In June, 2009, this recipe was paired with the Sojourn Cellars ’05 Sonoma Valley Cabernet sent to members of our Grand Cru Selections sampling program.
As I wrote the tasting notes for the 2005 Sojourn Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ($48) I began craving grilled steak. I could practically smell the hot grill and hear the sizzle. And got hungry!
We’ve recently started buying grass-fed beef, ever since my wife investigated the environmental and health impacts corn-fed cattle brought to large feed-lots. I listened attentively as she taught me all about the downside of corn-fed beef, with the antibiotics they require in the over-crowded feedlots where they’re fattened up just prior to their last moo. It’s the sort of “Hey listen to this” reading that romantic married couples do for a few minutes before the lights go out and we retreat into our individual dream cycles.
After learning the dangers of commercial beef, I was looking forward to tasting the healthier, more sustainable, and more expensive alternative. I just want it to be at least as good as corn-fed beef, perhaps even tastier. But my first few experiences with it were less than stellar.
You see, grass-fed beef is so much lower in fat that it must be cooked at a lower temperature and for shorter periods of time than regular beef. We had been told this, but it proved difficult to overcome a lifetime of experience that had taught us exactly how long to leave a steak on the grill. As a result, we over-cooked our first few efforts with grass-fed beef. When grilling or pan-searing beef (high heat, short cooking time), it is best to use a New York strip or rib eye, as it comes from a more tender part of the cattle, and benefits from both bone and a layer of fat. And fat, my friends, is flavor!
The fat of grass-fed beef is more yellow than that of corn-fed beef, as grass provides a richer source of Vitamin A. Its flavor will be more mineral-driven than the more iron (blood)-driven flavor of regular beef.
We also found considerable flavor differences among sources of grass-fed beef. Terry, our butcher at the Real Foods Market, carries a brand from Argentina that we didn’t find as tasty as the Prather Ranch brand we prefer. So we invited him over for a taste-off – he brought his brand and we provided the Prather Ranch and all were grilled in an identical manner. Every taster could tell the difference in flavor without hesitation, but as for which was preferred, there was no concensus. So you may need to try different ranches before you find a favorite!
1 Grass-Fed Rib Eye Steak per person.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
A good grill. Mesquite or other hardwood chips add a nice layer of flavor, but I prefer my steak unadorned with extra filigree. It’s up to you!
Arrange your grill for high, indirect heat. Grill your steak as you normally would, but muster every ounce of will power you can, and shorten the cooking time by a full minute per side. Depending on the thickness of your steak, this might mean leaving it on the grill for only 2-3 minutes per side.
Serve with grilled corn on the cob and a side salad of fresh tomatoes with basil and balsamic and life won’t get much better.
Dave the Wine Merchant
“Red meat is not bad for you. Now blue-green meat… that’s bad for you!”
~Tommy Smothers (American Comedian and Winemaker. 1937 – )