Friday, October 17, 2014

In Search Of a Good Steak

Growing up Catholic, I can't tell you how many times I was in the confessional because half way through a meal, I remembered it was Friday, it was Lent and I just ate a burger. 

Bless me father for I have sinned.

I am a die-hard meat lover. An unapologetic Carnivore. I'm an abstemious eater who doesn't get full unless I have meat. 

I respect Vegetarians...

My best friend is one and we gave up a long time ago trying to convert one another. 

At her wedding this past month, Hotel Matilda did a beautiful job with her vegetarian selections but nearly everyone who was there went out for a burger or a steak after it was over.

Yes, meat tastes incredibly good to me, especially when it's just off the BBQ and especially a smoker. 

Back in Chicago, I fired up the grill almost every day. To me, it was always worth the effort no matter how bad the weather. In fact, there were times when I would have to plow a path through 10' of snow just to cook. It was all part of my winter dining ritual. That and a glass of Kendall Jackson to take off the chill.

In San Miguel, good meat -BBQ or otherwise-is difficult to find because Mexican beef is generally not aged. 

I found this out on one of my first nights in SMA when I ordered what looked to be a beautiful steak at an Argentine restaurant only to find out it had no flavor what so ever. Even salt and pepper didn't help. 

It was a huge disappointment, especially since the steak was very $$$$. That's when I vowed to find a place to have one.

One thing I learned putting this short list together; it’s all about the quality of the meat and the method and timing of the cooking. 

For instance, Hansen's slow cooks their Prime Rib for five hours so that's why it's never available before 5 PM. Believe me, I tried to get them to give me a piece at 4:00 PM. When you're cooking low and slow, there is no hurrying the meat...

And like everything else in life, a picture says it all!

Buen Apetito!

Dying for a good Steak or slab of Prime Rib...

Calzada de La Aurora 12

The best meat dish in town? A heavenly piece of prime rib. Another Saturday after 5PM special. You have to reserve a piece in advance. Totally worth the splurge

How can you beat this early bird steak special, before 4 PM, for just $139 pesos? One of the best steaks in town. Be very specific about how you want it cooked.

The Bomb...

The Food Factory
Fabrica La Aurora
La Parrillada Factory $150

This towering stack of grilled chicken, chorizo and arrachera over fried onions and peppers is a meat lover’s dream. 

Challenge: Bringing home a doggie bag. How many times have I devoured it all in a single sitting? 

So much for tomorrow's lunch!

Ancha de San Antonio N. 7

Want a cowboy sized piece for $190 pesos that is beautifully seasoned and cooked to perfection? Try Paprika's which is served with a small salad and crunchy, caramelized carrots.

Rack of Lamb. You'll love these mini-chops cooked in Paprika's own delicious orange sauce.

You don't have to say a prayer at their tiny altar in order for them to get it right. Either one of these two dishes will take the edge off your craving for quality meat. 

And the restaurant space will make you think you've just landed somewhere in the middle of Italy. 

Paprika is truly a beautiful place to dine.

A taste for BBQ...

Diablo Panzon
94 Salida a Celaya

This Cafe Rama property has a wall-to-wall Argentinean grill and dishes out thin cuts of meat that are grilled to your meat-lovers soft spot. 

The flavor is all in the grilling so ask for it without BBQ sauce. $149 pesos.

Craving a juicy burger...

Oliver's Burgers
Refugio Sur no. 28

When I eat a burger, I want to taste the meat and not be overwhelmed by the taste of caramelized onions or blue cheese. 

I know. I've had the discussion about how Oliver's Burgers were way back when but I wasn't in SMA to taste them.

Whatever they were in the past, not so this week when I had one of the best burgers I've had in a really long time for 50 pesos. 

Having moved around for many years because of increasing rents from landlords, they've found a little piece of heaven in the middle of a garden that is overflowing with fruit trees. I loved the atmosphere.

La Lonja Carniceria is their supplier now and the meat is delivered fresh daily.

The bun is as good as it gets, light and made locally by a private bakery. Whoever the mystery bakery is, they have the corner on great hamburger buns.

I also loved the fries -20 pesos- because they didn't taste like Mexican potatoes. Elley swears it's a matter of getting the temperature right before you cook them. I would have to agree after tasting them. They were extra crispy and delicious.

At Home...

So how do I cook meat at home? Either hot and fast or low and slow. Is there any other way?

You can make a good burger in your own kitchen. Two great butcher shops are:

La Lonja Carniceria, since 1953, at Mesones #33, is immaculate and that's where I go to buy almost all of my meat. If they don't have it they can order it. It's a bit more money than some of the other places in town but always safe and has really great quality.

Los Tres Huastecos at Carlos Del Castillo 4 in Colonia Guadalupe. Ask for the Molida Especial which is fresh ground flank steak.

Ask me after cooking one of the BEST STEAKS EVER and I will tell you that I can be convinced to give up my Weber grill for a cast iron pan.

The recipe is from Prime Steakhouse in Las Vegas and was featured on the cover of Saveur Magazine's April 2012 issue. 

The Le Creuset grill pan is essential to the recipe but make sure it's insanely hot so that it seals in all the juices the minute it hits the pan. 

1 2” thick porterhouse steak
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tsbp. Canola oil
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
6 sprigs thyme
1 lemon

Season steak with salt and pepper and let sit 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 500 degrees.

Heat a cast iron skillet on high. Add canola oil and when the pan almost smokes, add the steak and cook 5 minutes.

Flip the steak and place in the oven for 7-10 minutes longer.

Note: Watch your cooking time carefully. I determined the perfect cooking time for my oven was 5 minutes on the stovetop and 7 minutes in the oven. Get the timing down to a science.

Pour off the pan drippings and return to the stovetop. Melt butter. Add thyme and lemon and brown for about 4 minutes.

Serve butter and lemon over the steak.


Beef in Mexico is not generally thick cut so you may have to adjust the cooking time. 

If you find a good butcher, a thicker-cut steak is sometimes called a chuleta, while the bistec is usually cut thin.

I heard a rumor that a local BBQ great may teach a class sometime after the first of the year. I just tasted the ribs done on his locally made smoker. They were sensational. Stay tuned.