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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Steak with Herbed Garlic Butter

I've talked here before about eating less meat but of better quality for the sake of our health, the environment, and so on.

When it comes to eating better meat, you can't go past Eye Fillet Beef Steak.

OK, I see you throwing your hands in the air and declaring (with only the mildest hint of indignation) that who, in the current economic climate, can afford fillet steak? It's not 1986 now, after all.
But here's the thing: Communities can.

Fillet steak follows the same rules in a supply/demand/price-point market as any other product, and suppliers know this. On a per kg basis, no, you can't necessarily afford to buy fillet steak in meal-sized portions off the supermarket shelf. We certainly can't.

But any good butcher or wholesaler (like, say Prestons or Moore Wilsons in NZ) will supply fillet steak in whole lengths, and the price per kg is significantly less than you would pay for cut, trimmed, packaged fillets from the coldshelf.

But still, you argue, the price of a whole fillet ranges into the $40-50 mark, and who can justify that sort of a spend on one piece of meat?

Well, consider this: You're not paying a cent for bone, and virtually nothing for fat. Hunt for a lean cut of fillet steak, and your price per kg is practically 1:1, top-notch meat to dollar. No amount of chops, sausages or stewing steak will give you that degree of economic return.

With a full cut, you can also poke and prod to your heart's content, finding the most tender specimen. Yes, a soft, tender hunk of raw meat will cook up more tender than a tough piece. Amazing, eh?

Sorry, did I say something about community? Why yes, I did. It comes back to that matter of outlay. Who has the outlay to buy these large, if delicious, cuts of meat? Restaurants, for one.

Restaurateurs understand the economy of the whole fillet, and it works even better for small groups of people. Let's say, for example, a 2kg fillet, costing $40, is bought by two couples. That's $20 each.

Now, each of those couples have 1kg of fillet steak. A nice decadent size for a fillet steak if 200g, so that's five steaks, each costing $4.00. That's an $8.00 steak meal for two; I challenge you to find 400g of pre-cut steak on the cold-shelf in NZ for less than $10.00.

And of course, you don't have to be decadent. You can cut that steak into six, or eight, or even ten pieces. You may have a smaller piece of steak, but you still have top quality. And for the sake of our bowels, we shouldn't eat more than 100g of red meat a day anyway.

The only catch is that a 200g steak will cook more nicely than a 100g steak, so to get around this, just cut to 200g, cook as a single steak, then slice and share. Perfect.

It does require someone have a freezer, and that you cut and store the steak in individual portions, but that's not a big deal these days. Freezers are our friends.

This is just one way that reaching out to the people around you can improve not only your budget, but the quality of the food you're eating as well.

Give it a go. You'll thank me for it.

Now, what to do with that delicious, top quality steak? I've already written a detailed post on how best to cook pretty much any steak, but here's another lovely option: Herbed Garlic Butter.
Cook your steak as per that post, but you can flag the garlic at the preparation stage. The Herbed Butter will do all the hard work for you. Eye fillet steak will require less tenderising than other cuts as well, but a little bit of a bash never hurt.

Herbed Garlic Butter

100g soft, salted butter
2T fresh thyme leaves
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4T freshly grated parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients in a mortal and pestle, or you can probably use a hand blender.
Scrape the butter onto a dish to pop on the table when the steak is served.
Be sure to fry a few mushrooms and onions around the side of the pan with the steak.
Scoop the butter onto the steak, along with the mushrooms and onions. Serve with oven-baked fries, eggs and a little green salad, just for colour.


Janet said...

Not sure I will try this recipe but this post makes me hungry for fillet steak wrapped in bacon and rosemary bread (like garlic bread but with rosemary herb butter rather than garlic butter.)

Now to find the time to plant the rosemary... (our last rosemary was a small tree in a pot that ran out of nutrients and died when I failed to repot it before the baby was born).

oh and thanks for the meal tips btw - baby is over colic now and evenings much less chaotic but am now in a habit of food I can prepare earlier and leftovers....

Dan said...

Hi Janet - Glad to hear that worked for you.

Our boy had reflux too, so the first year was pretty draining for us. We got those techniques down pretty well to make evening meals easier, and since then the habits have largely stuck.

We still use all our leftovers and have bits and pieces in the freezer for those nights when we're just too tired to start from scratch, but don't want to eat junk.

Good luck with your herb planting - September is the best month for it, apparently ;)

stretch said...

Hmm, I definitely understand your point about paying for smaller quantities of better quality meat, for the sake of our health (and our tastebuds!). But you also mention this is better for the environment. I would dispute that - I would argue that the best thing for the environment, if you are going to eat meat, is to not waste any of the animal.

If everyone took your advice literally, and only bought the good cuts, what happens to the rest of the meat? And more animals would be killed to fulfill the need for ONLY the good cuts.

I am aware that I am taking this post a little literally, and that you have posted some delicious recipes for the cheaper cuts of meat. Just wanted to make a point. Someone once said to me that one of the most disrespectful things you can do to an animal is to kill it for food, then throw half of it in the bin.

Dan said...

Hi Stretch

Yes, that's a totally valid point, and one I agree with whole-heartedly. I think the point I've made in the past is one about eating less meat overall, as opposed to only taking higher quality cuts over the more humble ones.

Intensive farming of any kind has a dramatic impact on the environment, in terms of land clearing, nutrient runoff, animal defecation and methane release etc, so my feelings are that if we were all to eat less meat in general then there would be less impact on the planet overall.

That means not only enjoying the stewing cuts, sausages etc, but also appreciating good quality cuts in smaller doses.

We throw very little away in our house, and we've got very good at only buying enough meat to feed ourselves.

I also very much doubt that there will ever be a time when people in general will be able to afford to only eat the prime cuts; like I said, this is something we could only do by combining resources with friends, and even then it's still a treat.

Most farmers don't let anything go to waste, anyway. I think that pretty much whatever is left when the 'edible' parts have been sold on to retailers is usually sold on as pet food material. So nothing goes to waste, really. Even the cat gets a bit, eventually :)

Thanks very much for the comment!

Giffy said...

Oh, I want steak now please.