Picture a delicious juicy steak with some sort of savory sauce. Picture it now with a robust red wine paired with. Sounds good, eh? Well, not if you're a vegetarian. If you don't eat beef, this blog post is not for you, but I WILL be exploring much more vegan wine/food pairings soon, like the ones in the Vegetarian section. Now, back to the beef. If you've ever had a dry aged cut of beef, you can notice a difference in texture and taste. Dry aged beef is more tenderized and has concentrated flavor.
I recently had the chance to attend a cooking class with Mary Bergin, long-time chef famous for putting Wolfgang Puck on the map and guest appearances on Julia Child's PBS program. Mary had some good tips for dry aging steaks at home. Here's some tips on how to get the most from your steaks:
1. Good marbling
When selecting a piece of beef, especially individual steaks like New York Strip or Ribeye, look for one with good even marbling without big fatty deposits. I like to find something around 4-6 on this chart because you want a little fattiness in there to keep the meat tender while it's cooking. I know chefs who look for 9-10 because they want the meat even more tender, but that also means more fat. Depends on how much you want to punish your arteries. Make sure it's even without huge globs of fat.
2. Dry age the beef for 2-3 days
Get a cookie sheet and put a wire rack on top of it. Place the meat on the rack and put it in your refrigerator, preferably on the bottom. Some people say this doesn't work, but I'd trust a chef like Mary who has years of experience over someone else's opinion. You want cool air to be able to surround the beef for it to dry out evenly.
A good way to detect the aging of the beef is to feel the texture with your washed finger. The surface of the beef will have a more leathery texture, and the beef will be a little darker red.
3. Use the right kind of salt
There's 2 kinds of salt you can use. The seasoning salt of choice is a good sea salt. When you sprinkle it on both sides of the steak, hold your hand up high (2 ft. above steak) because not only does it look cool, but it spreads the salt more evenly than if you sprinkled it hovering right over the steaks. Let the salt sit for about 20 minutes. You'll see the salt begin to melt into the steak, and the steak begins to glisten like the morning snow on Christmas morning.
salt 'melted' into the steak
A good finishing salt is something like the Maldon because of the size of salt crystals and taste.
When it comes to cooking the beef, you're on your own. Most of my blog readers are the kind of cooks who have their own ideas on how to best cook the meat, and there's so many ways. You can grill it, you can sear it, you can sit on it and hatch if you want. Hopefully you'll find the dry aged beef is worth the minimal effort. Please share your wine+food pairings in the comments below.