Steak for supper: wagyu from James Whelan Butchers
Steak is always a very special treat at the cottage but, when Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers sends a couple of wagyu beef steaks, that’s into another stratosphere entirely. They arrived in a brown paper parcel, all tied up with string, neatly labelled and sealed with red wax – if I hadn’t known what was inside, I’d almost be loath to open it, but Little Missy had no such reservations!
Once we got beyond the packaging and into the steak itself, I was amazed at the amount of marbeling in the meat. There were threads of fat – luscious, beautiful fat – running through the entire steak. This is meat that just needs a little cooking on a high heat as the fat renders down quickly. Make sure that you a) have it at room temperature before you start cooking it, and b) that you leave it rest somewhere warm for a minimum of five minutes before serving.
New Zealand cookery writer Lois Daish has the best way with steak I’ve ever found. You cook it quickly, use the juices in the pan to make a quick sauce and serve it with Potato Slices Baked in Milk, aka Potato Gratin without the cream. This way you get to appreciate the full glory of the meat and, when you have meat as buttery, spoon-tender and melt-in-the-mouth as this wagyu steak, you want to make sure you get the most from it.
Read more about Pat’s wagyu beef – despite the name, it’s a local meat, a cross between Japanese wagyu and the Irish Angus breeds – in this Irish Times article and take a look at my review of his cookbook here.
Steak for Two with Red Wine Sauce and Potato Slices Baked in Milk
This actually serves two + a Little Missy who, by hook or by crook, will eat as much steak as I do. Although the sauce is so simple, it’s also unbelievably good – more than once I’ve found myself wiping the pan clean with a crust of bread. The potato dish, creamy without any cream, is best made with floury potatoes although I’ve often used whatever is in the kitchen at the time. Extra veg? I would recommend carrots, quartered lengthwise and roasted simply with salt and pepper in the same oven as the potatoes.
Ingredients for Potato Slices Baked in Milk
Floury potatoes – 1kg, well scrubbed
Milk – 500mls
Nutmeg – a scrapeing of freshly grated nutmeg
Bay leaf – 1
Salt – ½ teaspoon
Butter – 25g, cubed
Ingredients for Steak for Two with Red Wine Sauce
Steak – your favourite kind of steak x2 or one good fat piece that will serve two
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
Tomato paste – ½ teaspoon
Red wine – 100mls
Water – 100mls
Cold butter – about 1 teaspoon
Method for Potato Slices Baked in Milk:
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Cut the potatoes – we don’t bother to peel them – into 1cm slices. Put into a saucepan with a heavy base, along with the milk, nutmeg, bay leaf and salt. Bring to the boil then simmer at a low heat for 7-10 minutes until the potato slices are partially cooked. You must keep stirring the pot as this is a mixture that really sticks.
Pour into a shallow baking dish and dot with the butter. Place in the the preheated oven and cook until the potatoes are soft and the whole dish is a light golden colour. Serve with steak.
Method for Steak for Two with Red Wine Sauce:
Take the steak out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature.
Put a heavy frying pan – cast iron is good for this – on a high heat. Rub the steak all over with olive oil and season well. When the pan is very hot, turn the heat down and sear the steak all over. This will only take a few minutes. If you’re not a fan of pink or red steak, put the pan into the hot oven after searing and let it cook as long as you wish (but please don’t waste your money on wagyu steak if you like it well done).
Remove from the pan and allow to rest in a warm place for at least five minutes. Meanwhile, add the tomato paste, red wine and water to the pan juices. Bubble furiously to reduce, whisk in the butter, add any juices from the rested steak and pour over the meat to serve.
Serves 2, very happily.
Thanks to James Whelan’s Butchers for sending me the steak.