Learning more about the beast that brings us so many beautiful dishes
Today, we’re all about beef!
I love shopping from Gary’s Quality Meats at Prahran Market, where master butcher Gary McBean offers high-quality, free-range meat, aged on site in a gleaming glass chamber, and butchered with incredible expertise and respect by a skilled team.
What Gary doesn’t know about meat isn’t worth knowing so I grabbed him for a series of show-and-tells. We’re talking beef in the first of our three ‘meat chats’ (lamb and pork coming soon). In an era where meat often comes in styrofoam packages and is quite divorced from the animal it’s come from, I think it’s empowering to reconnect to the source, to learn more about what comes from where and why certain meat cuts work better for different dishes.
By the way, a girl’s gotta get dressed. Today I’m wearing Elk.
There’s more beef below!
steak cooking tips from Vlado Gregurek, a man who devoted his life to it
beef roundup – all the beefy recipes on the site
an amazing new spin on hollandaise from star chef Tony Twitchett
Stavros Abougelis, Vlado Gregurek and Maurice Esposito discuss grill tactics in 2008
Vlado Gregurek’s high-stakes steak tips
Vlado Gregurek from Vlado’s restaurant was obsessed with grilling great steak. He opened his Richmond, Melbourne, restaurant in 1964 and worked there until he died in 2012. Now his son Michael is carrying the mantle.
In 2008, I was privileged to spend an afternoon around the barbecue with Vlado, chef Maurice Esposito and restaurateur Stavros Abougelis (from the since closed Greek institution Stavros Tavern).
Here are some words of wisdom from the Croatian master of the grill.
Choose the right steak: “Choosing steak is about finding the balance between what you like to eat and what you like to pay,” says Vlado. “Not everyone wants the rich, oily taste of Wagyu, especially Aussies who want to eat a big piece of meat. In Japan the average Wagyu steak is 120 to 150 grams. If you were to eat 400 grams of Wagyu you would be very sick.” Many people like tender eye fillet but I like porterhouse or rump steak – they’re less tender but they have more flavour. I’ll sometimes go for hanger steak, which is chewier but even more flavourful. Definitely watch the video to learn more about different cuts!
“A clean grill is essential,” says Vlado. “Use a steel brush, then rub the grill with a clean cloth.”
Vlado kept a piece of beef fat in his freezer for the particular purpose of oiling his barbecue. “Oil your barbecue, not the beef, preferably with a piece of beef fat,” he says.
If cooking over wood or charcoal, you want the heat, not the flame. “Make sure your fire is ‘settled’ with an intense heat and no flame or smoke,” says Vlado.
Be patient. “Turn your steak when it’s 50 or 60 per cent cooked on one side. Don’t move it before that. Sadly, it’s hard to say when this will be without experience. There are no secrets. You know or you don’t know.” (Interestingly, this approach is different to the one Gary outlines in the video – there is definitely more than one way to cook a lovely steak!)
Chef Tony Twitchett told me about this concoction when we caught up at a gastronomy congress and I just had to get the recipe! He serves it at Taxi Kitchen in Melbourne’s Federation Square and it’s indicative of the Asian spin he puts on his modern Australian cuisine. This hollandaise is quite sharp but that’s balanced by the salt and furikake – if you prefer a milder taste use a little less rice vinegar.
Furikake? It’s a Japanese condiment that you can buy but it’s super easy to make. Here’s my recipe! If you can’t find bonito flakes, just leave them out.
1. Place butter in a saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until deep brown and toasty smelling. If you’re like me you’ll want to drink it at this point! 2. Strain butter through a sieve to remove dark milk solids (or just pour it carefully). 3. Place egg yolks and rice vinegar in mixing bowl and cook for 8 min/80°C (175°F)/speed 3.5. The mixture should be thick and pale, like mayonnaise. 4. Mixing on speed 3.5, slowly drizzle burnt butter into mixing bowl and continue to mix until incorporated. 5. Continue mixing and add a good pinch of salt. 6. Serve with furikake and grilled steak.
When cooking steak, rest it for half the time you’ve cooked it to help retain the juices and ensure the meat is relaxed
If you love a good burger as much as I do, try my BeetROOT Burgers the next time you’re throwing a steak or two on the barbie.
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