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Yesterday I purchased some dry aged prime strip steaks from my beloved Wegmans. This will be the first time I will have the opportunity to eat (as far as I know) and cook prime beef. With that in mind how should I sauce my beautiful meat?

Typically I cook my steaks sous vide to 130 degrees and then salt and pepper with a cast iron sear. If I'm going to make a pan sauce I finish in my enamelled cast iron, deglaze with a dry red, some shallots, add some heavily reduced beef stock, and then finish with a pad of butter and demi glace.

This results in a very rich sauce which is delightful in its own right. I'm concerned that I might be make a sauce that covers up this glorious beef.

Does anyone have any recommendations for my first time?

Things I'm particularly concerned with are:

  • What wine to use in the sauce - is high-end/vintage wine important, and what varieties might be best?
  • Should I seek out something a little more upscale than reduced Swanson beef broth?
  • Is this cut generally served sauced or unsauced?
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I edited out the parts about searing; please ask one question at a time so they can be answered one at a time and thus be of more value (and easier to find) for future readers. –  Aaronut Jan 20 '12 at 23:37
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I do hope you're planning on at least trying a bite without sauce either way; I think that's good practice when trying anything new! –  Jefromi Jan 21 '12 at 0:58
    
Oh definitely, I always have the first bite sauce free, but would rather not go through the trouble of making the sauce if I won't end up needing it –  Brian Jan 21 '12 at 1:02
    
Oh my god. This steak was perfect in every way. Why can't I eat this every day? Ended up just salt and cracked peppercorns with a pad of butter finish. Oh yes. –  Brian Jan 23 '12 at 21:53
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

This sounds yummy!

I'd recommend cooking sous vide (SV) as you suggest (130 F for 1-3 hrs). I tend not to season in the SV bag at all because salt & spices often turn out oddly; for example, raw herbs/onion/garlic are far stronger and taste "uncooked". Figuring out how to spice SV takes a fair amount of experimentation and is best done with dried & powdered herbs/spices instead of fresh ones.

VERY IMPORTANT:

  • Before cooking SV trim excess fat from the steak
  • After cooking take the meat from the SV bag and DRY it thoroughly before searing!
  • If you're planning to use bag juices, first bring them to a full boil in another pot and skim off the scum (myoglobin "blood"), then use whatever is left as your meat juice.

To sear, pre-heat the cast iron sear to a very high temperature (~500) and use a high-temperature oil like peanut.

The sear should be at VERY high heat for only 30 seconds or so per side - if you leave it on much longer you'll lose the beautiful 130 degree edge-to-edge miracle that should be your reward.

Using butter for the sear is not a good idea as either the butter will be destroyed by the properly high heat OR the steak will be destroyed by keeping the cast iron's heat low enough for the butter. Rather, use compound butter as a topper for presentation.

As for using a torch, I've used a brulee torch a few times and the heat & coverage is insufficient to sear a steak well with my limited experience. You can sign your name on the steak with it, but getting a good, even edge-to-edge Maillard crust is very tough. Using a MAPP torch is quite a bit better; MAPP gas is flavorless, it's hotter than propane or butane, and MAPP torches tend to fan out broader flames, but I still don't think they create as dense or flavorful a crust as a pan-sear. Moreover ANY torch runs a likelihood of flat-out burning areas of the meat, and that's especially true for a first-timer!

Let's talk about salt before going any further. I've always salted meat before grilling. But SV is a completely different ballgame. Salting before SV doesn't add much flavor for you on short cooks and hurts badly on longer ones (cures the meat). There are online arguments about this, but I prefer salting only after SV and preferably after searing. Taste tests support this post-SV salting approach - check out http://www.cookingissues.com/2011/10/12/to-salt-or-not-to-salt-%E2%80%93that%E2%80%99s-the-searing-question/ for a great take on the subject.

If you keep the searing time appropriately short you won't have to rest the meat before serving. The meat is still incredibly juicy and doesn't need time to reabsorb fluids.

As for what to do with a sauce, I'd go for the butter instead and incorporate a steak-friendly sauce into a side dish.

A quality hunk of well-marbled dry-aged beef should sing with this preparation and I'd put it center-stage to sing solo, with the side dish's sauce grooving nearby ready to join in on the chorus.

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You may want to come back and edit your answer; the question no longer asks about searing. (That part of the question may end up as a separate question; you could post an answer there using what you edit out here.) –  Jefromi Jan 21 '12 at 0:57
    
Yeah I've been sous vide-ing for the last couple of years and have come to a lot of the same conclusions you have. I didn't think of pre-boiling the bag juices however which has always led me down the road of having to strain my sauces. That's a good tip! –  Brian Jan 21 '12 at 1:04
    
So 130 is good for prime dry aged? It's what I prefer for my normal run of the mill choice steaks and I had seen some chatter elsewhere about how prime meat may need to be brought a little hotter to render the marbling. –  Brian Jan 21 '12 at 1:05
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