Editor's Note: Please welcome longtime contributor Nick Solares back into the Serious Eats fold. On Steakcraft, he'll look into the makings of New York's premium steaks, with lots of juicy photos along the way. Take it away, Nick!—M.F.
Steak Fact Sheet
Grade: USDA Prime
Breed: Black Angus
Dry Aged? 21 Days
Pre-Cooked Weight: 14 oz.
Price: $49 served with seasonal green
Price per Ounce: $3.26
Quality steak is not something that one generally expects to find in a Chinese restaurant, but Ed Schoenfeld and Joe Ng are changing all that at RedFarm, their avant garde Chinese American restaurant in Greenwich Village. The RedFarm rib steak has all the attributes of a steakhouse cut—a juicy, dry aged chop with charred grill marks cooked perfectly to order—but adds an unexpected and unique twist to the preparation.
The steak is a 14oz USDA Prime ribsteak from Creekstone Farms' Black Angus stock, which is dry aged for a month by Pat LaFrieda. A steak of this quality doesn't need much more than a lot of salt and a lot of heat, but slapping a huge hunk of charred beef on the table would hardly be in keeping with RedFarm's dining aesthetic. Rather, Ng has taken his love of American steak as a starting point by using the best quality beef available and infusing it (quite literally) with the flavors and textures of his cuisine.
The steak is treated in a way that would shock most steakhouse cooks—Ng marinades it for three hours in a mixture of puréed papaya, soy sauce, potato starch, black pepper, thyme, and soy bean oil. The steak is then pan seared to a light brown, removed from the heat and cut into three sections: the rib bone, the Spinalis Dorsi (the cap), and the Longissimus (loin muscle). Ng feels that each section requires different cooking times. The rib bone, for example has delicious "finger" meat that is hard to get at when cooked rare, so Ng cooks it all the way through. The other cuts, which require far less grill time (especially if ordered rare) can then be cooked to order.
The steak is removed once it is brought to temperature and is then sliced immediately, again bucking tradition by ignoring the established method of resting before slicing. The steak is finished off with beef broth, a dousing of barbecue soy sauce, and a scattering of sesame seeds.
Because there are no knives or forks at RedFarm, the steak is pre-sliced into thin strips. The meat is incredibly tender from the papaya marinade, which contains the enzyme Papain, a natural tenderizer. Papaya is often used to tenderize cheap cuts of meat; on a cut that is already as tender as Prime steak, the result renders the rib as tender as tenderloin.
The potato starch gives the meat a slippery quality but not in a bad way, not unlike velvet-ed meat. It adds a delicacy and litheness that one doesn't ordinarily associate with beef. While the flavors of ginger and garlic and the sweetness from the papaya are certainly present, the inherent beefiness of the steak still comes through. A less robust protein, most beef even, would not stand up to such treatment. But here the result is wonderfully synergistic.
While the preparation may be a most unorthodox treatment of a Prime steak, the result is as compelling as that of any steakhouse. The presentation—sliced and served along side a seasonal green—lends itself perfectly to the communal dining that is encouraged at RedFarm. Indeed, the steak has proved so popular that is has become one of the restaurant's signature dishes.
RedFarm sell around twenty per night. You should make it it 21 tonight; this is a steak worth seeking out.