So here’s the thing. This thing called wifeing seems to involve an awful lot of steak. Not that I’m complaining – I love a good steak. But it’s taken me a couple years to realise men don’t subsist on lettuce leaves alone (at least, the one I live with doesn’t – as he so aptly put it, when I presented him with a salade composée for dinner: ‘I’m not a squirrel, darling’).
Let’s just say, eventually I realised if I wanted a long and happy marriage, I had better beef up on my ahem, beef knowledge…
Now, the biggest lesson when it comes to steak can be summed up as: no steak is better than bad steak. Given the relative difficulty of sourcing really good quality steak – also, let’s face it, the cost once you do get your hands it, especially here in London – I find that once again, I am guided by my grandmothers’ wise words: less is more. To that end, I aim to only the highest quality meat, and eat it sparingly (now if only the husband would take that ‘sparingly’ bit on board…).
So what makes good steak, then? Well, a lot of it is probably down to personal preference – especially when it comes to ageing, cooking and finish – however its important to understand the feeding process, and how a specific herd is reared, as this really plays into things like flavour and texture.
Wherever possible, I try opt for steak from cows that have been pastured, grass-fed and grass-finished (though on occasion, corn-finishing will help develop some nice marbling, so that’s not to say it’s a total no-no). The reason is to do with any yukkies landing on my plate. Cattle that are predominantly corn or soy-fed, or cattle that is kept in close confinement, tend to become sick much easier, meaning they are often given hormones and antibiotics.
The other thing to consider is that only high-quality, grass-fed beef can be dry aged – a process by which excess moisture evaporates, and the meat develops that really incredible flavour and texture. Poorer-quality meat can’t withstand the dry ageing process – it simply falls apart.
The Where and The How.
When it comes to choosing a steak, I pay particular attention to provenance, generally preferring to ‘choose local’ – whether I am at the butchers or in a restaurant.
Now, disclaimer: I rarely buy steak at the butchers. I’d much rather have it at a restaurant where the meat is aged and cooked on a charcoal grill to really bring out the flavours. Also, the smell – let’s face it, you need a 2:1 ratio of Dyptique candles to steak to erase the sweet scent of steakhouse from your kitchen (nice in a steak house, less nice in a house if you know what I mean).
That being said, I do occasionally cook a steak at home. Since Allen’s of Mayfair shut down, I like to go to Provenance, on Pavillion Street, a butcher that specialises in meats from small independent farms across England. Their beef selection is excellent, with Longhorn, Shorthorn, Belted Galloway, Dexter and Hereford breeds on offer.
Belted Galloway in particular is a bit of a household favourite. It’s a breed native to Scotland and the Lake District, known for its low fat content and high grass to muscle ratio (…do I sound like I have spent many an hour in deep conversation with butchers and chefs? Oh, the #wifelife 🙈). In normal speak, it’s downright delish. Goodmans Steakhouse on Maddox Street knocks it out the park when it comes to Belted Galloway steak, and their beef-fat chips are a thing of dreams.
Stepping away from the UK – and closer to my own roots – I was introduced to an Italian breed from the Piedmont region called Fassona, that blew me away! What’s different about Fassona is that it’s surprisingly tender, whilst still retaining a beautiful flavour. This is due to the cattle exhibiting muscular hypertrophy, due to natural mutation, with results in a decrease of inter muscular fat and of connective tissue, giving major tenderness to the meat.
Macellaio Roberto Costa, on Old Brompton Road, is part-butcher, part-restaurant, and works closely with select few farms in the Alba region to source Piedmontese Fassona. Upstairs at 5 Hertford Street also offers Fassona, marinated Provençale-style, that is simply off the charts.
If you’re suddenly inspired to prepare a home-cooked steak feast for your hubby – well, R-E-S-P-E-C-T lady. I thought I’d give it another myself whirl sometime soon, so I took the liberty to hit up chef, Matteo Riganelli, of Macellaio Roberto Costa, with a little steak cooking advice.
As he put it, ‘the best way to cook at home is to use a hob cast iron griddle to really cicatrise the meat, and then finish in the oven at highest temperature.’ He adds, ‘remember, the oven has to be really hot otherwise you could boil the meat.’
Uhm yes – we wouldn’t want that… 😳
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