Beef is in the news right now, but again for all the wrong reasons (check out the devil eyes!).
What’s so bad about cloning a cow? You’d have to assume its a bloody good one for someone to bother. Anyway, the way they breed cows right now isn’t exactly as nature intended.
Personally I can see no clear reason why a cloned cow entering the food chain is a cause for hand-wringing. But I’m looking forward to when we can grow steaks in a vat so I don’t have to feel so guilty about the bit when they get a pressurised bolt struck into their skull.
Right now we still have to get our steak the old-fashioned way. To me that means picking a good breed which had a good diet and good animal welfare. Plus it needs the attention of a decent butcher who understands how to cut, age and package the meat (vac-packing is a no-no, the blood taints the meat).
It makes sense to me that outdoor-reared beef which eats grass would give the best steak. But if you want steaks packed with marbling, grain does the trick. Many people are prepared to pay top dollar for Kobe (Wagyu) beef but I have gone off the idea since reading this article by M. Blanc. It may be that animals treated well don’t taste better, but at least the knowledge helps reduces the guilt factor of settling down to eating them.
I’ve read about the beef from Jack O’Shea for some time now and been very keen to try it. I usually get beef from Roger Brown who sources Longhorn from Quenby Hall or Longhorn directly from Richard Vaughan at Huntsham Farm. But with Hannah visiting London on a regular basis recently this gave me an excellent opportunity to try some of Jack’s stuff from his Selfridges outlet.
As expected, this shit ain’t cheap. In fact its seriously expensive. But even at the prices he charges you can still eat better (much better) and more cheaply at home than at your local, shitty French/Italian chain restaurant. So who’s counting.
First up, cote de boeuf – or ribeye on the bone – or cowboy steak according to their website. This is one of the ultimate steak cuts, along with T-bone. My local butcher much to my disappointment either won’t or can’t do this for me.
Jack will. The breed is Black Angus. The ageing is a minimum of 28 days. I’d already some of his ribeye, ‘barley-finished’, which was pretty tremendous but this took it to another level. They also do USDA prime rib which is supposed to be amazing (although to be honest, the steaks we had in America, for example at Peter Luger’s in New York didn’t blow me away).
First impressions were mixed: certainly an impressive looking piece of meat, probably enough for 3 hungry people, with loads of fat (its ribeye) and decent marbling, but it was surprisingly bright red colour. I’d understood well aged meat to be take on a darker red/purple colour, at least according to Hugh’s writing in his excellent meat book.
This cut deserves serious treatment. I got it out of the fridge a couple of hours early to bring to temperature and gave it a little salt rub. To maximise flavour I decided I would grill it over an extremely hot charcoal BBQ and finish it off in a hot oven. I gave it a full 25 minute rest so ensure the juices would be evenly distributed.
It also deserved some top-notch veg; I used Simon Hopkinson’s recipe for pots dauphinoise (briefly, rinse and dry the potatoes, cook the slices in a pan with milk, double, cream, garlic and seasoning until nearly cooked, then bake in the oven for 40 minutes – great result every time) and my quick version of peas a la francaise (cook your peas, braise some little gem lettuce with garlic in oil, add peas, finish with mint).
The leftovers went in the next day’s steak sandwich, improved with mustard, Maldon salt and the Formula 1.
But the beef story, it don’t end there!
Beef short ribs are the trendy thing to eat these days, I’ve seen them described somewhere as the beef version of lamb shanks and in the States they are on every menu. Not yet popular here but wait for it. It’s the bit of the rib you can’t really roast (too thin) or turn into steaks (not sure why). God knows what we do with it usually in this country, perhaps give it to a clone army of dogs?
It’s chock full of marbled fat so needs a slow braise to render that down. For dish one I braised them in the oven with stock veg, red wine and beef stock. Served with mash and mustard on the side plus the carrots.
Right now the leftover remains are being turned into a proper ragu for pasta papardelle. Ask for “Jacob’s ladder” at your local butcher.