There are many aspects that are said to maketh man. Proverbially, its manners – although in this suspicious age asking whether a lady would like you to help her with her bags may well result in a slap in the chops, rather than a flutter of eyelashes.
The Art Of Meat
Shakespeare once wrote in Hamlet, “…for the apparel oft proclaims the man.”
This probably rings as true today as it did in Elizabethan times when folks were all about the corsets and ruffs. Sure, we’re told not to judge a book by its cover, but it’d be a terrible liar that told you they’d never appraised someone on their threads.
If you wanted to get a little more anthropological on it, we could point out the handiness of the opposable thumb. After all, it’s that evolutionary adaptation that has enabled us to open cans of lager.
However, there’s something very important, very primal and pretty manly that we’ve been doing after we hopped down out of trees and – more specifically, about a million years ago – got our shit together and discovered fire. And that thing, friends, is cooking our meat.
These days less and less people are choosing to eat meat, or at the least eat it less often. That being said though, Aussies recently overtook the Yanks to become the most voracious meat-eaters on the planet, with the average intake being about ninety-five kilos per person annually.
So, it’s fair to say that we love our meat. We should surely then, make an effort to get one of the oldest, most basic, most sacred meals a bloke can whip up mastered. Boys, we’re talking about the perfect steak, and there might be a few magnificent bastards out there who will be surprised to learn that there’s more to a decent steak than whacking it on the barbie and sloshing beer all over it.
Now, we don’t want to be condescending. On the contrary, this is serious stuff. Basic, but ever so important; like tying your shoes, learning how to drive, or when you’re at high-school and you figure out that you can hide those untimely erections by tucking your doodle up into your waistband (don’t pretend like we haven’t all figured that one out.) It’s something every chap should know.
Happily, there are people out there who solve these sort of culinary riddles for a living. They’re called chefs. Conveniently we managed to track a couple down and ask them what takes a steak from drab to fab, from looking and tasting like the sole of an old boot, from a zero to a hero.
Meet The Pros
Dan West Jones is a self-taught chef from northern England who went on to work as head-chef in a 2 AA Rosette restaurant in one of the Lake District’s most lavish hotels. Most recently he has been working as head-chef in a luxury 5-star chalet in the French Alps.
Danny Livesey from Manchester, trod a different path, diving straight into an apprenticeship at a 2 Michelin Starred restaurant. He spent the next eight years working in one and two Michelin restaurants in London before deciding to enter the private sector.
Running his own show and kitchen, he’s whipped up some choice feeds for such notables as Jay-Z, The Rolling Stones and Black Sabbath (Ozzy’s pretty partial to shepherds pie FYI.) He also toured around with Sir Paul McCartney. These days he’s working privately on the super-yacht of a well-known billionaire.
Into The Fire
We asked these two talented gentlemen a few probing questions about the sort of meat they opt for, how they cook it and how they like to enjoy it. Due to typical chef eloquence a lot of editing took place to make this information as profanity free as possible whilst still being legible.
So, what’s your ultimate type and cut of beef for a panty-dropping steak, boys?
Dan West Jones: Preferred cut would have to be a dry-aged rib-eye from a Shorthorn cow. They’re renowned for their beautiful flavour and high fat content.
They’re sort of like the northern English version of a Wagyu. Only better. Obviously. I’d go for an eight to ten ounce steak, depending on how much of a fatty I was feeling.
Danny Livesey: It’s got to be Wagyu beef for me. Sirloin cut. Not the half-breed type that they’re farming in the States and UK and Australia. Proper Japanese beef. It’s bloody expensive, but you can’t beat the fat content.
The marbling is insane and has a low melting point so you get the juiciest, richest steak. Bloody well should be though. It costs about five hundred dollars a kilo over here.
Talk us through how you go about cooking this perfect steak, then.
DWJ: When preparing a rib-eye of this size I usually I tend to roll it tightly in Clingfilm and leave it to sig in the fridge overnight so that it holds its shape when you cook it, and you get a sexy looking steak.
Before cooking remove the plastic wrap and leave the steak to warm to room temperature for about an hour. This ensures that the meat cooks evenly and that the temperature is right all the way to the core. Next you want to season the meat.
A lot of people and chefs put salt directly on their steak and oil into the frying pan. Don’t do it! Always rub your steak with a generous amount of olive oil and add a decent amount of salt and black pepper afterwards.
The oil stops the salt from drying the steak out, and who the hell wants a dry steak, eh? When it comes to cooking the steak I prefer to use a stainless steel frying pan, forget the non-stick ones. Chuck it on a high heat for five or six minutes prior to cooking, lay your steak carefully in, then give it two minutes on each side for a solid medium rare.
Then crush two cloves of garlic and throw them in with your now beautifully coloured steak along with a knob of salted butter and large sprig of thyme. Baste the steak in the foaming butter for thirty seconds on each side, then remove the steak from the pan and leave to rest for as many minutes as you cooked the steak for.
This is the key to a melt in your mouth, piece of heaven. When you’re ready to get stuck in pour over the pan juices and dig in.
DL: Bring the steak up to room temperature, rub in some good quality olive oil and season with rock salt.
Get a pan bloody nice and hot, almost to the point of smoking, but then drop her down to medium, right. Drop your steak in and leave it cooking on one side. You’ll be able to see the steak cooking so keep your eye on it.
When you see that it’s cooked halfway through flip it over and take the pan off the heat. Add a knob of butter. It should start foaming from the residual heat in your pan, and you want to spoon it over the steak.
Once the butter stops foaming take the steak out of the pan and rest it on some kitchen towel for a few minutes. Finish the seasoning with a couple of twists of black pepper. If I’m making this for myself I like to keep it fairly simple, to keep the meat the star.
So I just serve it up with a bit of rocket, a few cherry tomatoes and some top quality balsamic vinegar. If I was just eating the meat I’d probably knock up a chimichurri sauce.
A nice herby bit of gear that goes well with a good steak.
So there we have it, team. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with a good old rump steak on the barbeque with the boys, with a half stubby’s worth of VB poured over it, whilst you enjoy a few jars in the sun and play a little backyard cricket.
Sometimes though, it’s perhaps fitting to pay homage to the steak and its humble origins, and think how far we’ve come. And even if you don’t want to break the bank with regards to purchasing the finest Kobe Wagyu beef – they massage the cows by the way – then you can still use these techniques to take any piece of steak from being a load of bull to that little bit more special.