Is This NYC's Best Steak? And How To Cook It
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Moe Albanese's "porterhouse ribeye" at Albanese Meats & Poultry
Peddling up Elizabeth Street from Chinatown this weekend, FiTR spotted the façade of an ancient butcher shop we'd passed many times before, but never patronized. Albanese Meats & Poultry is a throwback to the day way every downtown New York neighborhood had its own butcher shop. In the days before refrigeration, these places provided fresh meat and poultry that would be cooked for that day's supper. Now only a few remain, many selling prime meat to connoisseurs.
Tthe same steak cooked and cut up, just before being sluiced with garlic-laced butter and drippings. About half the steak shown here.
Inside the antique premises - outfitted with a well-worn freestanding butcher block and old-fashioned white enamel scale that said "Thank You" in one window, and "Call Again" in another - I found 89-year-old Moe Albanese. His wire spectacles gave him a quizzical air, and he fixed me with his clear blue eyes as I approached the butcher block behind which he stood.
On that butcher block was a giant rack of beef ribs, covered with scaly beef fat, its exposed face as pink as the cheeks of a marathon runner. Traceries of white tallow ran across the meat's surface. We asked for a steak that would feed three people, and with deliberation he reached first for his boning knife, then for his meat saw, and finally for his cleaver as he sundered our thick steak from the rest of the rack. Then he spent an additional 10 minutes with the boning knife, deftly - especially, given his age - trimming bits of fat and gristle so that only the right amount of fat remained. The steak produced, he told us, was a "porterhouse ribeye." It looked like a regular ribeye, only had an extra layer of meat wrapped around the steak on the end away from the bone. It looked to us much like the steak served at Peter Luger.
Our three-person steak was hewn from this rack.
Next: How to cook it
Searing the steak in the skillet
While he worked, he kept up a repartee. He asked us how we were going to cook the steak; we told him in detail and as he nodded approvingly. Here's the basic method: 1) Start the steak on its side edge in the skillet without added fat, rendering liquide tallow into the pan and searing the thickness of the meat. 2) Turn on the first side and sautee the crap out of the steak till the side almost blackens, then flip it over and do it to the other side. 3) Remove the steak from the pan, pour out the rendered fat, leaving the blackened bits in the pan. 4) Turn down the heat and put about a third of a stick of butter in the skillet with several cloves of garlic, crushed skin on with the flat side of a knife. 5) Put the steak back in the pan and cook over low heat for a few minutes on each side. 6) Slice the steak onto a platter and pour the juices over the slice. Salt and pepper to taste.
As he finished up with our steak and wrapped it loosely in white wax butcher paper he asked us, "Did you see the sign in the window?" We stepped outside to take a look. It said HOME OF THE "I GOT'CHA" STEAKS. Back inside, Albanese fixed us with his steady gaze, and said, "Now go home and try that steak." We told him we were about to do that the moment we left his shop. Smiling broadly, he delivered the punchline, "Well, once you've tried it, then I GOT'CHA!" And indeed, once we'd polished off the last slices, he'd gotten us.
Yes, he got us. But is it the best steak in New York City? We're ready to place it in the top five.
The shop was founded by Moe Albanese's parents in 1923.
Albanese Meats & Poultry 238 Elizabeth Street 212-966-1788
Follow me on Twitter if you dare! -- @robertsietsema
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