THIS WINE PAIRS WITH FOOD, FUN AND YOUR FAVORITE FEST.
FIND IT AT
ne of my very first jobs was in the butcher shop at our supermarket in Thibodaux. Meat-cutting is a craft, and
the senior butcher, a great guy named Mike Dupre, taught me all about the different cuts and grades of
meat, how to use a knife — we cut every steak we sell — and how to trim our steaks and roasts. Mike also taught me how to make our fresh sausages, as well as stuffed meats and vegetables. We produce all of those items in-house using recipes that go back to my grandfather’s time. My dad learned butchery the same way I did, on the PHOTO BY CHANNING CANDIES
job. Dad started at Ciro’s, my family’s original grocery store, as a teenager. One of his mentors was Leroy
Theriot, the butcher at Ciro’s, who later became a meat market manager at our first Rouses Market. We are a family business for more than just my family — Leroy's wife, Geraldine, worked at Ciro's in the deli and bakery; his niece, Lori Simm is the deli merchandiser for our bayou stores. Leroy set the standard for every butcher who has followed him at Rouses. And because this is so important to our stores and to us, this year we established the Leroy Theriot Meat and Charcuterie Culinary Arts Scholarship at the John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State in Thibodaux, to help create and train a new generation of experienced butchers. We also established a Food Entrepreneurship scholarship in my grandfather’s name. As Thibodaux natives, we have been longtime supporters of Nicholls State, and we’re happy to continue our commitment to the school and to the next generation of culinary and grocery professionals. — Donny Rouse, CEO, 3rd Generation
Leroy Theriot, meat market manager for Rouses Markets, circa 2008.
SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITIES If you're interested in learning more about these scholarship opportunities, visit www.rouses.com. Each one gives up to $1,500 per year to part-time employee recipients.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS IN EVERY ISSUE
ON THE MENU
1 Donny Rouse
31 Bistecca Alla Fiorentina
5 Letter from the Editor
35 Perfect Baked Potatoes
Creative Director & Editor
by Marcy Nathan
Marketing & Advertising Director
Art Director, Layout & Design Eliza Schulze
Illustrator Kacie Galtier
with Tim Acosta
9 Ali Rouse Royster
10 In Our Stores
Copy Editors Patti Stallard Adrienne Crezo
THE SIZZLE 13 Have Your Steak & Eat It Too by David W. Brown 17
Advertising & Marketing Amanda Kennedy Harley Breaux Stephanie Hopkins Nancy Besson
37 Creamed Spinach Wedge Salad
Creative Manager McNally Sislo
Potatoes Au Gratin
7 Cookin’ on Hwy 1
Ask A Butcher with Nick Acosta 20 The Fountain of Ruth by Sarah Baird
Mary Ann Florey
No Mis-Steak About It by Sarah Baird 30 Bistecca by Sarah Baird 32 Show & Patel
Cauliflower Steaks with Whipped Goat Cheese Sauce Portobello Mushroom Steak 39 Shrimp Cocktail Gin Martini Vodka Martin 41 Chimichurri Sauce Horseradish Sauce Salsa Verde Hollandaise Sauce Bearnaise Sauce 46 Wine & Steak Pairings by Julie Joy
by David W. Brown 43 Read Between the Wines by David W. Brown
Marbling refers to the white flecks and streaks of fat within the lean sections of meat. Marbling affects meat's juiciness, tenderness, texture, and flavor. In general, the more marbling, the better. MARBLING
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MUST-HAVE STEAK HOUSE SIDES
I’m a huge fan of mushrooms in any form, but burgundy mushrooms are my steak sidekick of choice. The combination of tender portobello mushrooms slow-simmered in a thick, garlicky wine sauce is sure to make even a mushroom hater change their tune. – Kacie Galtier, Designer & Illustrator
SIX NEW FLAVORS! I LOVE potatoes. Baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, potato wedges … I could live off potatoes alone and be perfectly happy. My favorite style of potato as of late has been oven-roasted golden potatoes with lots of garlic and onion powder. We’ve got some great potato recipes starting on page 35. – Eliza Schulze, Art Director
LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR BRANDS AT WWW.ROUSES.COM
Every time I go to my favorite Brazilian steak house I know exactly what I’m getting from the salad bar: the apple salad. Juicy, crunchy pieces of Granny Smith apple, combined with raisins, diced pineapples and celery all mixed up with light yogurt. It is the perfect bright cooling bite after eating a piece of unctuous red meat. – McNally Sislo, Creative Manager
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR By Marcy Nathan, Creative Director
hortly out of graduate school, I was hired as creative director for the advertising agency that handled the Ruth’s Chris Steak House account at that time. When I was growing up, my family were Sunday regulars at the restaurant on Broad and Orleans. Ruth Fertel, the owner, who lived next door, often worked the dining room alongside the female servers, who called themselves the Broads of Broad Street. (Fertel’s servers were primarily single, hardworking mothers like herself.) Our server, Lois, knew my parent’s drink order, which sisters wanted the house dressing on their wedge salad, and which wanted the blue cheese before we even sat down. It was the Galatoire’s of steak houses.
One of my responsibilities as creative director was writing and producing the radio commercials for 70-plus Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses; today there are more than double that number. Ruth was the face — and the voice — of the brand. As a single mother, she’d mortgaged her home in 1965 to buy a restaurant, Chris Steak House, that she saw for sale in a classified ad. No one could tell that story, or how
she gave away all of her steaks during Hurricane Betsy, as well as Ruth could. And her smoky voice just sounded like a steak house. Our creative team always went out to lunch with Ruth after those recording sessions for the radio ads, usually to Christian’s (a restaurant in Mid City owned by the grandson of Jean Galatoire, founder of Galatoire’s), sometimes to Mona’s on Banks — Ruth loved hummus, and even she could only eat so much steak. The meals were always memorable, but none more so than my first, when the account executive with us announced to the table that she was a vegetarian. To which Ruth replied, “Never trust a vegetarian.” I’d been thinking about having the Shrimp Madeleine a la Christian’s all morning, but just in case she also didn’t trust pescatarians, I decided to order the veal.
Steak House on Dryades Street Uptown. Charlie’s is the oldest steak house in New Orleans and one of the oldest restaurants in the city. Its oversized, butter-sizzled steaks are served on metal plates, as they have been since 1932. Crescent City Steaks on North Broad has been serving sizzling steaks since 1934. It is Louisiana’s oldest family-owned steakhouse. Like Charlie’s, Crescent City Steaks lays claim to cooking the first steaks sizzled in butter. But it was Ruth Fertel who introduced this New Orleans style of cooking to the rest of the country, long before Paul Prudhomme blackened his first redfish.
NEW ORLEANS-ST YLE STEAKS My friend Aaron Burgau, the local chef and restaurant owner, is one of the new owners of the venerable Charlie’s
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look for local Louisiana beef in Rouse’s today
get real O
• T HE
FA R M -T O
F O R E S T RY
PA R T M E N T F
R I C U LT U R
MIKE STRAIN DVM, COMMISSIONER
Ain’t gone no more!
COOKIN´ ON HWY 1 By Tim Acosta, Advertising & Marketing Director
f the steaks in this issue look especially good, it’s probably because I cooked them — on the rooftop of our store in Downtown New Orleans, no less.
When most people cook for the camera, they aren’t concerned about flavor. But we always eat everything on shoot days, so the steaks need to taste as good off-camera as they look on-camera.
The steaks themselves were perfect — hand-cut by our butchers, with that deep red color and just the right amount of fat — so I kept the seasoning simple, the way I do when I cook on Highway 1. I brushed them with a little bit of our Rouses Sicilian Olive Oil, then added a layer of our coarse-ground kosher salt and our butcher’s blend of black pepper. It’s a basic yet tasty seasoning that enhances the flavor of the steak rather than competing with it. Once in a while, I like to jazz my steak up with some crumbled blue cheese on top; it makes for a richer, more complex flavor. Different cuts cook at different rates, and a lot depends on the thickness of the steak you are cooking, but you also have to take into account the total size. That 12-ounce New York strip on page 12 cooked up differently than the 40-ounce tomahawk on our cover. Both were delicious, by the way. So how do you really know when your steak is just right? Some people swear by the touch test to determine the right amount of doneness; different spots on your hand correlate to rare, mediumrare, medium, medium-well and well-done on the steak. Basically, the firmer the steak is to the touch, like the firmer the spot on your hand is to the touch, the more cooked it is. I’ve found the touch test useful in making sure I don’t overcook meat, but a much better and safer option is to take the internal temperature of your steak with an instant-read meat thermometer. We’ve include a handy temperature guide in this issue. One more note about internal temperatures: If you’re a stickler about having a rare or medium-rare steak, remember: Thicker steaks like the porterhouse on page 31 keep cooking for a few minutes after they’re removed from the heat, so watch the thermometer closely as it gets near your preferred temperature. CAST-IRON I cooked some of these steaks directly on the grill, some in a heavy cast-iron skillet. Cast-iron heats very evenly and holds heat extremely well. You can set it right on the grill or place it on a stovetop if you have good ventilation. A hot cast-iron skillet lets you sear the steak so you get that great crust, which to me is one of the best parts of the steak. Get the skillet good and hot before you add the steak. Pour a little bit of oil in the hot skillet — if the oil beads and shines when it hits
the pan, you’re ready to cook; if it smokes, that means your pan is too hot. Use a paper towel or napkin to spread the oil around and lightly grease the bottom of the pan. Sear the steak in the hot pan, then finish it in the oven with a pat of butter on top for even more sizzle. I also like to add some garlic and fresh thyme when I cook steak in cast-iron. As the butter melts, I like to baste the steak with the melted butter that has picked up flavorful notes from the garlic and thyme.
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PUT THE WORLD ON YOUR PLATE
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hen my phone rings and I see the word “Dad” on the screen, he’s usually calling about one of three things. It could be: 1) work related — Tommy is retired, but that grocery brain doesn’t really just turn itself off; 2) a weather event is coming, and he wants to make sure my husband and I are prepared — have we closed our shutters, picked up our patio furniture, wrapped our pipes, covered our plants, etc.; or 3) he’s cooking and wants to know if we want any — the answer to this is almost always yes, and then there are the follow-up questions…
Should he drop it off? Or are we picking it up? Can we bring our own containers? (Of course we can. Is it still super-hot? Then we’ll bring a pot to transport it.) If it’s gumbo or beans, do we need rice? (No way! What kind of house in South Louisiana doesn’t have rice at the ready?!) If Dad is barbecuing and says he’s making steaks, I have some follow-up questions of my own: Does he (and/or my mom, but let’s be clear, she needs to be on board for this one) want us to bring the kids and eat over there? If Mom is participating in this cookout, I know there will be a spread of sides — at least rice dressing, pork and beans, and Texas toast. The only real addition I usually want is something green, so I’ll probably bring salad fixings. If it’s just my dad, there will usually be just steak with a side of sausage and jalapeño poppers — and maybe even another kind of sausage, if he was feeling adventurous at the butcher counter at his Rouses down the road. Meat with a side of meat. It’s… good, don’t get me wrong, but we’re really only hitting one note here. The pepper in the jalapeño popper doesn’t really count as a vegetable, especially since it’s stuffed with sausage and cream cheese, plus wrapped in bacon. (No, I didn’t hear any stomach grumbling. You did? OK, OK, it was mine.) The truth is, I will absolutely not turn down a good steak, especially one that I don’t have to prepare — the best kind! Especially if Dad is the chef.
- Ali Rouse Royster, 3rd Generation
LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR BRANDS AT WWW.ROUSES.COM
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Rouse In-House Tastes Like Home
Hand-Cut & Handcrafted in-store
We have delicious options for you to enjoy in-store or to take home. Our soups, entrees and side dishes are ready to eat or be reheated, which can really save time. We also have fresh salads and sandwiches. Look for our $5 Weekday Deli Deals.
Each Rouses Market features a full-service meat market with butchers who cut to order and are available to answer your questions about cuts, grades and cooking. Stuffed meats and vegetables and fresh sausages are made fresh in store.
The best prices on the items you want now. We know saving money is always first on your shopping list. We make it easy to save with store brands that are as good as national brands, and unique products developed in partnership with local producers.
We Grew Up Boiling on the Bayou
“My great-grandfather, J.P. Rouse,
Get live Louisiana crawfish by the sack and hot boiled Louisiana crawfish by the pound (weather permitting).
founded the City Produce Company in 1923, bringing fruits and vegetables from local, independent farms to the rest of the state and eventually stores around the country. Ninety years later, my family is more committed than ever to supporting our farmer neighbors. We work directly with each farming family to bring you the first and freshest of every crop.” - Donny Rouse, CEO, 3rd Generation
Save on Your Favorite Brands with Digital Coupons Create a free account today at www.rouses.com and use your mobile number to redeem digital coupons at our in-store checkouts.
Professional Sushi Chefs We offer fresh, great-tasting, conveniently packaged sushi, wraps and rolls, as well as made-to-order sushi and sushi platters. And don’t miss our $5 fresh Sushi Specials every Tuesday.
DELIVERY & PICKUP Shop online at www.rouses.com and get everything on your list the same day.
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HAVE YOUR STEAK & EAT IT, TOO By David W. Brown Photos by Romney Caruso
t's steak season and the time has come to fire up your grill. It has been a hard, lonely, interminable year, but as vaccines are doled out and the pandemic recedes, the fullness of summer promises to bring together our friends, families and neighbors at long last. In 2021, we might eat and celebrate as though we never knew what wonders could be created by applying heat to meat.
To keep your grill busy, Rouses maintains a robust stock of choice and prime beef— the two highest grades of beef by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Grades are determined by marbling (fat spread throughout the beef), tenderness and cattle feeding practices. “Other companies will buy select beef and ungraded beef—which is the lowest quality beef that you can buy—and then push it cheap,” says Nick Acosta, the meat director for Rouses Markets. “For us, it’s only choice beef—which tends to be most popular—and prime beef, both sold at great prices every day.”
Marchand de Vin Sauce Makes 1 cup This red wine reduction sauce only takes a few minutes to make.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 1 tablespoon butter ¼ cup chopped shallots 1 tablespoon garlic Salt and pepper, to taste ¼ cup dry red wine Sprig of fresh thyme 1 cup demi-glace or beef stock HOW TO PREP: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and sauté for 1 minute. Add the red wine and thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the demi-glace. Simmer for 2 minutes and remove from the heat, keeping warm until ready to serve with steak. Remove thyme before serving. FLIP TO PAGE 41 FOR MORE GREAT STEAK SAUCE RECIPES!
Once you choose a cut and buy it, it’s time to prepare and cook your steak. The big three options are charcoal, propane and stovetop. (Sorry, smoker people. Maybe next time.) No matter which method of heat you choose, general steak preparation is universal. Never poke your steak with a fork or use a fork to flip it. It’s tongs or nothing in this game, as puncture wounds will cause moisture loss. You didn’t go all the way to Rouses to buy the best steaks in town just to eat the dry stuff some other stores sell. And just as certain grill, oven and stovetop temperatures are vital, so too is the temperature of the raw meat. “You don’t want to take your steak directly from the fridge and put it straight onto the barbecue pit,” says Nick. You want to let the meat reach room temperature before cooking it. “If it’s still cold when you put it on the grill or cooktop, it will burn by the time you reach your desired doneness.” SWEET L ADY PROPANE As Hank Hill would happily tell you, the best way to prepare a steak is on a propane grill, using propane accessories. In terms of cooking accuracy and even heating, you just can’t beat a gas grill. The secret is to give the grill a good half-hour, at least, to reach the proper temperature. Preparation of the gas grill in many ways is the same as
preparation for the charcoal variety. It’s a good idea to clean the grates before grilling, and to oil them up so your steaks flip easily. If you trimmed fat from the steaks, you can use the fat to grease your grill, which is the sort of next-level grill master move that will impress your friends and earn the respect of your enemies. Paint a little avocado oil on both sides of your steak before grilling and season them with rosemary. If barbecue sauce is your thing, have at it, but there’s no need; the whole point of steak is to taste the steak. Save the sauce for the burgers. When grilling on a propane stove, be sure to avoid laying your steaks directly over the flames, as dripping fat will cause flames to well up and singe the beef, undermining the whole point of your gas grill: an even cook. For a standard-issue inch-and-a-half thick steak, grill it for five minutes on each side on a propane stove to get it to rare. For medium, you’re looking at nine minutes on each side. For well done, find some other free grocery store magazine for advice, because I want no part of your awful decision-making. CHARCOAL AND MEAT: A LOVE STORY Some people swear by charcoal, because making fire is fun and cooking meat is fun and cooking meat while making fire is just the cat’s pajamas. As with a propane grill, make sure you get those grates extra clean before slapping on the steak, and the steak fat grease method is still a winning plan. As for the charcoal itself, we need to talk about charcoal chimneys. Growing up, I had never heard of such a thing, but somewhere along the line, charcoal chimneys became ubiquitous: the avocado toast of the grilling world. (I blame Food Network for this, but I bet social media hasn’t helped.) In short, rather than heat your charcoal in the grill, you heat it in a big metal canister. Note: Be sure to buy an actual charcoal chimney from the hardware store; do not just find a big metal container and improvise. We don’t need a repeat of the Thanksgiving fried turkey emergency room visit. Once the charcoal in the chimney is totally ashed, dump it into the pit. I do not know why a chimney is necessary for this, but it seems to be the consensus, and who am I to argue
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with charcoal people? (#teampropane.) I have seen it recommended that rather than spread your charcoal evenly once in the barbecue pit, you will want to dump it all to one side so that half the grate is over direct heat and half is cooler. While all this is going on, your steak has reached room temperature and you’ve seasoned it as above. Do you have a grill thermometer? If not, you’re going to want a grill thermometer. Before slapping steaks on metal, you want the grill at 500 degrees. Be sure to keep the grill covered so that the heat does not escape. When ready to cook, we are going to go for four bursts of two minutes each for a medium-rare steak. (You can take it back to a minute or one minute and 30 seconds for rare, though the height of the grate from the charcoal and the size of the steak are going to have a say in all this. It might take experimentation, so if there is someone at the cookout that you don’t like, cook theirs first.) The process of cooking on a charcoal grill will look like this: Once the pit reaches 500 degrees, open the lid, add your steaks to the charcoal side, close your lid immediately, and grill for two minutes. Then open the grill, give the steaks a quarter turn, and close the grill again. Two more minutes. (The point of the turn is to get that perfect grid of grill marks on the meat.) After two minutes, flip the steaks. Cook two minutes. Again, open the grill and give the steaks a quarter turn. After two minutes, remove them from the pit. If you find the steak is too rare for your liking, place it on the cool side of the grill. (See, there was a point to that!) This will allow you to get the heat without the burn. Grill to your liking, though since I don’t know how over- or undercooked your steaks are, you’re going to have to use instinct here. I believe in you. IN THE KITCHEN I live in an apartment with no balcony, so any attempt to light a grill in my home would result in the fire department chopping down my door with an ax, eviction and possibly negligent arson charges. As all three of those things happen to appear on my Do Not Want list, I am forced to use my stove. As it turns out, though, I might be ahead of the curve. When asked his favorite way to prepare a steak, Nick doesn’t hesitate to answer. “In 14
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the skillet,” he says. He is a big fan of searing steaks in avocado oil because it has a high smoke point. First, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. “Next, get a cast iron skillet sizzing hot, and sear the steak on both sides for four minutes each.” After that, he likes to add butter and rosemary to the steak and put it in the oven for a couple of minutes, to the desired doneness. (This depends mightily on the size and type of the steak.) WHAT AM I BUYING HERE? A casual stroll through the meat department at Rouses will reveal a surplus of options, but when it comes to steaks, the classics tend to be ribeye, filet mignon, strip and porterhouse. But what does it all mean? This little guide should light your way. The ribeye is the king of steaks—by far the most popular of its brethren. It is cut from the loin along the ribcage. It is well marbled— there’s a lot of fat and that textbook “steak” flavor in there—and because of that, will
cook evenly throughout, and will get that classic, crispy texture. If you are throwing a fancy party and need good steak that everyone will love, this is your cut. The filet mignon is among the leanest and tenderest cuts of beef you will ever enjoy. This is because the part of the cow where it lives before… well, you know… is from the tip of the tenderloin, next to the backbone and beneath the ribs. Basically, this tiny part of the cow doesn’t actually do anything, so it never develops a toughness. It is also largely devoid of fat, and thus less juicy and flavorful, making it the perfect canvas on which chefs the world over can create culinary works of art. The strip steak is a lot like the ribeye, found along the same muscle. The strip is nearer to the back of the cow, while the ribeye is found at the front. This is “middle ground” steak; not tender like the filet mignon, and not as marbled as the ribeye. If you are throwing a party but don’t want to spend as much money, this is a good choice.
Lastly, let’s say you want a filet mignon and a strip, but you don’t want to order two things. Well friends, let me introduce you to the T-bone steak (sometimes called a porterhouse). One side of the steak is a filet mignon. The other side is a strip. The two are connected by a bone shaped like a T. That bone makes preparation something of a challenge, because as any steak cooks, it shrinks, but that big bone doesn’t, making it hard for both types of beef to maintain contact with a skillet. Go for the grill with this one and you can’t go wrong.
David W. Brown is a freelance writer whose work appears in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Scientific American and The New Yorker. His next book, The Mission: A True Story, a rollicking adventure about a motley band of explorers on a quest to find oceans on Europa, is in bookstores now. Brown lives in New Orleans.
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FROM RARE TO WELL DONE Cooking times and temperatures vary with cut, size and method of preparation, as well as your preferred degree of doneness.
RARE: COOL RED CENTER 125°F
Use an instant-read thermometer to check steaks while they cook. Insert the probe sideways towards the thickest part, not touching bone or fat. Remove steaks from heat when thermometer registers 5°F lower than your desired doneness.
Rest your steaks once you remove them from the grill or broiler, because the temperature will continue to rise. This also lets the juices go back into the steak, which makes it even more flavorful.
MEDIUM RARE: WARM RED CENTER 130°-135°F
Why do you only sell Angus beef?
Why is marbling so important to red meat?
A USDA grade is a representation of marbling and age, but other things go into how beef tastes. Certain breeds like Angus produce better-tasting meat. Angus beef has more marbling than most, and the distribution of the marbling is even. Quite simply, this is the best steak. Whether you choose USDA Prime, Choice or Select, Angus is going to be a more tender, juicy and flavorful steak. What is dry aging? Most of our stores have humidity- and temperaturecontrolled dry-aged beef lockers, where we age USDA Choice Angus Beef for at least 25 days. The dry-aging process draws moisture out of the meat, giving it a richer, beefier flavor. (This is also the reason why dry-aged steaks cook faster than fresh.) Because enzymes break down most of the collagen during the aging process, a dry aged steak isn’t as chewy as fresh. It’s so tender, in fact, that you may not even need a knife. When should I splurge on Prime? You really can’t go wrong with any of our steaks, but for true steakhouse quality, our USDA Prime Angus beef ribeye, New York strip and filet mignon are always worth the splurge. The abundant marbling in USDA Prime makes a real difference in the taste and texture of these cuts, and guarantees a steakhouse experience.
Marbling, or fat, doesn’t just add flavor; as it melts during cooking, it also makes your steak richer, juicier and more tender. A well-marbled steak is going to be your best eating experience. Why do you hand-cut your steaks? Our butchers hand-cut and hand-trim our steaks to guarantee their quality. With hand-cut, you get just the right thickness and just right the amount of exterior fat, which adds extra juiciness and flavor. So, what is the best thickness for steak? It depends on the cut, but thick is almost always better than thin. With a filet, especially a USDA Prime Angus beef filet, you want at least one and a half inches, if not a full two inches. For a ribeye or strip, I’ll cut it somewhere between one inch and one and one half inches so it stands up to the heat, and you can be very precise when it comes to doneness. A thinner steak — less than one inch — is easy to overcook. There are some cuts, like flank and skirt, that are naturally thinner. The trick is to keep the cooking time to a minimum so the heat doesn’t have time to penetrate much further than the surface.
PHOTO BY JO VIDRINE
MEDIUM: WARM PINK CENTER 135°-145°F
MEDIUM WELL: SLIGHTLY PINK CENTER 140°-150°F
WELL DONE: LIT TLE TO NO PINK 155°F
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CHEESY, CRUNCHY SATISFACTION
Autentico Italian Pistachio Gelato, No Passport Needed.
THE FOUNTAIN OF RUTH By Sarah Baird
he concept of steak as a “masculine” food has been seared into America’s public consciousness for decades, back-slapping and handshaking its way into the culinary zeitgeist ever since the first cowboy novels depicted their rootin’-tootin’ heroes as steer wranglers who butchered beef by hand then cooked it up around a fire with their fellow Stetson-wearers. Steakhouses—the first of which was established in Manhattan in 1868—soon followed suit, marketing themselves over the course of the 20th century as spaces where men could mingle freely, wheeling and dealing over expensive filets in burgundy-and-leather clad rooms thick with cigar smoke and the clink of highball glasses. Can you imagine, after all, Mad Men without Don Draper frequenting Keen’s Steakhouse or The Palm for a ribeye and a martini (or five)? Didn’t think so. Even through the mid-2000s, the trope that women do not order red meat—particularly on a first date—was still so prevalent that The New York Times believed it to be worthy of a trend-piece that women were (gasp!) springing for steak over a few limp lettuce leaves.
“Salad, it seems, is out. Gusto, medium rare, is in,” writes Allen Salkin in a 2007 piece with the galling headline, “Be Yourselves, Girls, Order the Rib-Eye.” One particularly riveting passage from the article: “[Some] say ordering a salad displays an unappealing mousiness. ‘It seems wimpy, insipid, childish,’ said Michelle Heller, 34, a copy editor at TV Guide. ‘I don’t want to be considered vapid and uninteresting.’ Ordering meat, on the other hand, is a declarative statement, something along the lines of ‘I am woman, hear me chew.’”
Above, Ruth's Chris Steak House logo. Today, there are over 150 Ruth’s Chris outposts across the globe from Puerto Rico to Toronto and everywhere in-between; opposite page, Ruth Fertel poses with a variety of steakhouse offerings.
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“I’ve been shocked at the number of women actually ordering steak,” Michael Stillman, vice president of concept development for the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, says further down in the same article. “The meat is appealing to them, much more than what I saw two or three years ago… they are going for our bone-in sirloin and our cowboy-cut rib steak.” In New Orleans, though—a city with serious old-school steakhouse culture, from the bright neon of Crescent City Steaks on Broad to 1930s neighborhood gem
Charlie’s Steak House—women have long been central to the furtive, curtained booths and carnivorous appetites of the city’s meatiest establishments. And chief among them is the whip-smart, tenacious founder of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Ruth Fertel. “New Orleans is a city of aristocracies, both competing and intertwined...[and] the culinary aristocracy’s stature comes not from bloodlines but from sweat,” writes Ruth’s son, Randy Fertel, in his 2011 book, The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak: A New Orleans Family Memoir. “All bowed, when hungry and thirsty, to the three queens of New Orleans cuisine: Ella Brennan of Commander's Palace, Leah Chase of Dooky Chase’s and Ruth Fertel of Ruth's Chris, my mother. Only these three women, earthy and hard-working, seemed not to care a whit about pretense. Which increased their power. You need to talk to Miz Ruth? Well, here she is.” Born Ruth Udstad in Happy Jack, Louisiana, in 1925, Ruth displayed the kind of competitive quick-wittedness from a young age that would eventually help her succeed in going toe-to-toe with the inflated male egos of the restaurant business, all while ensuring customer service—whether her guests were governors, groundskeepers or grocers—was always paramount. “Mom grew up a tomboy, determined never to be outdone by her big brother,” Fertel writes. “She skipped two grades...learning, she explained, by listening in on the grades ahead of her. She always claimed she got her competitive spirit from her dad. Just tell me I can't do something, and I will do everything in the world to do it.” Prior to launching her restaurant empire, Ruth lived several entirely full, unique lifetimes: graduating from LSU at the ripe old age of 19 with a degree in chemistry and taking a whirlwind honeymoon with her new husband, Rodney Fertel; becoming licensed as the first female thoroughbred trainer in Louisiana with two young sons in tow; and, after her divorce, working as a lab technician at Tulane Medical School. It was during this time that she stumbled upon a listing in the classifieds that announced the sale of a well-known New Orleans steakhouse— a business that had been turned over (and back) multiple times before, though Fertel was unaware of its history. She was immediately attracted to the concept.
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“I was so naïve. I didn’t have any special interests besides hunting, fishing and reading, and it didn’t sound like I could make much money out of any of them. I saw lots of ads for service stations, but that wasn’t for me. Neither were the bars that were listed,” Ruth later recalled. But when she ran across the advertisement for Chris Steak House in 1965, a spark lit up inside of her. “I said to myself, ‘Simple menu. I know I can do that.’ I had eaten there. The food was really good, and it had a great reputation. So, I went to the restaurant and met with the owner. I asked him, ‘How much do you want?’ He said $18,000, and I said I would buy it. I didn’t have any money, but I had my home.”
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Armed with a convivial personality and dogged determination to succeed, Ruth cut steaks (first by hand, then with an electric bandsaw), oversaw front-of-house operations for the 60-seat restaurant and kept a close watch on the books, proving herself to be a true one-woman-show in the early years. She also hired an almost-entirely female waitstaff, including many single moms, a move that proved from the beginning Fertel wasn’t going to be doing things the same way as the “good old boys” club.
kee), brassy Theresa Arena, tiny Lois Oxman, Shirley Barlett and Faye Pastrano...a feisty redhead who cruised the floor [and] had once been married to flashy light-heavyweight champion Willie Pastrano who fought for the Mob,” Fertel writes of his mother’s core team of ladies. Ruth also knew how to turn setbacks into brand-defining moments. Nowhere is this more obvious than her—necessary, but ingenious—rebranding of the business as Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
“As business grew, Mom added more waitresses: Lou Dufrense (under five feet), Carol Held (Boston-Irish and called Yan-
“You've wolfed down the 16-ounce New York strip; you've consumed the one-pound baked potato; you've even managed the
chocolate praline encore. Now, as you sit back, satiated and content, a burning question lingers: what's the deal with this restaurant's name?” Anne Faircloth wrote of the tongue-twister of a name for Fortune Magazine in 1998. “’Ruth's Chris Steak House’ is so unwieldy that one restaurant critic suggested it would make a great sobriety test. If you can't say it three times, put down that martini.” After a fire destroyed the original Chris Steak House in 1976, Ruth planned to move the entire business to a larger space with more room down the street. Her contract, however, stipulated that the name “Chris
Steak House” could only be used in the exact, initial location. With only a week to come up with a solution—and not wanting to lose name recognition or her customer base—Fertel settled on “Ruth’s Chris Steak House” to combine familiarity with a notso-subtle wink that a new generation of restaurateur—a woman—was in charge. "I've always hated the name," Fertel told Fortune. "But we've always managed to work around it…[and] make the steak the star." The differences in how Ruth operated her steakhouse were not limited to a new brand of exclusive, but familial, atmosphere: it was also in the food itself. The steaks quickly be-
came known for their signature sizzle (it’s practically impossible to imagine a perfectly medium-rare Ruth’s Chris ribeye crackling and popping in your ears and not salivate, Pavlov’s dog–style) as well as a litany of side dishes, like the aforementioned (and everpopular) one-pound baked potato or decadent creamed spinach. She also elevated the conversation among customers and competitors about why selecting high-quality steaks mattered, making meat the very core of what brought the customers in for dinner and what kept bringing them back. “Early on, Mom realized that she needed to educate the marketplace. Quarter- and half-page print ads explained why only 2% of the beef raised in America was good enough for [her] customers,” writes Randy Fertel. “No less a personage than Arnie Morton, founder of Morton's Steak House, her chief competitor, once told me that 'Ruth Fertel created the prime steak business’— this despite the fact his father was selling steaks in the 1920s.” And as franchises spread, Fertel’s commitment to elevating her female employees, colleagues and confidantes was evident with each new dining room that opened across South Louisiana. “As the restaurants expanded in New Orleans, Mom promoted her waitresses and other female friends to run them. Ruth's college roommate Gloria, not her brother Sig, shared half-ownership in Chris II across the river in Gretna. Bette ran Vets on Veterans Highway in Fat City, a booming area of Metairie—until she was caught with her hand in her till. When Mom reopened four blocks up Broad and Orleans after the fire, Myrtle ran the restored original at Broad and Ursuline. Upon Myrtle's death, Doris took over until her hand, too, was caught in the till. She spent some years in the wilderness and then was forgiven. Ruth trusted her girls...[but] she kept a tight rein on bills, inventory and receipts.” Every Ruth’s Chris restaurant that popped up across the country—from the first franchise in Baton Rouge to Las Vegas and beyond—arrived with a dining room atmosphere that was decked out to reflect the unique location, whether catering to oil tycoons in Houston or outdoorsy-types in the Rocky Mountains. Ruth knew that to help foster the intimacy, camaraderie and “club-
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house” feeling that the original Ruth’s Chris had in spades, the individual locations had to play to what made them each uniquely special—not try to duplicate what made the New Orleans outpost magical. This approach—combined, of course, with the restaurant’s luxurious, top-tier menu— caused restaurants to multiply hand-overfist. Today, there are over 150 Ruth’s Chris outposts across the globe from Puerto Rico to Toronto and everywhere in-between, as a leap-of-faith life choice of a scrappy single mother from rural Louisiana has flourished into a publicly traded hospitality empire. (RUTH is the ticker symbol, naturally.) “When I started franchising, that really got the name out,” Ruth explained of the business model, “and the more the name became known, the busier we became in all our restaurants. Our name recognition spread. In fact, all our franchisees were people who had eaten at one time or another in one of our restaurants. We never looked for franchisees. They came to us.”
HAZELNUT SPREAD ALL NATURAL
Fertel died of lung cancer in 2002, leaving behind a legacy that helped completely change the role of women in restaurant culture. Thanks in no small part to Ruth’s trailblazing, there have been major cultural shifts in recent years surrounding how steakhouses talk about their restaurants, advertise them and even build their spaces, with chefs and owners now creating dining environments that are less focused on gender exclusivity and more on what matters: great food in inclusive, welcoming places that aren’t served up with a side of sexism.
Sarah Baird is the author of multiple books including New Orleans Cocktails and Flask, which was released in summer 2019. A 2019 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, her work has been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, Saveur, Eater, Food & Wine and The Guardian, among others. Previously, she served as restaurant critic for the New Orleans alt-weekly, Gambit Weekly, where she won Critic of the Year in 2015 for her dining reviews.
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NO MIS–STEAK ABOUT IT By Sarah Baird
ince childhood, I’ve been something of a vegetable fanatic: opting for cucumber slices over a pack of cookies at snack time, packing peppery-hot radishes in my lunchbox and begging (truly, begging) my parents to cook more cabbage. Sure, part of it was my weirdo youthful tastebuds, but another element was how truly fascinated I was by vegetables’ unique personalities.
I loved the way every tomato has a slightly different pattern or hue, creating a whole palette of colors when picked fresh from the garden. I was riveted by the knobs, bumps and nodules on the sort of vegetables we would now call “misfits”: those carrots that just aren’t tapered enough; the eggplant shaped more like an animal balloon; the zucchinis that have accidentally wound themselves into curlicues through the growing process. And then there were the naturally built-in textures of broccoli’s hairbrush-like crowns; sweet potatoes’ velvety, burnt sienna flesh; and the scratchy, rutted feel of corncobs that absolutely blew my little eight-year-old mind. All that grew out of the dirt? I would think. Whoa, dude. It’s no surprise, then—given my predilection for oddball, funky-textured produce— that cauliflower ranked among my top vegetables as a youngster and has only risen through the ranks as I’ve aged. Once upon a time, the cream-colored veggie with the kind of domed shape and cragged hand-feel that some would say resembles a brain—an association that isn’t helped much by the fact that one unit of cauliflower is technically referred to as a “head”—was a frequently side-eyed produce zero. Now? Cauliflower is a fine dining culinary hero, thanks in large part to its infinite versatility, the ever-growing vegetarian and vegan population and, yes, good-for-you features.
CAULIFLOWER STEAK RECIPE ON PAGE 37 PHOTO BY JO VIDRINE
“Cauliflower is loaded with nutritional and health benefits. It is a powerhouse of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants. The nutrients in cauliflower help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and brain disorders; fight inflammation; improve digestion; and aid in weight loss,” writes Lindsey Grimes Freedman in her 2020 book, Cauliflower Power. “Another reason for cauliflower's popularity is its ability to take on many forms. It can morph seamlessly from a whole head
to dehydrated crumbs to a creamy sauce. Parents desperate to work more vegetables into their kids' meals have found cauliflower to be the perfect partner.” And even if you’re not trying to smother it in cheese sauce for suspicious little tykes or munch on a floret for the health benefits, cauliflower has proven itself delicious enough to be a hearty middle-of-the-plate star. Don’t believe me? I challenge you to order the roasted whole head of cauliflower with whipped goat cheese at Dominica in New Orleans and not dream about it for weeks after. (Spoiler: It’s impossible!) In home kitchens, cauliflower “steaks” are the center-stage-ready, crowd-pleasing— dare I say, meaty?—way to feed a crowd (even one with all different kinds of dietary restrictions!) while still being able to create a satisfying, zhuzhed-up meal. Inherently vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and ketofriendly, these cheekily named, unexpected showstoppers might not be “steaks” in the traditional sense, but they’re tasty, satisfying and surprisingly simple to prepare. Explore all the ways below that you can treat your cauliflower steak just like a beef steak—and maybe even get a little bit more creative with it. FIRST THINGS FIRST: CARVE YOUR CAULIFLOWER. More than likely, if you are buying a filet or ribeye to prepare for a hearty steak dinner, your preferred cut is already portioned and ready to go thanks to the handiwork of your favorite meat counter whiz. (But if you happen to be the kind of person who goes straight to the bovine source and can do whole-cow butchery, more power to you.) For cauliflower steaks, it’s going to take a little bit more effort on the front end to turn this cruciferous veggie into something (sort of) resembling a New York strip. Begin by choosing the biggest, most bulbous head of cauliflower you can find—you want to get as many steaks out of this as possible, after all— and remove all the tough exterior leaves, if there are any. Cut the bottom stem off so the cauliflower can sit upright and balanced on its own, then slice the head from top-to-bottom, creating three or four cauliflower steaks, depending on the mass of your cauliflower. (The center “steak” slices are more likely to stay whole while cooking, while the exte-
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rior steaks might crumble into florets. That’s fine! They’re still delicious; roll with it.) The cauliflower steaks—which are, essentially, a cross-section of the vegetable—are now ready to be treated to the kind of ogling and attentive cooking typically reserved for their non-plant-based counterparts. SEASON SIMPLY... OR GO WILD! Every grill master has their own way of seasoning steak—whether it’s a secret family spice blend or an elaborate cookingresting-cooking process they swear by—but few would deny that a generous rub of salt and pepper all over the exterior is a mighty fine way to bring out the best in any cut of meat. When it comes to cauliflower steaks, things work a little differently. Cauliflowers seem to have as many nooks and crannies as the surface of the moon, meaning that—even after you have cut your head into more manageable, steak-like slices—there are still a lot of fine-toothed area that need seasoning. And unlike the receptive, supple nature of regular steak, thanks to the vegetable’s naturally firm exterior, just sprinkling salt and pepper on the outside and calling it a day likely isn’t going to result in the full-bodied flavor you want from the dish. Instead, make a saline solution out of water and salt, brush it over the exterior of your cauliflower steaks—making sure to dab a little into every crevice—then sprinkle with a crack of the black pepper. This works particularly well if you want to the cauliflower to serve as a sort of satisfying, neutral base to go along with a more powerful sauce or accoutrement (more on that later). If you’re interested in giving the cauliflower steak itself a flashy flavor profile, then consider the entire spice cabinet your playground. Make an adobo-and-maple glaze to coat your cauliflower steaks if you’re in the mood for something smoky and spicy-sweet, or try a balsamic and brown sugar mixture for a more subtle tang. Combine harissa with a handful of its favorite friendly aromatics— cumin, smoked paprika, coriander—and brush all over your cauliflower steaks for a Tunisian taste, or marinate them in a blend of orange, lemon and kumquat juice for a bright, citrus-forward meal. Whatever sea-
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soning inspiration strikes, you can’t really go wrong by treating your cauliflower steak like a blank canvas ready to be made into toothsome art. GET TO GRILLING—OR ROASTING, OR… Much like traditional steak, grilling is perhaps the best way to bring out all the caramelized, smoky flavor possible in the ultra-adaptable cauliflower steak. After rubbing your veggie planks with the spice mixture of your choice, use the high heat and direct flame that grilling provides to properly embolden and enhance the flavors—all while getting a little bit of that ultra-coveted char on the outside. After 6 to 8 minutes on each side (depending on the thickness of your steaks), move the cauliflower to the grill’s indirect heat and close the lid to soften them all the way through, which should take another 3 to 5 minutes. And with just that little bit of effort, you will end up with a perfect, ultra-healthy dinnertime showstopper. Don’t have a grill, or don’t feel like standing outside over a fire when it’s 90 degrees and muggy outside? I understand. Cauliflower steaks are also delicious when
cooked indoors on grill pans or in a cast iron skillet drizzled with a little bit of olive oil. Just remember to move them to the oven after searing the outside to ensure they’re able to cook the whole way through. After all, what good are the perfectly flavored-andtextured outsides of a cauliflower steak if the insides are (gasp!) raw? DON’T BE SHY ABOUT THE ACCOUTREMENTS. Steakhouses love to find any-and-every way to gussy up their steaks with add-ons, whether they’re piling on the blue cheese, melting a knob of herb butter over the top of a porterhouse or covering a T-bone in a slurry of garlicky mushrooms. Think about your cauliflower steaks in the same fashion—just pull from a list of lighter, fresher ingredients. A vibrant chimichurri is always a welcome addition when spread over a perfectly grilled cauliflower steak, as is the bite of an olive tapenade. Feel empowered to take the attitude, “the saucier, the better!” when ladling your homemade pesto, green curry or Romanesco sauce over your cauliflower steak—in this case, there’s never too much of a good thing.
Grab these recipes and learn more about our campaign to give back to Feeding America® by visiting ProduceforKids.com/Rouses. Be sure to RSVP to the monthly Rouses Facebook Live cooking class series hosted by April Sins, RD.
BISTECCA By Sarah Baird
he desire to know the origins of our ingredients and just how they have arrived in our shopping carts or on our plates (and maybe the farmers who grew them) has never been more important for food-chain-conscious diners. Across Italy, though, this has been a way of life for thousands of years, with a commitment to the “farm-to-table” ethos ingrained in the very fiber of Italian culture long before the concept was globally ubiquitous.
If you’re looking for a primo example of how this dedication to traditional sourcing, preparing and eating plays out in our modern era, look no further than the age-old process for cooking the kind of juicy, hulking piece of meat that—in the opinion of many—dwarfs all others: steak Florentine. But first, to talk about steak Florentine, you have to talk about Chianina cattle. Bred in an area of Tuscany called Val di Chiana for more than 2,000 years, Chianina cows—with their milk-white coats, black horns and signature swatch of charcoal fur on their foreheads—are some of the largest and heaviest in the world. Once valued for their strength and vigor as draft animals, today they’re raised pretty much exclusively for their meat, which comes with a steep price tag of roughly 50 euros (or $60) per kilo. Most importantly, Chianina are the only type of cows from which a true bistecca alla Fiorentina can originate. (That’s steak Florentine, for those of you still in the beginning stages of your Italian lessons.) All other cattle sources, purists would say, are poor imitations. Tuscans on the whole and Florentines, specifically, are ultra-serious about their meat—particularly when it comes to following time-honored traditions and, yes, preparation method. Steak Florentine is a cut of meat that is known for its colossal size and shape—a well-marbled T-bone that’s at least 1.5 inches thick and weighs between 1.5 and 3 pounds, on average— as well as the specificity with which this gigantic, feed-a-couple steak is to be cooked. Steak Florentine must age for two weeks in a cold room after being butchered to ensure its tenderness. As with all steaks, it should then be brought to room temperature before grilling begins. Seasoned lightly with salt and pepper (if at all), the steaks are grilled over open embers for 3 to 5 minutes on each side to ensure that a flavorful crust develops rapidly while leaving the interior warm, pink and rare. Typically, after searing on both sides, the 3 0 R O U S E S S U M M E R 20 21
steak is flipped to stand up vertically on its bone (yes, this steak is so thick it can stand alone!) and cooks in this unexpectedly upright fashion for another 5 to 7 minutes. Forks, knives or any tool that could puncture the steak’s crust—or allow the interior juices to escape—are not permitted for use when turning the meat or shifting it in any way. If you’ve always wanted your steak dinner served with a side of delicate reverence, this is the cut of meat for you. This ultra-precious steak has also played a (somewhat goofy) role in Italian history. During the early 1950s, Florentine publisher Corrado Tedeschi founded the Italian Nettist Party—also known as the “Beef Steak Party”—with the campaign promise of a “daily supply of [Florentine] steak” to all citizens. One of the earliest examples of a satirical, surrealist political group in Italy, the party’s mascot was (of course) a heifer, a series of mooing cows served as the anthem and the official motto was, “Better a steak today than an empire tomorrow!” Running on a party platform that included three months of vacation for every citizen, an increase in games of all sorts and clowns being honored with the utmost respect, the Steak Party collected 0.02% of the national vote in the 1953 election. And while the whole episode was performance art at its finest, Tedeschi didn’t joke around about how his party’s Florentine steaks should—and would—be cut. Namely, these Florentine steaks had to be of properly whopping proportions. “To be truly such, a beefsteak must weigh at least 450 grams,” Tedeschi wrote in a plank of his party’s platform. “If it weighs a kilo, so much the better. But no less than 450 grams, because otherwise it becomes a cutlet and then my party would no longer be the Beef Steak Party.” Because even at the height of silliness, hanging onto the specifics of a delicious tradition—particularly for the Italians—is no laughing matter.
PHOTO BY ROMNEY CARUSO
Bistecca Alla Fiorentina Makes 4 servings Florentine-style steaks are usually made from porterhouse steaks cut a hefty two inches thick. The porterhouse comes from the rear end of the short loin, where the tenderloin is thickest. It’s a combination of two steak cuts — that thick tenderloin filet and the strip, or New York strip. The two cuts are connected by a T-shaped bone, which gives the porterhouse and the T-bone steak their characteristic shape. T-bone steaks are cut closer to the front of the loin, so they contain a smaller section of tenderloin. A T-bone works just as well for this recipe.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 1 T-bone or porterhouse steak, at least 3 inches thick (about 4 pounds in all) 2 tablespoons olive oil Kosher salt, to taste Freshly ground black pepper, to taste Grilled lemon half, for serving HOW TO PREP: Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush steak with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the steak on the heated grill pan. Cooked to desired doneness, turning once, about 5 minutes per side for rare, 7 minutes per side for medium-rare. When the steak is done, remove it from the grill pan and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Carve off the filet and strip steak portions, and slice them before serving with lemon wedges.
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SHOW & PATEL By David W. Brown
he next time you visit your local Rouses Market, be on the lookout for a display case of cigars unlike any you have seen before. The colors will be the first thing you notice. Rather than the typical drab, upright coffins the color of paper bags, you will notice sealed, translucent boxes featuring dozens of premium brand cigars in vibrant, vertical tubes. The personality of each cigar will be as distinct as the bottles of wine on our shelves. The display cases are, in fact, sophisticated, revolutionary humidors made by a company called Tubeaux. You'll see them first at our stores because Tubeaux was invented by a Rouses team member: Barton Howard, an executive at the company.
Tubeaux, there has never been a compact way to display cigars in humidors.”
“It was birthed out of necessity,” says Howard. “We needed a way to be able to display the merchandise in our premium tobacco program, but we didn’t have enough space to do it properly. Before
Howard has always preferred cigars that are sold in tubos because of the versatility the slender tubes provide. A cigar in a tubo can be kept in your pocket, the cupholder in your car or the console of a boat, all without the smoker needing to worry about the cigar inside being damaged. He figured that someone provided the sort of compact humidor that he was envisioning, and he began scouring the Internet. Such a thing did not exist, he discovered.
The idea came to him when he was in his office one Sunday night several years ago. While working, he was idly tapping a slender protective cigar tube called a “tubo.” He turned around for a brief moment, and when he returned his attention to the work on his desk, he noticed that the tubo was still standing upright. The solution to the cigar display problem struck him immediately. “I thought to myself: a display for tubed cigars, just like candy or cigarettes in convenience store vending machines work,” he says. “They would be displayed vertically and pushed out.” It was a eureka moment.
So, he decided to make one himself. Which wasn’t easy! Where does one go to manufacture something that doesn’t exist? How does a person explain what that “something” is without saying what it is because the invention—so elegant in its simplicity—would be transformative for the $18 billion global cigar industry? And a very easy idea to steal, at that. How does one do all this and not sound crazy to the people and companies approached? It took some doing, but Howard finally found a company willing to sign a nondisclosure agreement and talk specifics. And right away, the company agreed: this thing was a killer idea. “They immediately devoted all their resources to help me over the next two-and-half years to get the product to the marketplace,” Howard says. Product research and development alone took 18 months. They tried dozens of different springs and designs to account for the hundreds of different types of cigars and tubes. Some tubes have screw caps on the bottom. Some hatch open in the middle. Some are made of glass. Some are aluminum. The weight and size of the cigars inside the tubes vary. “Ultimately, I wouldn’t bring the product to market until I acquired 3 2 R O U S E S S U M M E R 20 21
every tube that was available in the world and was able to display and dispense every single one in exactly the same way.” Moreover, he wanted Tubeaux humidors to be modular: capable of being installed on a countertop or shelf, or even in large, traditional humidors already in stores. Though cigars are a centuries-old tradition, Tubeaux would also leverage modern technology, with its humidors monitored remotely. To understand just how groundbreaking Tubeaux is, consider this. Previously, stores were required to install humidors four feet across, 18 inches deep, and six feet high. With Tubeaux, he says, “if you can give me the width and the height of a bottle of wine, I can give you four boxes’ worth of cigars. Traditional humidors are basically coffins; they are where cigars go to die. Tubes of cigars, though, are beautiful. From a retailer's perspective, why would you not want to showcase these?” But first he had to name the product. “Tubo” is a big word in cigars, and he went to GoDaddy to buy tubo. com. Then he saw the price: $65,000. So that wasn’t happening. But Howard is a Louisiana man, and if there is one suffix you cannot escape here, it is -eaux, from the ubiquitous French names of the region. Thus was born Tubeaux. The price of his new website, tubeaux. com: $14.99. “One cool thing,” he says, “is I had someone who speaks multiple languages tell me there are multiple meanings in the word Tubeaux itself. First, obviously, the pronunciation of our spelling is the same as the word itself.” Moreover, the “ub” (oob) part of the name derives from the word über, meaning “premium.” Eau, he
explains, is the French word for water, which can relate directly to the proper humidity for cigars. Inside of a single word, he managed to convey luxury humidity for tubos. Howard wasn’t originally the “cigar guy” for Rouses. His job as vice president of asset and profit protection for the company had him overseeing such things as receiving operations, risk management, security Investigations, continuity of operations, emergency preparedness, and disaster planning. Cigars were a passion, and because Rouses did not have a proper program to sell them, he found himself having to travel to New Orleans to find the best ones. “I thought to myself, ‘The customer’s there. I'm there. We just have to build a program that customers can be confident in.’” He believed that by offering something unique to Rouses customers, the cigar afficionados would naturally come—especially in geographic regions not necessarily serviced by traditional brick and mortar cigar stores. “It's been a wild success for us,” he says. Tubeaux, with its modularity and small footprint, has allowed Rouses Markets to deploy premium cigars even to stores without free space for traditional humidors. They will soon hit a much larger market as well. His company recently signed a deal with Rocky Patel Premium Cigars, which over the span of 25 years has built one of the largest, most well-respected independent cigar manufacturers in the business. For the next ten years, “Tubeaux by Rocky Patel” will be available at stores across the country and around the world. “The premium cigar industry has been displaying cigars incorrectly forever,” says Howard. Worse, he says, it has created an assumption that for someone to be a cigar smoker, he or she must be highly knowledgeable of the different types of cigars available and have an expensive humidor at home to keep things fresh. Cigars are sometimes unapproachable because they’ve gained a reputation for being extremely delicate and in need of reverential treatment otherwise afforded to totems or sacred artifacts. “The fact of the matter is that you don't need to know anything about premium cigars,” says Howard, adding that there is no need for someone to have a humidor at home for storage. “The beautiful thing about buying
a Tubeaux cigar is that it's as if every cigar is already in its own humidor. It will taste fresher for a longer period of time. You can buy based on convenience when you are already in a Rouses doing your shopping, picking up one or two at a time.” For those new to the leaf, Howard has advice to get you started in premium cigars. “Ninety-plus percent of the time, you will want to stick to something that is light in color when you are first starting out.” Light colors, he says—something closer to shades of vanilla or light caramel—usually indicate that it is going to be a lighter smoke. These are sometimes called Connecticut cigars (after their wrappers, which originated in the Connecticut River Valley), and are known for being mild and smooth. Conversely, cigars darker in appearance—those in dark chocolate or black hues—usually suggest more spice, or body. When asked about his favorite cigar, Howard doesn’t hesitate: “My favorite cigar is a Rocky Patel Aged, Limited and Rare.” As the name suggests, Patel makes these in small batches, and ages them for three years before putting them on the market. Although you will see Tubeaux humidors everywhere soon, you saw them first at Rouses. Being the first store to use a revolutionary cigar humidor should not come as much of a surprise to longtime shoppers, however. The company has always prided itself for being the first in the area to offer all manner of shopping innovations to customers: delis, boiled crawfish, florists, bakeries—even electronic barcode scanning at checkout lines. Cigars are the next big thing—but they won’t be the last.
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SAUCES Chimichurri Sauce Horseradish Sauce Salsa Verde Hollandaise Sauce Bearnaise Sauce
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PHOTOS BY ROMNEY CARUSO
¹⁄₈ teaspoon pepper ¾ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese ¾ cup grated Gruyère cheese
Cut the ends off the potatoes, then peel and slice them in half lengthwise. Cut each half into ½-inch thick slices and set aside.
HOW TO PREP: Preheat oven to 400°F.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon grease. Add the potatoes and toss them in the grease. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until light golden brown.
Coat the inside of a large baking dish with the softened butter.
Perfect Baked Potatoes Serves 4 The skins will be nice and crunchy, while the flesh inside stays fluffy and soft.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 4 large baking potatoes, like russets 1 teaspoon olive oil Kosher salt and pepper, to taste 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 4 tablespoons sour cream 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped HOW TO PREP: Preheat oven to 450°F. Scrub potatoes under running water, then dry them. Rub the skin of each potato with some of the oil and a little of the salt, then prick the skin of each in several places with the tines of a fork. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet, place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes to an hour (depending on the size of the potatoes), or until they offer no resistance when a knife is inserted in their centers. Remove the potatoes from the oven. Cut a deep cross in the top of each potato; push ends together to open the potatoes up. Season with salt and pepper. Top each with a tablespoon of butter and sour cream, and sprinkle with chives.
Potatoes Au Gratin Makes 4-6 servings Gruyère (pronounced “groo-YAIR”) is a smoothmelting, Alpine-style cheese made from whole cow’s milk. Traditional Gruyère may be aged anywhere from six months to three years.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 1 tablespoon butter, softened 3 to 4 medium-size russet potatoes, peeled 1 cup heavy cream ½ cup milk 1½ tablespoons flour 2 large cloves garlic, minced ¼ teaspoon salt
Cut the potatoes into ¼-inch slices, then quarter each of those slices. Set aside. Beat together the cream, milk, flour, garlic, salt and pepper by hand, just until wellcombined. Arrange ¼ of the potatoes on the bottom of the dish. Pour some of the cream mixture over the potatoes. Repeat this layering step three more times. Cover the potatoes and place in preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are starting to brown on top. Sprinkle cheddar and Gruyère over the top of the potatoes and continue to bake, uncovered, until the cheese is browned and melted and the sauce is bubbly, around 5 to 10 minutes. Remove potatoes from oven and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Lyonnaise Potatoes Makes 4 servings These fried potatoes tossed with onion, butter and parsley are a steakhouse classic.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 2 pounds (6 medium) baking potatoes ¼ cup rendered bacon fat (or commercial bacon grease like Hot Belly) 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced Salt, to taste Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 1 teaspoon chopped fresh flat-leaf or Italian parsley HOW TO PREP: Preheat oven to 400°F. Scrub the potato skins well and pierce each potato several times with the tines of a fork, then bake them for 60 to 80 minutes in preheated oven, or until tender when pierced with a small knife or skewer. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Add the onions. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a large bowl; add the parsley and toss. Serve immediately. CHEF’S NOTE: If your pan is not large enough to hold all of the potatoes, you will need to cook them in two batches.
Steakhouse Mushrooms Makes 4 servings
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 pound button mushrooms, brushed and cleaned, with ends trimmed, cut into ½-inch slices 3 tablespoons butter 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced Salt, to taste Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf or Italian parsley, for garnish HOW TO PREP: Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and toss to coat. Cook until mushrooms are lightly browned but still firm, about 5 minutes. Add the butter and garlic. Reduce heat to low and simmer until mushrooms are tender, 5 to 8 more minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with parsley before serving.
Steamed Asparagus Makes 4 servings The salt in the water will help brighten the color of the asparagus.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed Salt and pepper, to taste HOW TO PREP: Fill a large skillet with water 1 inch deep,
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and add salt. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add asparagus to the skillet in one layer. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes (more for thick spears). Drain, and transfer to a serving platter. Season with salt and pepper.
Creamed Spinach Makes 8 servings Nutmeg is a classic spice for spinach. Despite its name — and its warm, nutty flavor — the spice doesn’t come from a nut at all, but rather a seed.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 2 10-ounce packages frozen spinach 4 tablespoons butter 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1 cup half and half ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon white pepper Dash freshly grated nutmeg HOW TO PREP: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the spinach according to the directions on the package. Drain the spinach once it is fully cooked and let it cool. When it is cool enough to handle, squeeze all of the water out of the spinach. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir continuously with a wooden spoon for 2-3 minutes, until the texture is smooth and the aroma is a bit nutty. Add the half and half and cook until the sauce begins to thicken, 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and white pepper. Mix in the spinach and nutmeg. Cook 2-4 minutes until the mixture has thickened, stirring often, before serving.
Wedge Salad Serves 4 Chill your salad plates in the fridge before serving, and your salad won’t get soggy when you add the dressing.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 1 head cold iceberg lettuce (9 ounces) ¾ cup plain yogurt 3 ounces (¾ cup) blue cheese, like Stilton, crumbled and divided 1 garlic clove, minced 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar Salt and pepper, to taste
PHOTO BY JO VIDRINE
10 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved 4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled into ½-inch pieces HOW TO PREP: Remove the stem from a head of iceberg lettuce. Cut in half, then cut each half into half again, leaving you with 4 wedges. Gently rinse lettuce wedges under cold water. Lay them on a clean towel to dry, and place them back in the refrigerator to chill. Meanwhile, whisk yogurt, ½ cup of the blue cheese, garlic, vinegar, and salt and pepper together in a bowl to make the dressing. Arrange lettuce wedges on 4 plates and drizzle each with dressing. Top with tomatoes, bacon and remaining ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese. Serve immediately.
Cauliflower Steaks with Whipped Goat Cheese Sauce Makes 4 servings Our whipped goat cheese sauce was inspired by a recipe from Chef Alon Shaya.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: FOR THE CAULIFLOWER 1 large head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds) 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the grill Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE 4 ounces fresh goat cheese 3 ounces feta cheese 3 ounces cream cheese ¹⁄₃ cup heavy cream 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon dried marjoram 1 teaspoon dried thyme ½ teaspoon kosher salt HOW TO PREP: Arrange racks in middle and upper third of oven; preheat to 425°F. Remove tough outer leaves from cauliflower and trim stem end to create a flat base, leaving core intact. Place cauliflower core side down on a work surface. Using a large knife, slice in the center from top to bottom to yield 4 equal slabs, or steaks. W W W. R O U S E S . C O M 3 7
Making the Grade All beef that is sold in the United States is evaluated and graded by the United States Department of Agriculture on a scale according to its tenderness and degree of marbling — that’s the streaks of fat that run throughout the lean meat, creating a marble-like pattern. At the top of the USDA’s scale is Prime, which is produced from younger cattle and has the highest marbling content. (Only about 2% of the beef sold in this country is designated Prime.) Right below that is Choice, which is high quality-beef, but it has less marbling than Prime. That’s followed by Select, a more affordable option, which is normally leaner than the higher grades, but still fairly tender.
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Place cauliflower steaks on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush both sides of each with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast on middle rack, turning halfway through, until cauliflower is tender and browned, about 30 minutes. While cauliflower is roasting, blend goat cheese, feta cheese, cream cheese, heavy cream, olive oil, herbs and salt in a food processor until smooth. Transfer cauliflower steaks to a platter. Top with whipped goat cheese just before serving.
Portobello Mushroom Steak Makes 4 servings Portobello mushrooms have a firm, meaty texture.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon lemon juice 2 cloves garlic, minced ½ teaspoon kosher salt 4 large portobello mushrooms Canola or vegetable oil, to grease the grill pan HOW TO PREP: Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt to make the marinade. Set aside. Gently remove the stems from the mushrooms and rub any dirt off the caps with a damp paper towel. Flip the mushrooms so the stem sides are facing up. Use a small spoon to scrape off the gills. Pat the mushrooms dry, and brush them with the marinade. Heat a grill pan or a large skillet over medium heat. Brush the grill (or skillet) with canola or vegetable oil to prevent sticking. Remove the mushrooms from the bowl, shaking off any excess marinade. Cook the mushrooms on each side for 4 to 5 minutes, or until browned and tender. Serve immediately.
PHOTO BY JO VIDRINE
Makes 4 servings Some claim that the steakhouse favorite Shrimp Cocktail got its name during Prohibition in the 1920s, when it was actually served in cocktail glasses (which weren’t otherwise being used at that time). More likely, the name is a nod to the Oyster Cocktail, the origin of which dates back to the mid-19th century.
Makes 1 cocktail
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: ½ cup ketchup ¼ cup chili sauce ¼ cup prepared horseradish 1 teaspoon lemon juice 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce Hot sauce, to taste Pinch salt 2 pounds cooked jumbo Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined, and chilled Lemon wedges, for serving HOW TO PREP: Whisk ketchup, chili sauce, horseradish, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and salt together in a bowl; refrigerate until chilled — at least 15 minutes. Hook the shrimp around the edge of a cocktail glass and fill the glass with the chilled sauce. Repeat with the other three glasses. Garnish with lemon and serve.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 1 ounce dry vermouth 4 ounces high-quality London dry gin 3 cocktail olives HOW TO PREP: Fill a metal shaker with cracked ice. Pour in the dry vermouth and stir briefly, then strain and discard the vermouth, retaining the ice. Add gin to the shaker of ice. Stir briskly for about 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with olives skewered on a toothpick.
Vodka Martini Makes 1 cocktail Stir, don’t shake, a vodka martini to keep it from getting too watery.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 3 ounces vodka 1 ounce dry vermouth Cocktail olives or lemon twist HOW TO PREP: Combine the ingredients with ice and stir well, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with olives skewered on a toothpick or a lemon twist.
MAKING THE GRADE All beef that is sold in the United States is evaluated and graded by the United States Department of Agriculture on a scale according to its tenderness and degree of marbling — that’s the streaks of fat that run throughout the lean meat, creating a marble-like pattern. At the top of the USDA’s scale is Prime, which is produced from younger cattle and has the highest marbling content.
(Only about 2% of the beef sold in this country is designated Prime.) Right below that is Choice, which is high-quality beef, but it has less marbling than Prime. That’s followed by Select, a more affordable option, which is normally leaner than the higher grades, but still fairly tender.
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HORSER ADISH SAUCE
WHIPPED GOAT CHEESE SAUCE (P 37)
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PHOTO BY JO VIDRINE
volume. Place the bowl over a saucepan containing barely simmering water (or use a double boiler). Continue to whisk, being careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will curdle (separate). Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and continue to whisk until the butter is emulsified and the sauce is thickened. Remove from heat, and whisk in cayenne and salt.
Chimichurri Sauce Makes about 2 cups This South American herb sauce, similar to a pesto, is especially good on grilled steaks. It’s also fantastic as a marinade.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 1 shallot, finely chopped 1 Fresno chile or red jalapeño, finely chopped 3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or finely chopped ½ cup red wine vinegar 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed ½ cup finely chopped cilantro ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley 2 tablespoons finely chopped oregano ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil HOW TO PREP: Combine shallot, chile, garlic, vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, parsley and oregano. Using a fork, whisk in the oil. Transfer ½ cup chimichurri to a small bowl; season with salt and reserve as sauce. Use the remaining sauce to marinate the meat before cooking.
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil Salt and freshly ground black pepper HOW TO PREP: In a food processor, combine the parsley with the basil, mint, capers, anchovies, garlic, mustard and sugar, and process to a paste. With the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper.
Horseradish Sauce Makes 1 cup
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 8 tablespoons butter, melted 1 small shallot, minced 5 chives, minced 3 garlic cloves, minced 2-3 tablespoons prepared horseradish (found fresh in the refrigerated section of store) 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 3 teaspoons minced fresh thyme Pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste HOW TO PREP: Whisk all ingredients until they’re wellcombined. Let the sauce sit for 10 minutes, then whisk again before serving.
Salsa Verde Makes 1 cup This Italian salsa verde — no relation to the Mexican tomatillo salsa of the same name — gets a kick of flavor from anchovies and capers.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 1 packed cup flat-leaf or Italian parsley leaves 1 packed cup basil leaves 1 packed cup mint leaves ²⁄₃ cup capers, drained 2 large oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained and chopped, or 1 teaspoon (or to taste) of anchovy paste 1 garlic clove, chopped 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon sugar
Hollandaise Sauce Makes 1 cup Hollandaise takes patience. You need to slowly warm — or temper — the eggs before introducing them to your recipe so they don’t curdle.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 4 egg yolks 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted Pinch cayenne Pinch salt
Cover and place in a warm spot until ready to use. If the sauce gets too thick, whisk in a few drops of warm water before serving.
Bearnaise Sauce Makes 1 cup Bearnaise is a flavorful derivative of hollandaise that gets its distinct flavor from the addition of tarragon, shallots and white wine vinegar.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 2 tablespoons dried tarragon 1 tablespoon minced shallots ½ teaspoon salt, separated Pinch of freshly ground black pepper ½ cup white vinegar 2 egg yolks Pinch cayenne 1 stick (¼ pound) unsalted butter, melted 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice HOW TO PREP: Combine the tarragon, shallots, ¼ teaspoon of the salt, pepper and vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer the ingredients over medium-high heat until almost all of the vinegar evaporates and 1 tablespoon is left, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool slightly. In a stainless-steel bowl set over a pot of simmering water (or a double boiler), whisk the egg yolks and cayenne into the syrup over very low heat. As soon as the egg yolks have thickened, slowly add the melted butter a bit at a time, whisking continuously. Add the lemon juice and remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt, and adjust the seasoning to taste if needed. Serve immediately over the steak, or keep warm, covered, over a pot of simmering water, for a short time.
HOW TO PREP: Vigorously whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless-steel bowl until the mixture is thickened and doubled in W W W. R O U S E S . C O M
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READ BETWEEN THE WINES By David W. Brown
ou think of steak, you think of wine. It’s like peanut butter and jelly, but not (and sometimes way messier). Not just any wine goes with any steak, however, and after choosing your preferred cut, you are next faced with finding the right vino.
To be sure, when pushing your cart through the wine section, there is nothing wrong with reaching for a bottle of your old standby. If you take nothing else from this article, let it be this: Wine is for everyone. Don’t let wine— or wine snobs, real or imagined—intimidate you. I’ve drained an awful lot of bottles with kangaroos on the label, and the best wine, as they say, is the one that’s in your glass. But there is a reason wine, unlike, say, orange juice, has for centuries mesmerized drinkers. For one thing, it goes better with breakfast. But for another, the right wine can turn a plate of food into a culinary adventure. Note that the very premise of this article might be flawed, however. There is no reason to choose your steak before the wine. When I was a young student, I had a professor say that there are two sorts of people in the world: those who buy art to match their sofa, and those who buy their sofa to match their art. Wine is no different. What goes on in the bottle transcends vintage (i.e., the year printed on the label). Some wines—particularly those from the “old world” (France, Spain, Italy—anyplace once part of the Roman Empire, basically)—are grown in soil that has been cultivated for a thousand years. You are literally drinking that effort. Wine, in other words, need not be the supporting player; it can be the main event. Regardless of the order you choose—steak then wine, wine then steak—the question remains: Which wines go with which beef? To answer this question, I reached out to Julie Joy, the director of beer, wine and spirits for Rouses Markets and a twenty-year veteran of the trade. She said when choosing a wine, there are some basic practices to get the perfect pairing, and that the two most important things to keep in mind are marbling and seasoning. “The world of wine is built on balance,” says Joy. A fine wine, for example, balances acidity and fruitiness. Too much fruit yields a “flabby” wine. Too little, and a wine that is “thin.” Both can be fun to drink, but if you choose to refine your palate, you will invariably begin to seek out a complexity beyond
PHOTO BY ROMNEY CARUSO
whether it is simply quaffable. “Just as you want a balanced wine, you want a wine that balances your meal—especially when it comes to really great cuts of meat.” The rule at its most basic: if you choose a steak with more marbling (which is the fat in a steak), then you don't want a full, overdone red wine. The “big red wine” and a boisterous steak such as a ribeye will fight each other in the mouth and overload the senses, much in the way that too much icing can turn a great cake into an unpleasant chore. Instead, the discriminating wine buyer should look for a wine with more tannins and acidity. (Tannins are what give wines that dry, astringent feeling in the mouth. Sound unpleasant? It’s not. Tannins are the reason coffee is so satisfying, but not exactly the first drink you reach for after stepping off the treadmill.) Getting down to specifics, you would not pair a ribeye steak with a heavy red blend (i.e., a wine made with multiple, overly expressive grape varieties) or with a Bordeaux (the famed wine region of France best associated with Merlot), or with a spicy Zinfandel (a grape variety that yields a fullbodied, sometimes “jammy” wine that is grown very successfully in California). Instead, the best wines for ribeye—the most marbled steak you are likely to find— include bottles of syrah (which is exactly the same thing as shiraz, both named for the same grape), grenache (a red grape), and some lighter red blends. These are bottles with just enough weight to compete with the steak, but not so much that they overpower it. In other words, wines that bring balance. Another option for the ribeye and its marbled brethren are Italian wines, generally, which are excellent food wines from an excellent food culture. “Italian wines are lighter in general,” says Joy. “Not all of them, of course—but something like a sangiovese, the primary grape grown in Chianti, is a great choice.” Rouses sells a wine called Toscoforte, bottled by a family called Guicciardini, who have been doing this for 900 years and thus have some idea of how to make a good wine. “Toscoforte has complex aromas and fruit in a robust body, but it has really great tannins,” says Joy. “It’s the tannins that will cut through the fat.”
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Conversely, if, rather than a ribeye, you instead went with a lean steak, you would want a heavier wine to complement it—again, to provide balance. A heavier red blend, here, would be ideal. One option is Abstract, a wine from Orin Swift Cellars, which is made from grenache, syrah and petite sirah grapes. Likewise, for a filet mignon, which has the lowest fat of the high-end steaks, a bottle of Volver, a Spanish wine made from tempranillo grapes, would be ideal, as the wine packs a lot of body. The factors that lead you to choose a bolder wine for a leaner meat apply also to seasoning. If your steak was prepared with little more than light salt and pepper, you can go for a bit more gusto on the wine. If it was seasoned with wild abandon, consider something a bit more modest. When choosing a wine, overall, you can go two ways: conservative or daring in terms of taste and complexity. A lot of it simply depends on your overall demeanor and the guests who might be sharing said bottle, but an enterprising host might consider both types and allow drinkers to work out the differences for themselves. Comparing and contrasting wines is one way that wine lovers try to figure out what’s going on, and why, with different labels. On the leaner end of the steak spectrum, and getting to the fattier side, you’ve got filet mignon, strip steak, and then the porterhouse. (We’ve already covered ribeye.) When considering a strip steak, a daring drinker might cast a long, lingering eye on the aforementioned Toscoforte and its 100% sangiovese grape content. For your Steady Eddie sort of drinker, the best strip wine might be a Chianti, which is generally made with
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about 50% sangiovese grapes. (No, Chianti is not generally thought of as a steak wine, but because it is packing serious tannins, it will balance out the fat and full flavor of the strip.) For a filet mignon, the mild wine drinker would be well served with a nice red blend such as a bottle of Conundrum, owned by the Wagner Family of Wine in California. It is made with petite sirah, zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon grapes. Another meek wine might be a bottle of Abstract from Orin Swift. From across the ocean, a Bordeaux such as Chateau Greysac, a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot, would also do the trick. Indiana Jones, however, would reach fearlessly for the aforementioned Spanish wine Volver Tempranillo, or perhaps even Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha (which is grenache, translated, and known for ripening when conditions are hot and dry, and thus ideally suited for the Spanish climate.) Tres Picos lands somewhere in the middle between light and bold. So that you know what to expect, the website Wine Folly favorably describes the flavor of grenache as an “unmistakable candied fruit roll-up” and cinnamon. But what exactly, you might be asking, is a “bold wine.” It’s a fair question! I asked Joy what “bold” means to her, and she compared it to… a sandwich. “That’s what every glass is like: a sandwich,” she says. “A glass of bold wine has so much going on in it. The mouthfeel is very heavy. When you drink it, it completely takes over your
palate, and you know you’ve had something very distinct—the same way you feel after having a sandwich.” On the other hand, she defines a “light” wine as something like a palate cleanser—something almost refreshing, but not overpowering. Next on the lean-to-marbled spectrum of steaks is the mighty porterhouse, sometimes called the T-bone. “What’s fun about the porterhouse is that it is a single steak of a filet and a strip held together by a bone,” says Joy. Because of that mix of meats, she suggests having fun with it, and to drink a wine with a blend of grapes. She suggests for the timid wine drinker a zinfandel, because of its nice spicy flavors, and because zinfandels possess perhaps the most sugar of any big red wine. (She warns that that kind of flavor spectacular could lead to palate fatigue, so drink cautiously.) “For the explorer, I would recommend something called a tricorno,” she says. The Tuscan red contains three grapes: sangiovese, for the lighter acidity, as well as cabernet sauvignon and merlot to bring depth. Such wines are often called “super Tuscans,” oftentimes made with grapes that are not indigenous to Italy. Walking through the meat department, it’s pretty obvious that every part of the cow can be made into one meat or another, but not all cuts of steak are created equal. If you are buying one of the less expensive, and perhaps lower-quality cuts (relative to, say, a ribeye), the truth is there is not much point in going all-out for a bottle of wine. Just being wine is credential
enough to get the job done. For these cuts of beef, you might consider going for the most popular wine in America: a bottle of cabernet sauvignon. Not all cabs are created equal, some being so exquisite as to ruin you for all others, and some… well, they’re wine. “With a sirloin or something like a flat iron, it’s not that you don’t want to pair the best wines, but do you go all-out for those as well?” asks Joy. She suggests going for a cabernet within your budget. A middle-of-the-road such wine—medium bodied, medium price point—would be a bottle from Josh Cellars: a steady, consistently good and accessible wine. (It is a no-surprises tipple and has proven very popular in recent years.) If cabs aren’t your thing, try the Locations wines by Dave Phinney. Dave blends wines from across all of the major appellations, to produce wines that represent a country of origin. If you are looking for a mid-tier wine closer to home, Charles Smith Wines puts out a fantastic syrah that could stand on its own with just about any steak out there. One more thing: As the pandemic recedes and parties proliferate, there might be a temptation to go for the “hot” wine— something you are seeing everywhere. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but don’t be afraid to try something different. Rather than bring a bottle to a party and have the host say, “Oh, I love that wine!” why not try showing up with something that elicits, “Oh, what’s that? Let’s try it!” Wine is ultimately a communal act—something to be appreciated as an art, and likewise to be shared. To inspire. To transcend. To drink wine is to drink the Earth itself. A bottle of wine is more than fermented grapes with a label applied thereto. It is a season’s growth—the sun and rain and wind—tranquility and catastrophe alike— grown on vines long planted in
soil sometimes centuries cultivated. Wine is human experience: the crushing of the grapes, the yeast added to the juice (and the history of the yeast), the fermentation in vats, the subsequent barrel-aging of some wines (and the barrels themselves, and their histories), and finally the bottling of the wines—years often elapsed from the first to last steps. And that’s just the beginning.
have an Old-Fashioned in your other hand!” With moods lifted and dinner plated, reach firmly for the corkscrew. The time for celebration has begun.
There is a reason wines from Napa Valley and wine from Burgundy are so different: The earth and the effort. Wine writer Matt Kramer once did the math on just how long it takes to establish distinct wine growing areas able to produce fine, distinct wines: four years from planting a vineyard to harvesting grapes. Fifteen years until the vines mature. Up to 25 years before a fine wine reaches perhaps its fullest expression. A winemaker, in other words, might see, at best, the maturity of a mere 20 vintages. What he or she learns about the cultivated land’s distinct characteristics—what Kramer calls the “cartography of taste”—and the best processes to produce the most subtle and expressive wines, are then passed on. Mastery of this spiritual process is rare indeed, if it truly exists at all. So, yes. Grab that bottle you’ve never tried before. The wine within could only have grown one time in one place. Every year is different. Every place is different. And none will ever be repeated again. And though it is an art, it is one not to be taken too seriously. Wine without merriment is no wine at all. Every vintage is a tribute to the Earth and the human effort to find expression though it. Open that bottle, and if you can, have another. And at the end of the day, no matter which wine you choose, it’s not everything. Julie has one bit of ironclad advice for a day of steak and revelry: start the day with an Old-Fashioned, the famed cocktail made with a nice spicy bourbon, a three dashes of Angostura bitters, a cube of sugar and a splash of water. Serve on the rocks and garnish with an orange slice and a cherry. “If you turn on a grill,” she says, “you should
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STEAKHOUSE STEAK WITHOUT THE STEAKHOUSE PRICE DRY AGED AT LEAST 25 DAYS
We dry age USDA Choice beef on site, in custom dry-aged beef lockers, for at least 25 days before it is trimmed and cut into steaks. Dry aging allows the beef’s enzymes to break down the collagen and muscle fibers, resulting in a rich, buttery texture and more intense beef flavor.
Available at select Rouses Markets.