Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nick + Stef's Meat 101: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic & Rare Beef

Do you think you are too old to go back to school?  Think again as Nick + Stef's Meat 101 is the kind of education you have been looking for.  The curriculum involves learning about the differences between various cuts and aging techniques.  I want to get extra credit by trying them all, although no guarantees that the credits will transfer to USC & UCLA.  

The educational series begins on Thursday October 20th and continues every Thursday through December 1st (excepting Thanksgiving day) at Nick + Stef's Steakhouse in downtown LA.  Classes cost $35 and include all materials and lab fees including the meat as well as paired wines. Your instructor is Professor Megan Logan, who also happens to be the Executive Chef.  She was formerly the sous-chef at Patina and has been leading the kitchen at Nick + Stef's for the past year.

The schedule of classes is as follows:

October 20th: Which Rib-eye to Buy?  Students get to sample and learn about bone-i, boneless and dry-aged rib-eye steaks.

November 3rd: New York, New York ... and New York!  A deep dive into bone-in, boneless and dry-aged New York Steaks.

November 17th: A Well Aged Steak.  This masterclass gives majors the opportunity to compare dr-aged and wet-aged rib-eye and New York steaks.

December 1st: U.S. vs the World.  Whose cuisine (or beef and wine to be precise) reigns supreme?  American, Argentine and New Zealand steaks and wines will be put to the ultimate test.

I went to a preview of the "Well Aged Steak" seminar and was quite impressed.  It was fun to get to taste a variety of aging methods and cuts all at once.  I have a prounced bias for rib-eyes as I find their fatty nature to be more flavorful.  The New York steak below made me reconsider.  It was cooked rare to medium rare and was juicy and full of beefy flavor.  All the beef we tried, and that Nick + Stef's serves, is graded Prime, the highest rating.  Only 3% of cattle are rated prime, so it is relatively hard to obtain and more expensive than other grades like Choice.

Dry aged beef is generally more expensive than wet-aged beef due to the aging process in which much of the moisture is allowed to evaporate, leaving a denser more intensely flavored beef.  The loss of the 8% water weight means that if a dry aged steak and wet aged steak begin the aging process the same weight, the dry aged one will finish lighter, thus resulting in a higher cost per ounce.  The steaks are aged for 21-28 days at low temperature (32 - 34 degrees) and high humidity to maximize the conditions which will give the beef flavor but without making it too gamy.
Aged New York
The Dry-Aged New York steak above had an intense flavor and wonderful texture, reminiscent of the best toro.  This is melt in your mouth beef, the kind you can only get at great butchers and steakhouses.  A steak like this is worth forsaking a ribeye.

Students get the opportunity to taste and compare the flavor profiles of different meats.  In the photo below, the rib-eye steaks are on top, and the New York steaks are on the bottom.  The sessions are limited to a small group of 15 and the meat is paired with interesting wines.  Chef Logan mentioned that she was excited to share a variety of wines with the steak, in order to show off the different flavors.

4 cuts, one plate
The steaks are aged on the premises, in a glass aging room and are then removed when they are ready for cooking.  The steaks below still have their protective "shell" on them, which is removed before they are cooked and served to the students.  The classes are informal and Chef Logan has a welcoming and unpretentious demeanor, although nobody in our class turned in their homework assignment late.

Shell Game
Having the aging room on-site allows the restaurant to have total control over the beef.  They can ensure optimal conditions during the aging process and it enables them to have sufficient quantities of different cuts at the right point in the aging period.  Plus it makes for a mouthwatering display as you walk to your seat.

School Locker

Classes begin tomorrow.  If you don't want to be behind on your coursework, I suggest you enroll soon.  Reservations are required and can be made by calling the restaurant directly at (213) 680-0330.

Nick + Stef's: 330 S. Hope St, DTLA.  Phone: (213) 680-0030.  Website:

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