry guys.  First, let's talk about cuts of beef.

A tender steak comes from the muscles that aren't used on a regular basis.  For example, the leg muscles get used a lot, hence, an osso bucco cut has to be cooked for a long time, in liquid at a low temperature to help break down the connective tissue to tenderize the meat.  The tenderloin, which runs down the back (see the diagram), gets used way less, and thus produces a piece of meat with very little connective tissue.  The downside, some might argue with a piece of meat that is very tender - lack of flavour.  So which cut of meat should one choose for the perfect steak?  Let's start with the 3 obvious and most popular choices, the tenderloin, ribeye and striploin.  These are followed closely by the sirloin and the bavette.

Most people go for the tenderloin - the priciest cut, mostly because it has less fat, HOWEVER, fat = flavour.  My favourite steak is a ribeye - the cut with the swirl of fat in the middle and then the striploin (aka NY Strip) with a lot of fat marbled in the meat!  You choose but keep in mind that FAT = FLAVOUR...

There are also 2 ways to 'age' beef.  Beef is not good 'fresh', it needs time to 'relax'.  The most common and cheapest way of 'ageing' beef is the wet age method.  The beef is processed into its 'parts', i.e. tenderloin, and vacuumed packed and left to age in cold storage for usually 2 weeks, then cut into individual portions, put on Styrofoam trays and voila a supermarket steak.  A good butcher will wet age their meat for 30 days.  Why do this?  It allows the connective tissues to breakdown thus tenderizing and developing flavour.  The longer the meat is aged, the more flavourful and tender it will be. 

The second way to age beef is the dry age method.  The dry age method is very uncommon and expensive but a very old way of aging beef.  Dry aged beef has been around for centuries.  It's where a side of beef, on the bone is hung in a cold storage for 30-60 days.  The norm is 28 days but there are a few butchers who age beef this way for 60 or more days.  What happens?  Without going into the grisly details, the good bacteria eats away at the connective tissue and a thick crust forms on the outside of the side of beef (this crust protects the inside from the bad bacteria).  The crust and the good bacteria add a lovely sweet flavour to the beef.  It also shrinks on the bone and thus, will NOT shrink when you cook it on the BBQ.  This my friends is my favourite.  Any kind of beef that has been dry aged for at least 60 days or more is a perfect piece of beef. 

Now, don't go to the grocery store and buy a tenderloin or some porterhouse steaks and think you can hang them in your fridge for 60 days, it just doesn't work that way...the temperature and humidity are key, and believe it or not, the cooler will 'season' over the years and the good bacteria will be floating around freely in the butcher shop.

Dry Age Ribeye 

Dry Age Striploin

Dry age side of beef

Where the mysterious Bavette comes from:

Now back to cuts of beef - Hey you might yell at me from across a crowded room - you forgot the Porterhouse and the T-bone - I yell back in my usual arrogant way "my friends, tsk, tsk, the porterhouse is made up of a portion of the tenderloin and the striploin and well the T-bone - it's the NY strip with the bone still attached.  They look big but you are paying for the bones my friend, bones".

So here's this week's recipes, my favourite steak on the grill and a yummy potato salad, one of my favourite summer meals!

BBQ Steak

Choice of striploin, tenderloin, ribeye, sirloin or bavette (I prefer the dry age)

Have your butcher cut you a fair sized thick steak, no less than 1" thick.  They will trim it but have them leave on some fat, remember FAT = FLAVOUR.  If you think it's too big, save the leftover for breakfast with your eggs the next day!

Preheat your BBQ or grill (there is a difference, next blog) to pretty hot, 500 F and up! Yup!

I prefer my steak cooked to a Chicago Blue, char on the outside, just warmed on the inside, BUT most people don't like that so here's the way to a good medium rare (don't ruin it by cooking it to a crisp, you are just wasting your money, might as well go get a burger).

Place your steak on the sizzling hot grill for about 3 minutes.  After 3 minutes, turn 90 degrees (get those crisscross grill marks) and cook another 1-2 minutes.  Flip ONLY ONE TIME. Cook on 2nd side for about 3 to 4 minutes depending on thickness and that's it my friends! FLIP ONLY ONE TIME!!!! Let rest 5 minutes then season with a crunchy sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

1 lb fingerling or mini potatoes 
(reds are pretty cool and purple potatoes even cooler)
Some mayo
some Dijon
chopped green onions
a red pepper or 2
maybe some left over grilled asparagus or zucchini - whatever
salt and pepper

Boil your potatoes until just tender, they should have a bit of a bite to them.  Mix the Dijon and mayo together and when potatoes are drained, mix the mayo/mustard mixture with the HOT potatoes.  Let cook in the fridge.  When cool, add the rest of the stuff.    

Now who's hungry??? (I need more pictures)

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