Eating Las Vegas

John Curtas is …

How To Cook A Steak: by David Varley

David Varley is the immensely talented Chef de Cuisine at DJT, the amazing new restaurant at the Trump International Hotel (also brand spanking new). Here, without further ado, and with some semi-instructional photos on his theory and practice on how to cook a steak. Hint: it helps to have a $3,200 Cvap steam oven in your kitchen.

Regardless, much of his advice is easily translated to the home, and easily explains why his steak tastes so good at DJT. Here are his verbatim instructions with some helpful snaps of the man in action:

DV: There are so many variables and factors with meat but my formula depends only on a few simple steps and assumptions. Firstly I procure the finest product available, I look for well marbled, properly aged or dry aged in the case of beef.

I remove as much surface fat and connective tissue as possible, ex the chain and silver skin of beef tenderloin. The meat should be tempered, removed from the refrigerator for an hour or so to bring it from 35 deg to about 70 degree. That is actually the first cooking step, cooking is raising the temp and any way is fair game as long as it is gentle. It is much faster to heat a steak from 70 to 135 than from 35 to 135, it also requires less protein damaging energy to do the same job.

I then blot the protein with a towel to remove surface moisture. Surface moisture can be removed on the heat or off the heat. If you put a wet steak in a pan or on the grill it will stream and cause catastrophic protein damage before the water evaporates and the steak sears. Remember that we want to sear as quickly as possible to minimize damage.

The steak is then seasoned aggressively, re blotted to remove water the salt draws out and seared in a hot pan, oven, or grill with a small amount of grapeseed or canola oil to bridge the air gap between the cooking surface and the protein. While it is being seared it is constantly lifted and moved to allow steam to escape and hot oil to accumulate beneath giving it the fastest most even sear possible.

When a golden brown color is achieved we remove the steak to a 135 degree Cvap oven, a low temp combitherm oven or seal in cryovac and sous vide at 133. At this point the meat can stay at 133 for several hours without any disadvantage because the low temp insulates and eliminates the possibility of overcooking and gives one a greater margin of security.

A 15 oz strip steak cooks in 30 minutes at 135 if it has been properly seared and tempered. On the pickup the steak is basted in hot foamy brown butter for a brief period to heat the surface and glaze it with more maillard (this coming from the brown butter solids) Most guests will send back a Perfectly cooked steak that is only 135 degrees on the surface because it seems cold compared to the damaged meat they are used to eating. I combat that with a simple quick baste which also adds a ton of surface flavor multiplying the maillard effect where it matters most and damaging the minimal amount of protein in the process.

This steak does not need to rest, can be sliced and served right out of the pan with no loss of juices or grey margin associated with high temp cookery. This in a nutshell was the formula as taught by Shelton during my years at Ryland, I have made some changes to update it as new pieces of technology have appeared but the premise remains the same. The method can also be reversed, meat cooked to 133 and seared and basted to finish, I am playing with that technique currently in an effort to streamline the method even more. This process can be re created on a grill and the meat basted with a flavored butter which browns as the steak surface temp is raised.

One can roast in a superhot oven for 10 min, lower them temp to 150 for a few hours and then crank it for the last 10 min to achieve the same thing for very large roasts as well. I cooked a 12# ribeye in my cvap in 7 hours at 133 then finished it in a 500 degree oven basting with butter for 5 min to maximize maillard, the result was the meanest naughtiest prime rib I have ever seen with the best flavor and texture possible-David Varley

KLAS TV Channel 8 (CBS) Restaurant of the Week, BISTRO DIVINO

This week’s video review is of Bistro Divino (reviewed on KNPR yesterday). If you think I’m heaping all this love on a modest, Italian place as a way of helping to revive the moribund downtown dining scene, you would be right.

And if you think I’m overcooking my enthusiasm for the neighborhood Italian restaurant scene….Well, you’d be right about that too.

Encore….Revealed!

That’s how my good buddy Lesley Balla Editor of Eaterla.com posts the news of openings and closings and what’s hot and what’s not of restaurants in L.A. that seems to fascinate Los Angelenos more than the food.

Except I ain’t revealing any construction photos or sneak peeks… just facts. Or things that might be facts if they turn out to be true.

Encore, the sister property to the Wynn Hotel and Casino, is going up before our very eyes (right beside the Wynn) and is slated to open at the end of this year.

We have it on good authority (in other words: straight from the rumor mill and mouths of people who know people who like to play Deep Throat to my Bob Woodward, except that we like to meet in well lit restaurants and drink good Burgundies when they’re telling me these things and they’re not old white guys who work for the CIA), that Tableau will be closed to make room for Larry Forgione to open another An American Place tucked into its ritzy corner of the Wynn. FYI: I ate at the original numerous times in the ’80’s and ’90’s, and at the re-born AAP in St. Louis earlier this year, and all meals were fabulous. Forgione (who’s son is Executive Chef at BLT Prime in NYC), is truly one of the godfathers of regional American cooking, so this is great news….but I digress.

Tableau’s chef, the ultra-talented Mark LoRusso (KNPR and KLAS TV’s Chef of the Year for 2007), is getting his own restaurant at Encore (no doubt directly as a result of those ultra-prestigious MAJOR AWARDS being given to him), to be called Botero, after the Columbian sculptor of oversized bronzed booties that have fascinated me fo….now I’m really digressing.

Click here to hear my review of Tableau on News 88.9 FM KNPR-Nevada Public Radio.

Moving along; the ultra high-end joint at Encore is tenatively slated to be called VIP 5 (dumb name that…we’re guessing it’s a working title), and will be Italian and small-sorta like Del Posto without the size and the tackiness(!), and blessedly, without Batali. Chef to be named later.

Finally, Encore looks to mark the return of Sam DeMarco! Those who remember the Bellagio opening of Oct. 1998, may recall Sam’s American Grill-a cool and casual spot that featured his avant-garde take on classic American grub, served in what looked like a Flinstone’s cave.

For some reason known then only to the odious folks running the Bellagio F&B (Food and Beverage-all are gone now), DeMarco’s way-cool food was sent packing after only a year or so. FIX now occupies the space. His main man at Encore will be Billy DeMarco (no relation, no kidding). I have it on good authority (the same ones who told me Big Brown didn’t have what it takes in the Derby), that this joint will be called The Garden Cafe(!?)-is that the lamest name in the history of restaurants or what? Again, we’re guessing/hoping it’s a working title.

Let’s also hope someone wakes up and smells the arabica before the signs are hung on these places….’cuz the kitchen talent deserves better.

Now if anyone doubts the veracity of any or all of this report, I hereby give my special Easterbrook Guarantee*- all predictions true or your money back!

*invented by the tastefully named Gregg Easterbrook-a Brookings Institution Fellow and part-time NFL columnist for ESPN.com

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