How star chefs age their own steaks at home
The world of steak is not known for innovation. Apart from the kinds grown in labs or fabricated on a 3D printer, as well as the occasional upgraded wagyu, “tried and true” is the motto most beef enthusiasts embrace.
One attribute that has become a standard for steak aficionados is dry aging. The concept has been employed by butchers and steakhouse operators for decades, and has become non-negotiable on menus in the past decade or so. The result of dry aging, for those that aren’t already indoctrinated, is a more intense, meaty flavor with a better crust as moisture comes out of the steak over time. It’s not hard to dry age meat—home aging refrigerators are increasingly available. Most commercially available aged steaks go up to 28 days. Past 35 days, the flavor gets increasingly funky, which works for some people but not everyone.
There’s an even easier process than buying a $1,600 machine, and you can improve on the dry aged cuts you buy at the market.
Andrew Carmellini has been employing a technique he calls “re-aging” for prime beef for over a decade. It’s a process he started for the T-bones he serves at his modern American restaurant the Dutch in SoHo in New York. The concept is simple: Take a prime steak cut, one that has already been aged, and let it stand in the cold air of your refrigerator for a few days, preferably upright. The steaks you buy at the store were almost certainly aged as bigger cuts. “When you get the air circulating around the smaller cuts, it brings more moisture that was left in the meat, and caramelizes the sugars in there” says Carmellini. He adds: “It’s especially good for a steak for two—tomahawks, cote de boeuf, big rib eyes, and porterhouse—those bigger eating steaks.”
At his swanky new steakhouse Carne Mare in the Financial District, Carmellini takes re-aging a step further. One of the most popular items on the menu is Gorgonzola-cured beef. The $75 wagyu strip cut is so well infused with the pungent cheese, it carries through from your first taste, accenting the light funkiness already in the meat. The chef won’t disclose the exact details of making it, except to say that it’s based on a whole wagyu strip that’s wrapped in Gorgonzola and air dried “for a bunch of days.” He then cuts the meat into steaks and sears them.
Carmellini advises home cooks to re-age their steak of choice, the way he does at his longtime downtown hangout the Dutch, and top it with a simple Gorgonzola butter before serving. The result is dynamite—the sweet, sharp cheese butter melts right into the steak, enriching it while also carrying the punch of black pepper and wine-infused shallots. Although experts will debate how effective dry aging in your refrigerator can be, I found my re-aged rib-eye to be more tender, with a better caramelized crust, than a rib-eye from the same store that a friend grilled a few weeks ago.
While steak with Gorgonzola butter is an all-weather dish, Carmellini says the best time to make it is late summer and early fall, when you can grill the beef and serve it with the season’s star produce. “My favorite thing to eat with steak is tomatoes, and this is peak, peak, peak tomatoes,” he says. To make it even better, make it this blue cheese-infused steak, says Carmellini: “That beef, and tomato, with the gorgonzola butter is the summer’s best flavor bomb.”
The following recipe is adapted from Andrew Carmellini and Carne Mare steakhouse. Testers note: The recipe makes leftover butter that is especially good on beef but also delicious on chicken and pasta and as a spread on blue-cheese friendly sandwiches.
Re-Aged Steak with Gorgonzola Butter
1 ¾ lb to 2 lb steak for two, such as bone-in rib-eye, porterhouse, or tomahawk chop, at room temperature
1/3 cup minced shallots
1 cup white wine
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup Gorgonzola, at room temperature
1 tbsp black pepper, plus more for seasoning
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp fresh thyme
Sea salt, for seasoning
1 tbsp vegetable oil, if cooking on the stove
Set the steak on a rack set over a plate and refrigerate uncovered, turning once, for 48 hours. Let return to room temperature before cooking.
In a small saucepan, cook the shallots and white wine over medium-high heat until the shallots are pink and translucent and 95 % of the wine is evaporated, about 20 minutes. Let cool. Transfer to a bowl, and add the butter, Gorgonzola, pepper, parsley, and thyme. Beat until well combined. (The butter can be refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for two months.)
If grilling, preheat over high heat. Alternatively, preheat the oven to 400F and set a heatproof pan over high heat and add the oil. Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Grill or cook on the stove top, turning once, until well browned on both sides, about 6 minutes total. If grilling, set over indirect heat, cover with a bowl and cook for about 10 minutes more, turning once, for medium rare, or to desired doneness. Alternatively, transfer the steak to the oven and roast for about 10 minutes, turning once.
Let the steak rest for 10 minutes, then slice across the grain, top with the Gorgonzola butter, and serve.
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