12 May 2014

Dining at Delmonico’s

What do Lobster a la Newburg, Eggs Benedict, Manhattan Clam Chowder, and Baked Alaska have in common?  Along with the Delmonico Steak they were created at Delmonico's restaurant.  Charles Ranhofer, who many credit as being New York’s first star chef, created many of these dishes.  They remain on the menu, and menus around the country to this very day. 

The Del Monico brothers were the American success story.  They started in the food industry by importing barrels of wine and rebottling it and selling it at a large profit.  They moved on to a bakery, then a café in 1830.  While today’s chefs are busy patting themselves on the back for buying local, sustainable food and knowing their farmers, or farming themselves, Delmonico had its own farm in the 1830’s when it bought a 220- acre farm in Williamsburg.  So not only was it farm-to-table but it was also in Brooklyn! 

After a few years, a fire devastated the financial district, but Delmonico’s café survived. The brothers decided to establish a larger restaurant to fulfill their dining ambitions. In 1837, the modern Delmonico’s restaurant opened and history followed. 

Delmonico’s was the first dining establishment in America to be called by its French name, restaurant.  It was the first restaurant:

to offer a separate wine list

to have printed menus

to have tablecloths

where guests sat at their own table

that allowed women to congregate as a group

to have a female cashier

to accommodate a ball outside a private residence

Needless to say, the tradition of exquisite food served in a luxurious setting continues to flourish today. Dining at Delmonico’s is part history, part cookbook.  Prolific food writer, Judith Choate and chef James Canora offers up many old and new recipes. The book is filled with archival information and stunning photographs of the food by photographer Steve Pool. 

Delmonico Steak

This is, to us at Delmonico’s, the one and only Delmonico Steak. We use a boneless, 20-ounce, prime rib eye steak that has been aged for at least six weeks. Extremely tender yet unbelievably flavorful, this steak is cut from the center of the rib section. To finish it, we top the sizzling steak with a bit of what we call “Meat Butter,” a herbaceous compound butter mix that is easy to make and simple to keep on hand. Because fires vary in degree of heat, it is difficult to estimate the length of time it will take a steak to cook. Since restaurant stoves are so much hotter than those in most homes, we have given instructions for grilling on a gas grill heated to medium-hot. At home you can grill a steak on the stovetop using a heavy-duty grill pan. It makes a mess of the stovetop because the grease splatters, but it cooks a pretty good steak.  An instant read thermometer is used to tell doneness.   Rare steak will have an internal temperature of 120° to 125°F (48° to 52°C); medium-rare to medium should read 130° to 150°F (54° to 65°C). This should take somewhere near 20 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the meat and the precise heat. Above 150°F (65°C), a steak is considered well-done, which is not a desirable temperature for a really good steak. A steak should sit for 5 minutes or so before cutting, so remember that the meat will continue to rise a little in temperature as it rests.
Six 20-ounce prime rib-eye steaks, at room temperature
Sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Meat Butter

Clean, oil, and reheat the grill.

Wipe excess moisture from the exterior of the steaks with a paper towel. Season the one side with salt and pepper.

Place the steaks on the hot grill, seasoned side down. Grill for 3 minutes. Season the top side and, using tongs, turn the steaks and grill for 3 minutes to just sear the exterior.

Remove the steaks from the grill and, using a pastry brush, lightly coat both sides of each steak with olive oil.

Return the steaks to the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until the exterior is nicely charred and the interior has reached the desired degree of doneness on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove the steaks from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes before serving with a generous pat of Meat Butter.

Meat Butter

3 fresh bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Combine the bay leaves, thyme, and salt in a spice grinder and process until powdery.

Place the butter in a mixing bowl. Add the powdered mixture and, using a hand­held electric mixer, blend well.

Scrape the butter mixture onto the center of a sheet of plastic film. Pull the film up and over the soft butter and, using your hands, form the butter into a roll about 1 1/4 inches in diameter. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 week or wrap in freezer wrap, label, date, and freeze for up to 3 months.

When ready to serve, unwrap the flavored butter and, using a sharp knife, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices, allowing one slice per steak.

Classic recipes and a slice of New York history make Dining at Delmonico’s a real joy.

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