How do you deal with a change of plans?
Me? Not so well. Never have, hopefully, eventually will.
Right after Christmas all the left over prime rib immediately goes on sale. I guess Christmas is the only time people enjoy the best cut of beef that you can buy. I don’t get it, but I take advantage of it.
I found a 10 pound bone in rib roast with a nice fat cap for $6.50/lb.
When I see rib roast with bones and fat my mind goes to dry aging faster than my children’s moods change.
There was just over 100 days to Easter, and I decided that 100 day aged rib-eyes would suffice as a main course for Easter. I invited the parents out and started planning the feast.
Dry Aging Beef
When it comes to dry aging beef at home there is a lot of advice. With that comes proponents for and against. Sometimes I wonder about people’s advice online, as I’m sure you wonder about mine.
Questioning everything is a good way to go as far as I’m concerned.
Experts will say that you need a sophisticated system to monitor temperature, air movement, humidity, and bacteria and mold levels. They are correct, but the more difficult they make it sound, the more afraid of it DIY people become, and the more they can charge for it.
Others say that it can’t be done. They typically are talking about individual steaks. When you dry age beef a crust, or bark, is formed on the outside of it. It becomes really tough, dark, and mold can even start growing on it. You typically give up about 30% of the mass of beef to this bark. If you try aging an individual steak it will all turn into this bark and become tougher than beef jerky.
There are companies that sell hi tech equipment to help you age beef at home as well. I’m sure it works but its not worth spending the money on in my opinion.
I look at what the experts say. You need to maintain temperature, humidity, and air movement. How can I do that at home? A friend was generous enough to give me an old refrigerator that I have dedicated to meats for aging and curing. I set the temperature to 35 degrees which checks the box for maintaining temperature.
Now to maintain humidity. The relative humidity needs to be between 70% and 85% for dry aging beef. If it is dryer than that the outside will dry too quickly causing the inside of the beef to rot. You want a slow steady drying process. I know people that have set up humidifiers in their fridge, tied it to the wiring system and set it up to maintain the perfect relative humidity. That’s all well and good, but a little too intensive for me at the moment. I like simplicity.
Interestingly enough, there is a simple way to maintain a steady relative humidity just above 70%. Placing tubs of water in the bottom of your fridge, a pile of salt at the top, and keeping the door closed. Every time the door opens, it takes time to naturally reset the relative humidity.
What do you think is the easiest way to keep the air moving in a fridge that has a closed door?
You guessed it…a fan.
I put a small desk fan inside the fridge and turn it to low. The air constantly moves, the door stays shut, and relative humidity remains steady, and temperature stays cold.
The last thing you need to consider is what the meat is sitting on. I either hang it, or use a stainless wire rack out of a roaster. If too much surface area touches the rack, it can cause rotting.
That’s it. Its pretty simple. I’ve dry aged beef, pork, and duck successfully using this method. At the beginning I check water levels and the meat once a week. You are checking to make sure the scent is still sweet. If it is rotting, the odor will be horrendous. You also want to make sure that there is some give in the meat if you squeeze it as the bark forms. If the bark gets too hard, it can cause the inside to rot. As a good bark forms, I check it less and less often.
I was about 75 days into the aging process when I found out my aunt had invited my parents out to their house for Easter, and my parents accepted. Begrudgingly my plans had to change. I had only spent 75 days working on and planning a meal, but family is more important than food.
I inquired about how I could contribute to the Easter meal at my aunt’s place, and was asked to bring a salad. Planning a meal around meat for 75 days and then being asked to prepare a salad just added insult to injury.
I decided to capitulate…until my passive aggressiveness grabbed the reigns.
I’ll make carpaccio. Think about it. Carpaccio is a salad typically with raw beef as its base. I could take my aged beef and thinly slice it and top it. You can be creative with carpaccio which is why I enjoy it, and the fact that it has raw beef or fish. I was thinking along the lines of arugula, pomegranate, parmigiano reggiano, some pickled onions, salt and pepper, and topped with a balsamic reduction.
I successfully changed plans.
Then my wife heard my idea.
“You can’t make that! You are the only person who likes that. I’m not letting you make that.”
Fine…I’ll sulk in my despair, scrap all my plans, and eat my meat alone…I’ll let you make the salad.
Afterwards, I had a brilliant idea.
I could have an evening with two great friends, and have a rich, over-the-top meal. I can plan it how I want it, and not worry about it having to change. Going over the top for everything. I invited the friends, found an evening that worked, and started getting ready.
With a cut of steak like prime rib, you want it to the be the star of the show. I decided that I would keep it quite classic, with a couple twists.
Steak. Baked Potato. Asparagus.
I started chopping into the bark to prep the steak. The bark was a little thicker than expected, but overall it turned out great. I was able to get approximately three 24 oz steaks out of the roast. Typically it is recommended to discard the bark from dry aging. I hate to see that beef go to waste.
I shave off the outer most section of the bark. The rest of it you could add a sauce, cook it, and dehydrate it into jerky. I have re-hydrated it in beer, ground it, and added it to other ground beef for burgers. You can cook it with the bones, and then make a beef stock. I’ve even heard of people eating it just how it is. This time, I’m curing it in a wet brine, and am going to make pastrami with it.
To cook these steaks, I put them into my sous vide and let them cook at 130 degrees for about 2 hours.
Doing this, I knew that each steak was a perfect rare, or a degree above a perfect rare.
I had my Big Green Egg up to 600 degrees, took the steaks out and put them right in the charcoal. This sears the edges, gives it a slight amount of smoke, and a little bit of charcoal to top it off. After 1 minute I flipped them. They were already cooked, they just needed some color. If you use this style of grilling an uncooked steak, you would let it sit on the coals for 4-6 minutes for each side.
To me, baked potatoes are disgusting. They are dry, pasty, feel weird in your mouth, and many other things. I guess that’s why you have to cover them with all sorts of fatty toppings.
Fatty toppings…I can do that.
I decided to bake the potatoes by covering them in oil, dried onions, salt and pepper. I put them in the oven, directly on the rack, at 400 degrees until you could easily pierce them with a fork. This approach allows the skin to crisp up, giving the potato a small amount of texture.
Once baked, I hollowed them out, leaving about 1/4 inch or a little more on the sides. I sliced enough off the top that i could easily fill the inside. I wrapped each potato with 4 slices of bacon to help hold it all together. It doesnt hurt that bacon is filled with fat, umami, and smoke.
Just like a regular baked potato, you could fill this with any stuffing of your choosing.
Me…I chose to use beer cheese.
It’s quite simple to make if you want to try it. I know that you do 🙂
Melt and lightly brown some butter. Add a heaping spoonful of your choice of flour into the butter with salt and pepper. Stir it around until the flour is all lightly cooked.
Congratulations!!! You’ve successfully made a roux…the building block to many great sauces.
I chose to use Boulder Beer Company’s Hazed to lighten the sauce and give it some citrusy notes from the hops. You could use whatever beer you are craving, or drinking.
Go ahead, pour your beer into your roux, and go get another beer.
With the beer in the roux, you’ve now created a Beerchemel sauce. When you’ve added enough beer to make a smooth, silky, beerchemel, start adding your cheeses until it is all melted thoroughly.
I used several cheeses that I found in the fridge, mozzarella to make it stringy, cream cheese for the creaminess, parmesan for the salt, and cheddar for the flavor. I reserved a slice of colby jack for each potato as well.
You can add whatever herbs and spices that you want.
I chose a sweet paprika, to go with the smoke theme, and some Cuban Oregano. I recently came across this in a garden center, and have been infatuated with it since. Its actually a succulent, but in the oregano family. It grows big, succulent style leaves, and has the sweet aroma and flavor of fresh oregano.
Now that the beer cheese was finished, I filled my potato cups until they runeth over. I topped them with the colby jack, and found out that muffin tins make great baked potato holders. I put them back in the oven to crisp the bacon, and melt the cheese capstone.
One of my favorite dishes my grandmother used to make was creamed asparagus. It could be that any dish containing eggs, asparagus and dairy would classify as a favorite. I wanted to use these ingredients, but didn’t necessarily want to use my grandmother’s country style recipe.
There is nothing wrong with country style cooking. It is great comfort food. I prefer to eat it, not make it.
I love fresh asparagus. I grew up picking it out of the garden every spring. There is another spring time ingredient that I love to use with asparagus. Fresh spruce tips. The new growth of spruce in the spring has a wonderful lemon flavor. I find branches with a significant amount of growth and break them off. I use this as a bed in my grill. I put the branches on the coal, and nestle the asparagus into the spruce. Stand guard because the spruce can and will catch fire.
You need to be careful when doing this, and decide how much smoke you want your asparagus to pick up. If you want more smoke, put the spruce and asparagus on the rack, not in the coals. I just wanted a touch of smoke.
To continue cooking them, I steamed them until soft.
The more I thought about using dairy and eggs, the more I thought about Hollandaise Sauce. Black Garlic Hollandaise to be specific. Instead of boiled eggs and cream like grandma used, Hollandaise uses butter and egg yolk.
The traditional way of making hollandiase is quite intensive. Which is why most people avoid it. You have to heat your butter in a double boiler, add the lemon juice and seasoning, and then slowly and carefully whisk in your yolks until emulsified. If you cook it too long or hot you will end up with scrambled eggs. To short or too cold, you will end up with a sauce that looks good, but will break apart into butter and egg yolks after resting.
With a sous vide, you add your yolks, butter, lemon juice, and spices into a bag. Submerge the bag in your water bath to remove as much air as possible, and cook at 147 degrees for around 2 hours. When ready to serve, throw it in the blender, and let that emulsify it for you. Simple to make, simple to clean, and you avoid the burning in your arm that whisking causes.
Guys night was a great evening to spend together with friends. This meal paired perfectly with varieties of beers. Trust me, we tried a lot, Jameson Caskmates whiskey, and some Bacardi Black Rum.
Easter was quite wonderful as well. We were able to spend the day relaxing with family. The food and company was fantastic, and I didn’t have to worry about cooking. Just eating, which is quite enjoyable.
I guess I’m learning that changing plans isn’t always bad. If you stay calm and relaxed, think through things, and find a third way, you might be able to enjoy two wonderful, and totally separate experiences.