Last week I had the privilege of seeing a man building his legacy at the Meyer Natural Foods Company Ranch near Helmsville, Montana. I went there expecting to learn about beef but I think I learned more about what one person's passion can build.
I can't get the kernel of what I experienced and learned in just one post so I want to do a series of three posts about the passion, people, and product from the Meyer ranch. Today I will tackle the product, Angus beef, and what I learned about it as a consumer.
After two days of being fed all natural, dry aged, prime beef meals prepared by Executive Chef, John Enright, you might think I was ready for something a little different than more beef right? Wrong. I daydreamed this recipe up on the flight home from Knoxville.
It is a variation on a dish that Chef John made for us that had Manhattan fillets, asparagus, and polenta with portobello mushrooms. My spin is a reverse seared Manhattan fillet with a Cajun bearnaise sauce, grilled asparagus, and cheesy stoneground grits.
Manhattan Fillets with Cajun Sauce
Ingredients (4 steaks)
- 2 all natural NY Strip steaks, cut 1.5 to 2 inches thick
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 eggs
- 1.5 T cold water
- 2-3 tsp Cajun seasoning rub
- 1/2 cup clarified butter
- salt to taste
- 2/3 cup stone ground grits
- 2 c water
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2-3 tsp Cajun seasoning rub
- Set up a charcoal grill for indirect heat and preheat it to 250f. Trim the NY Strips into Manhattan fillets by cutting them in half, forming two 7-8 oz fillets per steak.
- Grits - Use only stone ground grits and cook according to directions. Add the butter, cheese, and Cajun seasoning at 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper as desired. Finish cooking until the grits are thickened.
- Roast - Slow roast the 4 fillets over indirect heat until they are about 5 degrees less than your desired finishing temperature. Flip periodically. For example, I want medium rare so cooked mine until they were an internal temperature of 127f so they would finish in the 130 to 135f range. This should take about an hour.
- Make the Cajun Sauce - This is similar to making a bearnaise sauce. Whisk the egg yolks and water together vigorously until the mixture is thickened and frothy. Place in a double boiler (water in the bottom simmering lightly) and continue whisking over medium low heat until doubled in volume 4-5 minutes. Slowly pour in the melted butter into the egg mixture while you continue whisking. Continue until texture coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in the lemon juice, Cajun seasoning, and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Like hollandaise or bearnaise, the sauce needs to be kept warm to avoid separating. I keep ours warm in a thermal insulated coffee mug.
- Grill - Change your grill to DIRECT heat once the steaks finish roasting and increase the temperature to 500f. Sear the steaks over direct heat for 1 minute per side
- Serve by slicing the fillets vertically and fan the slices on the plate. Serve with the cheese grits and drizzle with the sauce.
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First of all, WHY the Manhattan fillet if it is just a Strip cut in half? I like it for 3 reasons.
- Appearance - I like the shape of the fillet on a plate
- Portion Control - You get a 7-8 oz steak but it is still extra thick
- Texture - The thickness yields more of the medium rare (or whatever doneness) texture than a thin steak cooked the exact same way.
|If you don't have a double boiler, make one. Find a metal mixing bowl that fits the opening of a medium sauce pan.|
|Excellent before even adding the sauce.|
So what did I learn about beef production from a consumer standpoint? I went into this tour with two preconceived notions about beef.
- Certified Angus Beef that I see prevalent in stores is just marketing. Dave Bouska ripped back the Green Curtain on CAB for me in 2011. Dave has over 30 years experience in the meat industry and is the head of Butchers BBQ - Trust Your Butcher. In a live interview on BBQ Central 11-1-2011, he declared CAB as "Absolutely nothing but a marketing ploy". Per David, under the CAB program, there is no genetic or lineage tracking to determine a steer is Angus breed, just that it is 51% black. That's the equivalent of saying a doberman pincher is a black lab because he is 51% black. He said there are too many loopholes in the CAB program and they are being used. He recommended getting into a certified Angus farm program instead. [Full audio here, skip to 1:50 or so near the end]
- I don't like grass fed, organic, etc, etc. beef. We have tried to be "good foodies" and eat local grass fed beef but the family has unanimously not cared for the mouth feel and taste of grass fed.
- All natural beef is not limited to grass fed. Meyer Natural Foods ranches produce beef as nature and nurture intended. No hormones. No antibiotics. No irradiation. They are feed an all vegetarian diet of alfalfa, natural grasses, wheat, and hay until the finishing yard where they may include corn and grains in the finishing diet.
- There is real Angus beef out there. The Red Angus Association of America (RAAA) certifies Red Angus beef through genetics, not appearance, for a true guarantee of 51% or more angus lineage. This is one of the farm programs that Bouska mentioned and is the one that Meyer's Natural Food complies with. In addition to their own quality control and tracking programs, Meyer's is also audited by the RAAA. RAAA certified beef can be tracked back to the source parents, not just a lot #.
- Naturally raised beef is superior beef, IMO. Turns out, that what is best for the cattle also makes for the best tasting beef. I'll cover this more in my next post, but Meyer ranches rely on practices from Dr. Temple Grandin and Bud Williams. It's a "high pressure, low stress" method that eliminates things like cattle prods, dogs, etc and uses more humane systems for directing the cattle. This directly leads to a more tender, flavorful cut of beef.
- The increased cost of beef and other meats isn't fattening the wallets of ranchers. The biggest threat to today's cattle industry is not wolves, mountain lions, or even Alien Cattle Mutilations (actually I didn't ask about the alien deal, so it might be a problem, ha ha). It is droughts and fires leading to high feed and other input costs, such as fuel, fertilizers, and dietary minerals. It has gotten to the point where no one in the chain from ranch to consumer can absorb any more costs.
- Meyer Natural Foods all natural beef IS available in stores around me. Most of their retail sales are re-branded with the store chains own label. Stores like Publix, Earth Fare, and Whole Foods may have Meyer package their all natural beef lines.
- This might sound a bit corny but now I look for the Meyer label or signage. After seeing their operations and trying their products locally, I trust their brand.
- I talk to my butcher and ask questions. Don't be intimidated, ask them about where their beef is sourced, what do they mean by "natural", etc. Not only will this make you an educated customer, it will build an important relationship with your butcher.
- Use my eyes. Forget labels - LOOK at the different steaks. Which one looks better, has deeper color and even marbling?
[Standard Disclaimer] Meyer Natural Foods paid for my transportation to and from the ranch; however, no advertising fees have been paid, I paid for the Meyer's products mentioned, and all opinions stated are my own.