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Saturday, November 6, 2010

When "Dry" and "Age" Sound Delicious

If you've never heard the term, "Dry Aged Beef" then let me be the first to pop your fading beef cherry. Dry aging meat refers to, well, aging it in a dry cold environment. Generally speaking, it's prime meat that is dry aged, as dry aging lesser cuts of beef wont yield the same, intense, fantastically amazing results. Is there a better word to describe how delicious dry aging a good beefy cut of meat can be? Having dry aged steaks at an upscale restaurant is nothing short of a treat. Intense, meaty flavor, soft, dissolving on your tongue fat, a texture between filet mignon and butter, and the jealous admiration of patrons near your table.

It never occured to me that I might be able to dry age my favorite cuts of beef at home, on my own. In fact, it sort of happened accidentally. About a six weeks ago, I was at my local butcher shop (if you're in Fredericksburg, I highly recommend Old Time Butcher in the historic downtown district.) and saw the most beautiful, grass fed, local, center of the shoulder, two inch thick and fifteen wide, chuck roast. It had a thick, glorious layer of external fat along with some slight marbling throughout. Now mind you, this wasnt a prime cut of steak, but, it was very high quality, and because of this, what accidentally happened next was a good thing! As good butchers do, my roast was wrapped in butcher paper and handed to me with a smile. Upon returning home, I promptly threw it at the bottom of my freezer without thinking twice about it.

I kept meaning to get it out and cook it, but I would forget to thaw it the night before, so, it waited. Finally, last night, after a month and a half of frozen incarceration, I withdrew my meaty deposit and placed (him?) in the refrigerator to thaw. In the morning, I opened my slightly bloody package to find an unusual sight. The exterior of the entire roast was a leathery, jerky like shell. Worried I had somehow ruined my roast, I pulled the meat apart, to find an intensely red interior. The gelatinous fat had a viscous feel, and the meat smelled incredible. Suddenly it hit me, where I'd seen this look, this feel, this smell before. I had, inadvertantly dry aged my chuck roast.

So, I went with it. I seared the meat on both sides, (I cannot possibly describe in words how the heady aroma of that roast filled my nostrils with nothing short of erotic passion.) and placed it in a seductive bath of broth, onions and coffee,- if that sounds weird trust me, it's not.  Nine agonizing hours later, the roast, literally and figuratively falling apart in the ladle, was transcended. No longer a tough, semi bland piece of beef, it was now a silky, slightly gamy, morsel of delight. Potatoes and carrots and bay leaf and crusty baguette added, and dinner was a huge success.

Dry aging, doesnt necessarily sound like a good thing. It brings to mind images of flaky skin and saggy breasts, but trust me, in this case, nothing could be more beautiful.

*Blogger note: It's important for the reader to note that dry-aging at home is generally discouraged, as the bacteria growth can be dangerous. With all foods, please take caution and do your research before attempting this!

3 comments:

Sarah E. said...

This post just made me sooo hungry! I love the thought of dry aging beef at home! I love your writing style and will definitely be trying this at home. Love ya!

Anonymous said...

Hi Bryanne: some people think it might not be such a good idea to dry age your own beef at home (you don't have complete bacteria control and it's hard to duplicate the humidity and temperatures necessary to properly dry age). If you have a craving for dry aged beef, I can heartily recommend ordering from Debragga.com. They call themselves New York's Butcher and they are experts at dry aging beef. Try them some time. They ship anywhere in the U.S. overnight.

B. Salazar said...

Hey Anonymous,

I appreciate that bit of information. It is true, dry-aging at home is an inexact science of trial and error, and can yield potentially dangerous results if done incorrectly. But like many things (raw dairy, raw seafood, rare meats, etc) the home cook has the right to try to perfect the art at home, hopefully with caution! I look forward to checking the website mentioned out. Dry-aging at home also has another downside, you have to wait! Thank you for your input. I have updated the blog to inform the reader of the potential risks. :)

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