Working as a sommelier for seven years, at a Michelin star steakhouse, unavoidably spoiled my taste buds and raised the bar for the perfect steak. Combine that with tasting hundreds of wines per week and I developed an even tougher requirement for the wine pairing. Today I shall share my perfect steak and wine pairing fit for a Queen (King).
First, let’s talk about the meat. Ribeye is undeniably the winner. This is the perfect cut for people who love flavor and juiciness! Don’t be scared of a little fat on your meat. As a chef from the steakhouse used to say, “Fat is flavor!” I should point out, not all ribeye steaks are created equal. To find a worthy piece, I first look for one with lots of even, yet fine marbling throughout (Figure 1). During cooking most of this marbled fat will render, leaving the steak tender and flavorful.
Figure 1: A regular ribeye steak (left) vs. a marbled ribeye steak (right)
You should always try to find the highest quality piece of meat, but before dropping $$$ on prime, here is a quick note on USDA grading. USDA Prime doesn’t always mean it will be better than the Choice. Why do you ask? The USDA grading system takes a very small sample piece from the cattle and uses this to grade the whole cow. The animal is simply too large for a general grade! The variation between each cut on any given cattle can be surprising, so I recommend trusting your eye. Trust your senses, look for the marbling instead of blindly following the label. I can’t tell you how many times I enjoyed a piece of Choice Steak that looks and eats just as well as any Prime Steak!
Second, look for a large cap on your ribeye. The ribeye cut consists of two separate muscle; the eye is the round piece in the center and the cap is the thin layer surrounding the center separated by a fat pocket (Figure 2). The cap is always much more tender, fatty and flavorful!
Also, keep in mind the thickness of the steak. To achieve a proper medium rare, you need the steak to be at least 1 inch thick, so you can have a nice sear on the outside while maintaining consistent temperature and texture in the center.
Figure 2: Look for a steak with a big cap section as pictured above.
After the steak has been selected, I hand the grilling duty over to my husband. He has the cooking technique down to a science on our gas webber. First take the meat out of the refrigerator about 30 - 60 min before you plan to grill it. Brush both side of the meat with some olive oil. This prevents the meat from sticking to the grill and more importantly helps release all of the oil soluble flavors from the rub into the meat. Generously season both sides of the steak. If you are a purist, simply go with coarse sea salt and ground black pepper, but my personal favorite is Dizzy Pig’s “Raising the Steak”
Finally, it’s time to move on to the grill, here is the fail-safe routine we follow religiously after many trials:
- Turn the grill on high with lid closed until the temperature gets as high as possible (550F - 600F)
- Quickly oil the grate of the grill to prevent sticking.
- Place the ribeye on the grill 60 - 90 seconds each side to sear and create those dark desired grill marks (Note: Watch out for flare-ups!).
- Remove the meat from the grill and wrap it inside a couple sheets of tin foil to let it rest while bringing the grill temperature down.
- Turn the grill down until the temperature drops to ~375F.
- Place the ribeye back on the grill for approx 3 - 3.5 min on each side.
- If you have an instant-read thermometer, now is the perfect time to use it. Wait until the internal temperature of the steak reaches ~120F.
- Remove the steak from the grill and wrap it in foil once again to let it rest for approx 10 min (This resting period is very important for the meat to reabsorb its juices and allow the internal temperature to raise to its proper medium-rare temperature.)
This method is simple, straightforward, and results in the perfect steak each time. Now, to find a bottle of wine to wash it down.
What is the perfect wine for this juicy, fatty, flavorful steak you ask? Well, when the king of all steaks is on the plate, the only wine to match it is the king of all wines. A wine full of high tone dried cherry, bright cranberry and wild strawberry fruits with touch of dusty mushroom, earthy leather and a hint of white truffles. Structured with high tannin and high acidity that can last decades from the best vintages. Yup, you might of guessed it... it’s none other than the one and only --- Barolo from Piedmonte!
1982 Pio Cesare Barolo Riserva is my perfect pairing for a well marble ribeye steak, the elevated acid and tannin balance out the fatty marbling mouthfeel. It almost works as a mini intermezzo in between every bite. The characteristics of the fruit is elegant and not over the top which complements, not competes, with the pure beefy flavor of this juicy ribeye. Simply a match made in heaven! Pio Cesare was established since 1881 and owns 50 hectares of vineyards in Piemonte planted with Nebbiolo, Barbera and other traditional Piemontese grapes. The Barolo is made with 100% Nebbiolo from the best vineyards, fermentation happens in stainless steel tanks then aged in oak for 3 years, 70% in 20 to 50 hectoliters giant casks; 30% in barriques for a good balanced structured and flavor!
With that said, it’s time to get back to the meal. Between myself, a hungry husband and two very drooly puppies sitting by the table, I better get to it quick before it disappears!