Chewing the Fat

We love a good steak. Lucky for us, we’re good friends with the folks at Second City Prime Steak & Seafood—purveyors of high-quality and hard-to-find meats. What better canvas for our freshly ground spices than an Australian Wagyu ribeye or a Berkshire pork chop? We recently hung out with Second City Prime’s meat expert, Vince Rezaei, to chew the fat and test some recipes.

Vince has roots in the meat business. His great grandfather was a butcher, and Vince carried that culinary torch by learning the art of butchery at Hoffher Meat company in Northfield, Illinois. He fell in love with the skill, craftsmanship, and care involved in the trade. And, of course, the meat.

“I loved learning how to make my own sausages, head cheese, and pâté. Using every part of the animal available,” says Vince.

Vince brought that passion for food with him to Second City Prime, where he gets to share it with a wider audience. His favorite way to cook any meat is over a live flame, using hardwood charcoal for its heat and flavor. The cold weather here in Chicagoland persuaded us to cook indoors with a cast-iron method. We met Vince at a secret test kitchen, with our spices in tow. It was a real meating of the minds.

First up was a classic prime beef filet mignon, cooked simply using a butter baste method. Meat this luxurious should be spiced modestly, so we gave it a light coating of our freshly cracked Tellicherry peppercorns before it went in the pan. Turn on your hood vents and open your windows, because this method gets smokey.

The steak is seared perfectly on very high heat before butter, fresh thyme, and garlic are introduced. The steak is spoon-basted with browning butter as it infuses with flavors of the frying garlic, toasting bits of black pepper, and crackling thyme sprigs. We continued to baste the filet to a medium-rare and let it rest before finishing it with our Hawaiian Red Alaea Sea Salt. The brittle texture and light crunch from the salt is a pleasant contrast to the juicy and tender meat. This is a fun way to cook a steak, and it’s a great example of depth of flavor. You don’t taste everything at once, it comes in waves. You smell the aromatic herbs first, then taste the caramelized garlic, followed by the rich, juicy meat and brown butter. All elevated with the crisp and clean flavor of the Hawaiian sea salt.

Now that we had eaten our humble appetizer…it was time for skirt steak tacos. We coated the beef liberally with our Milwaukee Iron Seasoning, which has a sweet, rich base of ancho chiles, and smokey flavor from chipotle chiles. It’s rounded off with a hint of citrusy, herbal flair from Mexican oregano, and the familiar flavors of green onion and parsley.

An important tip for slicing skirt steak is to cut them into a few smaller pieces before slicing against the grain. This makes the typically chewy cut melt in your mouth. The meat is more tender when it’s cut this way because you have already sliced through the muscle fibers, saving your canines the work. If grilling outside, you’ll definitely want to make some grilled corn to go alongside these tacos. Milwaukee Iron is great for making homemade Mexican street corn. The slices of skirt steak were delectable served on warm tortillas with onion, cilantro, and a freshly made avocado crema. The cooling avocado crema plays nicely with the hot and smokey taco meat. We definitely didn’t make enough…

We took that southwestern flavor down under with an Australian Wagyu ribeye. Wagyu beef refers to four specific breeds of cow that all originate from Japan. The word Wagyu literally means, “Japanese cow.” These special cattle are imported to pasturelands in Australia where they are raised with a unique diet and exercise regiment. Their manner of care yields the gorgeous marble fat scoring that Wagyu and Kobe beef are known for. These cows were raised with love, and have a better diet and exercise routine than a lot of people do.

In southwestern spirit, we elected for a cowboy-style coffee steak, coating the ribeye in our Sunny Oaxaca Ancho-Coffee Rub. This dish was a simple one, as the meat and spices do all the work. The ribeye was cooked to our preferred medium-rare, and we raised the heat to high at the very end for a perfect sear. That final sear caramelizes the sugar in the blend, forming a perfect cowboy crust. This is sort of like the delicious blackening effect you get from using Cajun spices, but with flavors of roasted coffee and sweet Ancho chiles. Sunny Oaxaca is a salt-free blend, so the steak was finished with sea salt to taste and a dollop of butter, because why not? This cowboy steak was fit for a lead rider. The ribeye was succulent, juicy, and well-seasoned.

For dessert, we pulled our Berkshire bone-in pork chop from the oven, which we coated in our Gateway To The North maple-garlic seasoning. Berkshire pork is a heritage breed of pig that is known for its superior flavor, juiciness, and tenderness. It can be difficult to find, and it cooks differently than the pork found in most grocery stores. Pork of this caliber can be cooked at different temperatures like a steak or piece of salmon. I was excited for this one, because we were trying a reverse-sear cooking technique. While all the other dishes were being prepared and eaten, the pork chop was slowly cooking in a 225 degree oven. The chop was soaked overnight in Second City’s Umami Marinade before getting a generous coating of our maple-garlic seasoning. If you don’t have a bottle of the Umami, which you should try, soy sauce or Teriyaki work well too.

 

Reverse-searing is a technique where you cook your protein slowly, at a lower heat, and finish it by searing the outside using high-heat at the very end. This is a simpler and more accessible technique than cooking with the increasingly popular sous vide technique. Sous vide is a similar approach where food is first vacuum sealed and cooked in a temperature-controlled water bath before a high-heat finish. Both of these methods are renowned for getting a juicy meat and perfect texture inside and out. The maple sugar in the Gateway caramelized perfectly, forming this delicious quasi glaze/crust. For the record, we also made some roasted carrots as a side. We were concerned that our mothers might read this and worry about our nutrition…

One meat we didn’t get to that day was a Spanish Iberico pork shoulder, one of Vince’s favorites. Iberico pork is like the Wagyu beef of pork and is raised on open pastures with acres to roam. The pigs feed mainly on acorns, giving the pork a nice nutty finish in flavor. I even suspect that the Spanish oak trees that produce acorns for the pigs are the same oaks which wood is used to smoke our Spanish paprika. Second City offers the shoulder cut of the Iberico pork called the Presa. This is Vince’s Iberico cut of choice, and his favorite way to cook it is by reverse searing in the oven before charring it over a crackling wood fire. Maybe we’ll get to that one next time! Until then, let us know what your favorite meat, seasoning, and cooking technique combinations are. We may try them during another test kitchen session. Shoot us an email at spices@thespicehouse.com or comment below to tell us your favorites.


Geoff Marshall is Web Content Manager at the Spice House. He loves writing stories and recipes for the blog. When he’s not nose deep in one of Tom and Patty’s many spice encyclopedias, you’ll find him daydreaming of dinner prep or riding his bicycle.

 

 

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