Have you ever wondered how can you cook steaks as tender as those at your favourite restaurants?
I was invited by Calgary tourism to attend a “new take on steak tour” — going to four Calgary restaurants showcasing what chefs were doing to put a new twist on the old standard. I “grilled” the professionals and brought back secrets (and recipes) to share!
Joined by other food aficionados our steak tour began at the Raw Bar at Hotel Arts. Raw Bar features Pacific-rim influenced cuisine in a contemporary lounge. Their sous chef, Ausama Mansy, prepared soya braised short rib with caramelized teriyaki jus.
Braising is a combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the steak is first seared at high temperature and then simmered in a covered pot with liquid, vegetables and herbs.
The searing not only browns the surface, making the steak more appealing, but it also enhances the flavour. The slow simmer helps meat to absorb moisture from the cooking liquid and the steam which in turn makes the steak juicy. Meanwhile, the flavours imparted from the stock and vegetables add another dimension of flavour into the final product
All cowboy images are taken out of the Albertan fare at the Ox and Angela restaurant. The name is intriguing and beckons one to find out more. Contrasting atmosphere between the cool ‘Ox’ lounge and the warm ‘Angela’ restaurant this establishment prides itself on a menu focusing on Latin America.
Chef Steve Smee served a 32 oz ribeye cooked in its purest state — a great cut of meat with a little sea salt. Chef Steve also used the searing technique, but this time the searing was used to keep in the juices. The seared ribeye was then crusted with coarse sea salt and finished by roasting in the oven.
Once cooked, instead of the two-step, the Alberta beef begins dancing to a Latin beat! No barbecue sauce here! Ox and Angela offer confits piquillo peppers to serve as tapas with aioli garlic-flavoured mayonnaise and Canary Islands style green sauce, mojo verde, that had a heavenly presence of cumin.
Our third restaurant was Anju. Named after the small Korean dishes meant to be eaten with a drink, Anju is literally Calgary’s hidden gem that could be hard to find in the downtown corner of 5th avenue and 10th street SW.
Here Alberta beef takes on some Asian flavours! Chef and owner, Roy Oh, served the table a Korean marinated steak. Because gourmet restaurants only use prime meat, they don’t really rely on marinades to help with tenderization. Instead this technique is used to infuse seasoning into the meat and prevent meat from becoming overly dry during preparation.
Chef Roy marinates his steak overnight in simple mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, lime, garlic, ginger and sugar. The result is a juicy succulent meat with a slightly sweet finish.
Our final stop for the night was at Rouge — named as one of the top 100 restaurants in the world in 2010. Here Chef Paul Rogalski offered us some non-traditional dishes like truffled elk carpaccio, thinly sliced beef in elk broth, lamb sirloin and bone marrow spring rolls.
The featured item of the tour came as sous vide beef tenderloin. My first reaction was sous what?
Sous vide, French for “under vacuum “is a style a cooking that is very popular in many high end gourmet restaurants. It is a method of cooking food sealed in vacuum-sealed bag in a water bath set at 52C for rare 55C for medium rare steak. This method of cooking prevents overcooking because the steak cannot get hotter than the water bath. One limitation of sous-vide cooking is that it lacks the “crust” flavours developed during browning — a very desirable feature when it comes to steak. Chefs remedy this by searing the steak in a very hot pan after they have been cooked in the water bath.
They add their unique essence in sous vide cooked steak by adding olive oil and herbs into the vacuum packed bag so that they seep into the meat while slowly cooked in the water bath or introducing herbs during the final searing process.
Calgary has the nickname “cowtown”, and after visiting these fine restaurants, I’m convinced that when it is it comes to cooking a perfect one (steak), they sure got it right!
Advice for the home cook by the experts
•l Best steak begins with best quality of meat. Pick prime meat, with much marbling for it keeps the steak moist and adds a ton of flavour.
l Marinades should only impart the flavours to the meat not tenderization. Good prime meat does not need additional tenderization.
• If you are not cooking the Sous vide way, always rest your steaks before serving. If you cut a steak fresh off the grill, its juices flow out. Resting the steak will allow the juices to distribute evenly inside.
• If you’re scared of overcooking, cook your steak a little less. It is better to sacrifice temperature for juiciness and flavour. Professional chefs rarely use meat thermometers they determine doneness by feel. If you are starting out, meat thermometer can be used. Rare should read 52C, medium rare is 55C. Well done is no way to have Alberta beef!
• Allow steak to come to room temperature before cooking. A cold steak takes longer to heat up and thus will dry out more. Additionally, a cold steak will contract as it makes contact with the hot skillet, making it tougher.
Raw Bar’s Soy braised short rib
2 kg trimmed short rib
1 onion, large diced
1 carrot, peeled large diced
3 celery storks, large diced
4 cloves garlic peeled
1 table spoon ginger peeled
5 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
250ml soy sauces
500ml beef stock
Sear short rib in a hot pan, then transfer to a 5 litre oven proof dish with all remaining ingredients. Insure the short ribs are covered with liquid, add water if needed. Cover with tin foil and bake in a 300 F oven for roughly 4 hours.
Ox & Angela Steak Recipe
35 oz double cut Ribeye, heavy marbling, AAA or prime
150 ml coarse sea salt
125 ml olive oil
4 oz arugula
Spray bottle of water
Generously rub room temperature steak with olive oil. Sear first side on high heat, turn and cover seared side in salt, repeat this process three more times, quarter turning if grill marks are desired Once all sides are marked and crusted with salt, put on roasting pan. Roast in convection oven @ 425F until the steak has an internal temp of 100F, about 20-25 minutes depending on oven efficiency. Rest steak at room temp for one third of its cooking temp. Once rested re-roast to warm, remove and carve. Garnish with arugula, remaining salt, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon
Anju’s Marinated Rib Eye Steak
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cups soy sauce ( kikkoman brand)
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon pepper
4 high quality 10 oz. rib eye steaks
1 green onion, bias cut and soaked in cold ice water. for garnish toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Place all dry ingredients (not the steaks of course) in a blender. Add all wet ingredients. Puree until smooth. Pour the marinade into a resealable plastic bag or glass bowl. Place steaks into the marinade. Marinate for 24 – 48 hours in the refrigerator. Preheat a grill for medium heat.
Grill steak on preheated grill to desired doneness, about 7 minutes per side for medium rare.
Garnish w/ green onion and sesame seeds. Traditional side dishes would include rice, kimchi, samjang (Korean lettuce wrap sauce) and red leaf lettuce for making lettuce wraps. Take care not to burn the steak as the marinade will caramelize very easily.
Madhu Badoni is a Red Deer-based freelance food writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch for Madhu’s Masala-Mix blog on bprda.wpengine.com