The Saratoga Wine & Food Festival, held last weekend, is a lively event where local fun lovers take back the town after the racing crowd departs. There are fashions to view, Ferraris to test drive, and large quantities of food and wine to taste, but I made a beeline for the tent where they were serving up Certified Angus Beef.
The Certified Angus designation came into existence in 1978 after the USDA lowered the bar for earning the USDA Choice grade. Angus marketers wanted a “high Choice” designation that maintained the former quality standards, so they built their own. Their website uses the double entendre mumbo jumbo that “It’s a cut above USDA Prime, Choice and Select” but the fact is that this is Choice beef that meets additional standards, some related to appearance and others related to making sure older or larger animals don’t slip through. (There is also a CAB Prime and a CAB Natural, grown with no hormones or antibiotics, but I’ve never seen these at retail.)
I like the flavor profile of Certified Angus a lot and am fortunate that it’s often on sale at my local supermarket, the Albany-based Price Chopper chain. At the festival Prime Restaurant was demonstrating its own preps, paired with Chianti, including a sirloin that had been “dry aged 52 hours”. This got my brain spinning. True dry aged beef hangs in the cooler for weeks, loses up to 1/3 of its weight, often develops a “curd” that must be removed on the surface, and becomes immensely tender because of the chemical changes in the meat.
This was something different, probably rested a couple of days uncovered in the walk-in, rotated regularly, then brought to room temperature 4 hours before the evening rush (hence the 52 hour total). It was grilled with a nice crust and served with jus that the server advised us to forsake so we could concentrate on the meat. It tasted spectacular. Could I possibly do the same thing at home?
I picked up a 705 gram steak for $7.99 a pound and did my usual “refrigerator aging” per Jacques Pepin but extended the time to about 30 hours, flipping and wiping off accumulated moisture several times. The steak dropped 25 grams of moisture during the process and the surface changed noticeably. The meat was then brought to room temperature, rubbed with a proprietary seasoning salt, grilled to rare/medium rare.
The result was about as good a steak as I’d tasted, suffused with the unctuous muskiness of a great cut of beef. No reason not to do it this way again and again, and extending to the full 52 hours next time. (Also I’ll keep the meat on a rack atop the plate, so air circulates on both sides.) Thanks to the festival gods for making this happen.