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Archive for May, 2010

Dry Aged Beef

The good stuff: Dry Aged Beef.

You know that last chocolate chip cookie? The one that’s sitting there, saying, “you’re going to eat me eventually, you might as well just get it over with.” Well, that’s how it’s been with me and dry aged beef.

I’d go the local butcher and look at the dry aged steaks. Then the price. Then the steaks. Then the price.  And it’s possible those close by may have heard me mutter, ‘It tasks me. It tasks me, and I shall have it.”

Well today was the day. (But “The Wrath of Adam” just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?)

So what’s the big deal? Dry Aged Beef is hard to come by, expensive, and frankly a bit strange.  The process is pretty simple. Take the beef, toss it in a controlled, cold atmosphere, and let it sit for up to three weeks.  During this time, it gets crusty (thanks to a nice, friendly fungus!), loses a lot of its weight, and also (I’ve noticed) turns a noticeably different color.  

This process defies common sense. But you can bet every time you go to a fancy pants restaurant and spend $50 or more on a steak, it was dry aged first.

The theory is that dry aged beef is far more tender and more flavorful.  I know when I spend $50 on a steak at a fancy restaurant, usually, it sure seems like it was worth it.  So, I had to try it myself.

The butcher sold me two, thick dry aged New York Strip steaks.  The first thing I noticed was that the reduced meat looked awfully skinny next to the hunk of fat on the side.  But he cut was nice and thick, so there was nothing to complain about.  I handed him a briefcase full of money, and used the chocolate chip cookie rationale to justify the expense.

I cooked the steaks on the Kamado at 450 degrees, about 4 minutes per side, and they came off the grill medium.

And here’s the verdict.

50% of all children in my household said 'no' to dry aged beef.

More flavorful? Definitely. More tender? It was tender, to be sure, but I don’t know if it was radically more tender than other organically raised steaks I’ve cooked.  Did my kids like it? Nope, of course not.  Why do I bother? Was it worth it? Yes and no.  I probably would buy it again for guests, because I think it tastes pretty fantastic.  But overall, I’m basically just as happy with quality cuts that aren’t dry aged.

I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has had a significantly better experience with dry aged beef.

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Scallops

The butcher didn’t have duck today! Darn it!  Is it really that difficult for people to anticipate my every whim? Sigh!  Disappointed, and with a “to heck with birds, cows and pigs” attitude, I went to the fish market to see what they had instead.

Not a bad choice. I bought some great looking Mahi Mahi. But before I handed over my credit card, some jumbo scallops called to me.  They were saying, “you can’t even remember the last time you had scallops, can you, meathead!?”  (Once again, this is the sort of thing that tends to go through my head. Nobody should be surprised to see me having a conversation with myself).

So, I bought some of those, too.  And guess what happened? While my Mahi Mahi, which I barbecued with a honey ginger glaze, turned out nicely, the scallops turned out REALLY great.  I wanted to share.

First, I have to say, I did something I usually don’t do. After watching too much Top Chef (and Top Chef Masters, of course), I found myself acting really picky about the scallops.  Even though I was shopping at the best fish market in town, the fishdude and I spent quite some time selecting the perfectly in tact, thick, round, evenly colored jumbo scallops out of the vat. 

Jumbo scallops before grilling. (I wanted to give you an idea of the size. That's a full sized dinner plate).

Prep was very simple.

  • I placed the scallops in a plastic bag for two hours, soaking in olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper. That’s it.
  • Kamado was heated to  400 degrees (but I think I might go hotter next time)
  • I ran a soaked wood skewer through the scallops, and cooked them over direct heat, about 2 to 2 ½  minutes per side. Keep in mind, these were jumbo scallops.  Regular sized would definitely require less.
  • I removed the scallops from the grill, and let them rest in a foil tent for another 5 minutes or so before serving.

I read one recipe that said you could cook your scallops 1 minute per side at 500 degrees.  I don’t doubt it, especially if you were using smaller scallops. So, definitely think about your preferences.

Anyway, these scallops were perfect. Tender, not over cooked, and simple.

I honestly think the key here was more about the shopping than the cooking.  But, it’s nice to have a good, uncomplicated approach to scallops.

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I’m going to have to check this out.  Bill the Butcher, in Madison Park.  Reviews are looking good. I’ll do some recon, and let you know.

Next on my list is duck. Hear that Bill, the butcherman?  DUCK!

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UPDATE 5/14

I have been to Bill, and here’s the report.

First thing I noticed was how very nice everyone was. “Welcome!” right when I walked in, and in no time a big guy in an apron asked if he could help out.  Nice. Very neighborly.

The first thing I noticed is that the butcher shop is maybe only 1/3 butcher shop. The store is full of other stuff, and honestly, I didn’t spend a ton of time reading all the labels.  Suffice to say, sauces and marinades, things to drink, I saw a limited selection of various things that grow (mushrooms!), and a lot more. I’ll spend more time browsing next time.

But on one wall is the main attraction: The meat case and cooler.  This butcher touts that everything is organic and local, and it’s plain to see. EVERYTHING looked really fresh, and really good.  All the staples you’d expect were there, including a great looking pork shoulder.

I asked about duck — AGH! They don’t come in until tomorrow! Darn you fresh local organic farmers — I’m very inconvenienced now — how come you don’t think about ME and MY priorities now and then??!! Seriously though, the moral of that story: This isn’t a big butcher, so if you’re going for anything even slightly out of the ordinary, you might want to call first.  (206) 453-4418

The friendliness continued. We got to talking about the Kamado, and charcoal, which they intend to carry soon.  I suggested they look at nakedwhiz.com to investigate which lump charcoal to carry, a tip they seemed to really appreciate.

Wanted duck. Got brats.

Anyway, I ended up buying brats.  Nothing particularly interesting about how to cook them. Kamado at 500 degrees. Cook them until done.  But I will say, the organic brats were definitely superior to the brats I’ve purchased at the other two notable downtown butchers.  Very juicy, mild and full of flavor. The casings were just right.

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Does a Korean barbecue joint count as “barbecue?”  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: When a meal involves meat, open flames, and an outside possibility that I could badly hurt myself, that’s barbecue all the way.

I have a story about discovering just how good Korean BBQ can be, but it’s way too long for this blog, so just ask me sometime.  Suffice to say, it involved me eating Korean BBQ… in Korea … and it definitely ranks among the top five meals I’ve ever had in my life.  It also probably ranks among the top five biggest meals I’ve ever had in my life, which is saying something.

Since then, I’ve tried any number of Korean restaurants seeking more of the same, and Korean food has  very much become a big part of the family’s regular rotation when it comes to dining out.  That includes last week when not one, but amazingly, BOTH of my children begged me to take them to Blue Ginger Korean Grill and Sushi.

For what it’s worth, local reviews of Blue Ginger are mixed, and I’m not surprised. Sometimes, I’m convinced it’s the best Korean in town, and then occasionally, they serve up duds.  But I will say this, when Blue Ginger is “on,” which is more often than not, it’s really stinkin’ good and I recommend it. And if you’ve had an only okay experience there, you might consider giving it a second chance.

Amazing, crispy halibut.

We got lucky when we visited last week —  Blue Ginger was not only “on,” but it was as good as it’s ever been.

The Kalbi Beef Short ribs is the family favorite.  You can grill it at the table if you order more than one grilled item.  If you’ve never had Korean food, this is basically a tender grilled beef with a common sweet marinade.  (You can simply order the Kalbi Beef even if you don’t want to grill at the table, but then you remove the element of possibly injuring both yourself and any children, and where’s the fun in that?)

This time, I tried their barbecued halibut, and was blown away.  My younger daughter is on a fish bender, and frankly, I never would have ordered this otherwise.  But it was great. Crispy outside, perfectly cooked inside, and a great flavor.

The one thing I didn’t care for was their pan-fried seafood pancake (forgive me, I forget the Korean name), which is served as an appetizer. I’ve ordered this at least twice now, and I find it to be too busy in terms of flavor, hard to eat, and I don’t love the texture either.  But since that appetizer isn’t barbecue, and this is a barbecue blog, I’m not sure why I’m even discussing it. Public service, I suppose.

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