By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
Years ago I helped open a new restaurant. On the menu, we offered a dry-aged 10-ounce New York Strip for $42 and a 12-ounce CAB New York Strip for $26. We decided on the choice as many people would not want to spend that much on dinner.
The soft openings went well, and it was finally time for the grand opening. Excitement was buzzing in the air as the first orders came back to the kitchen, but before I could read the modifiers on the six-top rising out of the printer (which makes an unmistakable noise to any cook), the server came back to the line.
“Chef, don’t yell at me” she said. “This is exactly what the guests wanted.”
Curious by her fevered statement, I read the ticket to find out that they wanted “2 NY Dry Steak” with the modifier “Well, well, well done. Extra crispy.”
Confused I just looked up. The server told me that those were their exact words, and they were very clear about it. She continued, “They said they want the steaks to ‘tink’ when they hit the plate. It’s just how they prefer their steaks.”
I asked the server to convince them to order the CAB steaks and save their money, as this would be a waste of the dry product, but they insisted on the dry-aged beef as they had never had it before.
Begrudgingly, I burnt the hell out of those steaks; it sticks with me to this very day. After I burnt them, I held them in the blue flame of the range top and made them ‘extra crispy’. And, indeed, they did “tink” as they hit the plates.
The dinners were served, and a strange anticipation sat in the air like a thick morning fog. The server rushed back and asked the question that no respectable cook ever wants to hear; “Do we have any A1?”
“No, we do not. You should know that.”
“Then they want ketchup” she lamented.
Our heads hung low, saddened by the sacrifice that we had just made to the cattle gods and the craftsmen who had labored to cure such a fine product.
“Well, you know where that is.”
A few minutes went by, and the server came back to the kitchen, stating that my presence was requested at the table. Incensed at this point, I removed my apron and rolled up my sleeves, fully expecting a battle with our friends whom we could not dissuade from ordering the more affordable steaks.
I approached the table with a smile from ear to ear (my father had taught me to kill them with kindness), and the table started clapping. Confused, I kept up the charade of gracious professionalism, fully expecting a lambasting at the hands of the diners.
But, no, they told me that they were the best steaks that they had ever eaten. They were shocked at how moist and delicious the morsels were, and raved about them as I stood there confused and flummoxed. They even tipped me at the table, slipping an Andrew Jackson into my hand as though I was a maître d’ who had just gotten them the best table in the house.
And a little piece of me died that day.
In the end, I’ll cook your food however you like. But if you like your steak like this, stick to the grilled cheese, please. It hurts us to do your evil bidding.
Seared NY Strip Steak
6 ea. 14 oz. New York Strips
Flaked kosher salt, as needed
Coarse black pepper, as needed
Granulated garlic, as needed
1 rosemary sprig
2 thyme sprigs
1 c. Compound butter (recipe follows)
1. Let steaks slack out of refrigeration for 10 minutes.
2. Season steaks liberally. This can be done a few minutes before the steaks hit the pan.
3. Get a cast iron pan super-hot on a high heat and put a respectable chunk of clarified butter in it. Place the steaks and herbs in the buttery inferno.
4. Sear the steaks while basting the tops with the clarified butter. I prefer to cook one side, flip the steak to cook the other, and then repeat two more times. This will prevent the steak from curling and will yield a more evenly cooked product.
5. Remove the steak when at the temperature of your liking
6. Top with half of the compound butter and let the steaks rest for 5 minutes
7. Plate the steaks, spooning the melted butter on the steak and then topping with the last half of the compound butter
Garnish with burgundy mushrooms, frizzled leeks or just stick with the compound butter. Either way, it will be a win.
Garlic Compound Butter
Makes a little more than 1 pound
1 lb. salted butter, softened
2 scallions, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Coarse black pepper
1 Tbsp. Sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp. Minced parsley
1 Tbsp. Minced basil
1. Simply combine everything in a bowl and mash together with a wooden spoon
2. Lay out a piece of parchment paper and glop the butter mixture into the middle
3. Carefully roll the butter like a fat cigar until it resembles a roll of icebox cookie dough that you buy in the store with a 2-inch diameter.
4. Place in the refrigerator and chill until set.
5. Unwrap and slice. Voila
—Paul Suplee is a Professor of Culinary Arts at
Wor-Wic Community College and owner of boxcar40.
Visit him at www.boxcar40.com.