August 22, 2011
The Cowboy Steak: It's what's for dinner

Steak1 (17).JPGI recently received an email from a reader who wanted to know a couple of my favorite places to get a good steak. I cut right to the chase: Walk to the back of Corti Brothers, peer through the glass at the various cuts of beef, and pick out something called the "Cowboy Steak." You won't have to look hard -- it's humongous. If you cook that thing properly, all two pounds of it, it will blow your mind. Covered wagon, Gatling gun and open flame are optional.

Yes, the cowboy steak is not your everyday steak. But it's something you might want to try for a special occasion. That could mean anything from winning the lottery to hearing the judge say you're getting probation because the jail is full. It doesn't matter. Me? I was starving, and I simply wanted to eat extremely well at home.

Steak2.JPGThis is a steak that pretty much runs the gamut. Big? It is monstrous. Full of flavor? Yes, all that marbling you see makes it delicious. And tender? You merely have to wave your steak knife at it.

I've cooked this cowboy steak twice and it is an incredible treat for two - or three, if you count handing off the bone to Fido at the end of dinner.

Mike Carrol, the manager of the Corti Brothers meat department, says the cowboy steak has become very trendy in recent years and sales of this over-sized cut are up significantly. The steak is actually a single rib of the prime rib roast, and the bone is frenched by the butcher, exposing about two inches, which gives it a nice presentation.

The cut is available in two USDA grades. The prime is $17.99 and will have significantly more marbling (fat) that the choice, which is $11.99. The average weight is two pounds. The steak you see in the photographs cost $35. As I said, it's a treat, a big deal.

In keeping with the cowboy theme, I prepared this steak in my cast iron frying pan, browning it on each side at high heat for about three minutes until the meat had a nice dark crust. Then I put it in a 450-degree oven, pan and all until it was medium rare (about 125-130 degrees in the middle), which took 12 minutes because this steak is about two inches thick. For big steaks like this, it's not a good idea to try and cook it entirely on your stovetop. By the time it's done in the middle, the outside could be burnt.

This is a steak for two (or more), but before you cut it in half, remember to let it "rest" for 5-10 minutes. Otherwise, too much of the juice will escape onto your cutting board.

Steak3.JPGThis is the basic way I do it, seasoning it simply with kosher salt and a twist or two of fresh-ground pepper.

I asked Corti Brothers for its recipe and I am including it below. Since this steak is so expensive, you'll want to be careful you get it right. I'd recommend bringing a big appetite to table. Eat a light breakfast and lunch, do some rigorous exercise, and then you'll really appreciate how great this steak can be. It always tastes better when you're famished.

Corti Brothers version:

Rub your steaks with Vignalta salt and as much pepper as you like. Press the salt into the meat. Bring steaks to room temperature; a couple of hours will do. Bruce Aidells recommends rubbing the meat with minced garlic as
well as olive oil and then allowing it to marinate for up to two days.

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees while at the same time heating a heavy skillet on medium heat. Hold the steak fat side down to render some fat onto the bottom of the pan. Then sear each side for 5-6 minutes until 125 for medium rare. The surface should be well caramelized at this point. If you need to cook it further because
you want a medium or well done steak transfer the steaks to the oven to finish to the desired degree of doneness; this will require another five to ten minutes cooking time. Check the temperature frequently to avoid over cooking. A medium steak will be 130, medium well done at 145, and well done will be 165+.

Fiorentina "The Real Tuscan Steak"
A favorite in Florence, a steak which bears that city's name Fiorentina is a 2" thick Porterhouse, seasoned with salt and pepper, and then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and optional lemon juice after it is cooked. It is grilled over a wood fire that is covered with white ash, producing a very soft, low heat, until it has a nicely charred exterior and a rare to medium rare interior. Whatever other preparations that are being offered these
days in New York as "Tuscan Steak" are of questionable derivation and may not even be Tuscan.

2" Thick Porterhouse Steak,
extra virgin olive oil- a drizzle
½ lemon to squeeze over grilled steak (if desired)
salt & pepper to taste

The preparation typically serves four people. It is cut into four portions, three without bone and one with. Remove the large, New York eye, and cut into two portions. Remove the small, filet eye, for the third portion. The fourth portion is the 2" bone with ample steak left attached.

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