Friday, May 17, 2013

Dry Aged Steaks

I was reading about dry aged beef the other day and determined that I'd probably never had a dry aged steak before. To dry age beef, the meat is placed in a refrigerator unit and stored for a number of weeks at near freezing temperatures. This process is supposed to change the beef in a number of ways. First, moisture evaporates and concentrates the taste in the meat. Second, The natural enzymes in the meat break down the connective tissue in the muscle and makes the meat more tender. Third, mold grows on the surface of the meat and forms an external crust (similar to what mold does to cheese). The mold is trimmed off the meat before it is sold, but it tenderizes and increases the flavor of the meat. 

The Food Lab's Complete Guide to Dry-Aging Beef at Home  has some very informative conclusions about dry aged beef as a result of experiments they've run. First, they found that meat aged 14 days or less had no change in taste and no change in tenderness. Second, meat aged 14 to 28 days had no major change in flavor but did get more tender, particularly as it  got out toward the longer end of the time frame. This showed that moisture lost during the aging process does not change the flavor of the meat because most of the weight loss occurs during the first 21 days. Third, meat aged from 28 to 45 days starts to have significant flavor change. "Some real funkiness starts to manifest itself. At 45 days there are distinct notes of blue or cheddar cheese and the meat is considerably moister and juicier. Most tasters preferred 45 day-aged steaks to all others." Fourth, meat aged 45 to 60 days has "extremely intense flavors emerge." Some taste testers really liked the flavor, but for most, more than a bite or two was too much.  It appears that the flavor change is a result of the enzymes breaking down the muscle and the bacteria acting on the surface of the meat. Because most of the outer portions of the meat are trimmed away, the most change occurs in meat with the bone still attached where the oxidized fat and affected meat are still retained to some degree. 

I decided I wanted to try some dry aged beef, but it is hard to find. A butcher at Gerrard's Market in Redlands, the high-end super market, told me that they do not carry dry aged beef. They used to, but the beef cost three times as much as the same cut of non-aged beef and much of it went to waste as they could not sell it. He named an Orange County store that probably sells it (and I do not recall the name).  Otherwise, you can usually only find it in high-end steak houses. 

I ordered two one pound dry aged ribeyes for Mother's Day from Exotic Meat Market (the place where I get much of my wild game). Anshu Pathak, the proprietor did not have any ribeyes in stock, so he sent me two one pound 30 day dry aged New York steaks (which I tend not to like as well as I like the marbling in the ribeye). 
Dry Aged New York Steaks
Then I found a couple of beautiful one pound ribeyes at Trader Joe's and decided to buy and cook them as a comparison. 
Trader Joe's Ribeyes
The ribeyes were really beautiful and much more than I would normally pay for ribeyes. However, the dry aged New York steaks were still three times as much as the ribeyes. The New York steaks had much less marbling and were much thicker. 
Side-by-side comparison
I rubbed olive oil on each of the steaks and sprinkled on a generous helping of Himalayan pink salt. I over-cooked the New York steaks a bit, as I was running back and forth between the table and the grill. 
Cooked Dry Aged New York Steaks
I would have liked them a little more rare. 
The dry aged New York steaks were tender and they had a nice flavor. But I still liked the ribeyes better. The ribeyes were more moist and had more flavor. 
Cooked Ribeyes
Comparing a ribeye to a New York steak is a little like comparing an apple to an orange, but if I can get a ribeye I like better for a third of the price, why get the aged New York? I would still like to try a dry aged ribeye and see if I can tell a difference. But I would particularly like to get one aged about 45  days.

Updated: March 2014

I finally got an opportunity to try a dry aged ribeye, from the same source.
Dry aged ribeye
Has pretty good marbling.
I prepared it the same and cooked it the same way. It cooked very unevenly. When I cut off the first few pieces of meat I thought I'd way overcooked it. 
Dry aged ribeye after grilling.
The first few pieces were so well cooked I thought I'd ruined it.
Then I started to get pink meat and by the end wondered if I'd under cooked it. 
Just a little further in it was very pink.
Toward the bone it was almost raw.
Despite the look of the marbling, the dry aged ribeye is not as fatty as the normal ribeye, but fattier than the dry aged New York. I was not a fan of the flavor. There was nothing about the taste that drew me to it. In fact, I didn't finish it all. Why spend so much on a steak that you don't like. I'm sure if I ate it more I could get acculturated to the taste - but why for something so expensive? I would still like to try a dry aged steak that was aged 45 days or so - I believe these steaks were dry aged for 3 to 4 weeks. I would also like to try them sous vide to avoid the uneven cooking I experienced. In the interim, we tasted both a dry aged New York and a dry aged ribeye at Flemings around Christmas time. They were very expensive steaks, over $50.00 each, but I had a relative that worked there and got a discount. They were okay, I liked them better than the ones I cooked at home. But why? My home-grilled ribeyes above were better than any of them and they were substantially cheaper. 

Hickory Smoked Suckling Wild Boar

For Mother's Day I ordered a 12 pound hickory smoked suckling wild boar that came from the hill country outside of San Antonio, Texas (ordered through It arrived on a Tuesday and was too big to fit into our freezer or refrigerator, so I kept it in its shipping container covered with bags of ice until Sunday. Aside from keeping it cold until I needed it, it was very easy to deal with. 
12 pound wild boar
I fired up the outside gas grill on a setting between medium and warm and put the pig on it for about 30 minutes, until it was nice and hot and the juices were running. 

Judy found a large platter that was big enough to hold it. Then it was a matter of slicing off the meat. It was extremely lean. The ribs virtually had no meat, other than a thin film I was able to scrape off on the outside. The most meat was on the rear flank and legs and front legs. 
Nate carves up the wild boar
There was nothing gamy or off tasting about it. It tasted very much like smoked ham and reminded me of the hickory smoked goose we had for Thanksgiving several years ago. We had Rachael and Nate, the girls, and my friend, Jerry, who has shared with us wild boar meat from pigs he has shot the last couple of years (sausage, loin, and ribs - which came from a 200+ pound boar). I am not a major fan of hickory smoked meat, I like a little bit of it, but a little goes a long way for me. However, everyone really enjoyed it and took home leftovers. It reminded me a bit of the barbecued whole pig we did for the Father's and Son's Outing a number of years ago, but without all of the work. For a small family gathering, it was ideal. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Grilled Camel Filet Mignon

Australia has about one million feral camels roaming the continent. They are mostly dromedary camels (one hump) imported from India between 1860 and 1907 for transport and work in the arid central and western parts of the continent. 
Feral Australian Dromedary Camels
Feral Australian Dromedary Camels
There are also some bactrian camels (two humps) imported from China and Mongolia.  They are the only truly wild dromedary camels in the world and the only other truly wild bactrian camels in the world are in the Gobi Desert. Because of their impact on the Australian ecosystem and their rapidly growing populations, the camels are being harvested and sold for meat. Most of it finds its way to Saudi Arabia, but some does find its way to the United States. 

I was able to get a couple of 8 ounce camel filet mignons from one of the harvested Australian camels (through

and I have been looking forward to comparing it to the camel ribeye steak I tried previously, which was excellent, and to the ground camel I tried previously, which was good, but nothing to get too excited about. Per normal, when I'm trying good quality wild game meat, I focus on getting the natural flavor and all I do to prepare the meat is rub some olive oil on the outside and sprinkle on some Himalayan sea salt and some ground pepper. 
Then I grilled it on our outdoor gas grill over indirect heat where the two outside burners were on high and the two inside burners were turned off. 
The camel was fantastic. It had a distinctive, but not too gamy taste, and cut like butter. I cooked it medium rare. It was juicy and flavorful and I savored each bite. 
I generally prefer ribeye steaks to filet mignon, but I truly liked this filet. Where the ribeye had some gristle, the filet mignon had none. If pressed, I would have a hard time picking one over the other.  I have to rate camel as one of my favorite wild meats. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Noah's Ark at the Skirball - Second Chances

The Skirball Cultural Center, devoted to sustaining Jewish heritage, off the I-405 in Los Angeles, just north of the Getty Museum,  has an interactive Noah's Ark exhibit with the theme of second chances. We visited this past Saturday with three generations of extended family and had a wonderful time. The story of Noah and his ark conveys the message that even God sometimes needs a do-over, in this case, a second chance to make a better world. Most of the exhibit animals are made of discarded and reshaped second-hand materials. The message to us is that even when we screw up, we should not be discarded, but should be given and take advantages of opportunities to reinvent ourselves, to become something new, something useful. 

We started off, as a group, with a college-aged person introducing the Noah story and the theme of second chances. Wonderful vultures and flamingos flew overhead and a couple of  snipeish-type birds (made out of boxing gloves, paint brushes and oil lubricators) stared at us from the side. 

Vulture with a shoe body
Flamingo with a purse body
Snipes of boxing gloves, paint brushes and oil lubricators
We then moved into another room with a zebra with a key board mane, an elephant with a trunk of tambourine-like wood rounds and a deer with pitch fork antlers and a rear-end made of an old tractor seat. 

Down some stairs we found the ark with all sorts of creatures bursting from its frame, a giraffe, aardvarks, snakes, etc. 

Kangaroo with make-shift pouch

Entering into the ark through a doorway guarded by camels we found a room full of wonderful animal puppets (two of each): moose, turtles, rhinos, hippos, parrots, armadillos, and many more, with owls and other animals overhead. And as we were informed at the beginning, everything could be touched, played with and handled. 

Another passageway took us past many different examples of Noah's Ark in art into my favorite room with passage-ways up into the ceiling, including rigging similar to an actual ship, where the children, including big children, could crawl through mesh protected tunnels and pull a cord that caused the elephant to trumpet and stare down at the big people below. 
Walrus bench
Sloth hanging from a beam
Even bats made it on board
I'm not sure I would have included these on the boat if I was Noah.

Sitting on a Komodo dragon

Ella climbs the rigging into the rafters.
Savannah causes the elephant to trumpet.
Madison gathers courage to approach the elephant. 

Staring through the net at the big people below. 
Ella comes down a different way.
The last room was the outside of the ark on the other side, where the children were given an opportunity to make an artwork of their own out of discarded magazine pages, cardboard, crayons and glue. We were read a story about a clumsy giraffe that learned to dance and became the best dancer of all the animals, complete with accompaniment by drums. Then we had an opportunity to dance ourselves.
A zebra wants off. 

The dove has found leaves - it must be dry land!
It was a wonderful way to spend a few hours with family on a Saturday afternoon and connect in a different way.