Dorothy's Delmonico Steak with Charred Onions
Life with a friend like Dorothy can only be described as unexpected. Ever open to any adventure I could possibly conjure up, she provided the wind to the sails of my exploits. You know the type of friend. You blurt out “You know what I think we should do?” and before you are finished, the response is “When? Now? Let’s go!” with no questions asked.
We told our families the trip was to allow me to introduce Dorothy to all of the wonders of New York City. In reality, it was to settle the one and only dispute that had ever stood between us. Was Delmonico’s steak all about a cut of beef or was Delmonico’s steak about a preparation method? Dorothy believed it was the cut. I believed it was the method.
We had done our research and, unfortunately, rather than settle the disagreement, it simply added fuel to the fire. We decided the only way to bring a conclusion to the discussion was to go to the source, literally. I suggested, “We need to go to” and Dorothy chimed in “Delmonico’s. How soon do you think we can do this?” and a month later off to New York City and Delmonico’s we flew.
As planned, our days were filled exploring Greenwich Village in search of evidence from Bob Dylan’s time there, carriage rides through Central Park, climbing the Statue of Liberty and looking through the visors atop the Empire State Building.
As fate would have it, our evenings, thanks to a hotel bartender named Max, were filled with dining at some of the most iconic New York City establishments. 21 Club, Sarti’s, The Oak Room, and Keen’s Steakhouse created a wonderful dining adventure. As for Delmonico’s, that gem was saved for our final night.
Now you need to understand an important element to our culinary adventure. If a bartender is providing entry into a dining establishment with no open reservations, chances are the entry is through another bartender. We determined it is actually quite a closed club. Personally, I think they have bartender bars somewhere in New York City simply to allow them to tell all their stories.
Upon providing our names to the Maître D’ at Delmonico’s, he greeted us with an “Ah” and proceeded to lead us through the main dining room with its high gilded ceiling, enormous over-sized oil paintings and period chandeliers. I would like to say we did not gawk but, well, we simply did. It was fabulous. Our final stop, the main bar, was a warm, intimate setting where we were seated at the bar and introduced to the three bartenders as “Max’s friends”. I told you it was a club.
The next hour was spent being regaled with Delmonico stories. Tales of famous people, a few questionable guest pairings and serving incidents flew fast and furious as we leisurely dined our way through appetizers.
The discussion of the Delmonico’s steak began in earnest when we placed our order for our dinner. We asked our waiter the important question, “Cut or method?” He proceeded to go into an in-depth explanation as to the history of the steak and came to the conclusion it was the aged Prime rib steak. Dorothy smiled.
Since this did not provide the answer I wanted, I stopped another waiter to ask the same question, “Cut or method?” After another extremely long historical review, his response narrowed to the method of cooking a Delmonico steak. I smiled.
When our steaks arrived, the discussion initially waned. It was without a doubt the most incredible steak we had experienced. Thick, juicy and cooked to perfection, our attention was diverted for a few moments and then increased in intensity again. How was it possible to achieve such tenderness inside with this beautifully crisp outside? What herbs were providing such an amazing flavor as the butter melted atop?
We were no closer to our answer. Throughout the evening it seemed every bartender and waiter became engaged in our dispute. There were even a few diners who participated in this lively discussion. Opinions were plentiful and really creative at times such as the one who offered that there was a secret herd of cattle somewhere which provided the beef.
It was growing late, Delmonico’s was nearing closing time and it appeared we were no closer to settling our dispute. Dorothy excused herself for what I believed was a trip to the Ladies room. When she did not return within a few minutes, I began to wonder if she took a wrong turn at some point. She was directionally challenged. When she did not return in 15 minutes, wait staff began a search.
Why I should have been surprised by what happened next escapes me. Dorothy suddenly reappeared. At her side was a chef coated gentleman. In typical fashion, Dorothy had worked her way to the kitchen door where she accosted one of the chefs. It was almost closing time after all. Smiling broadly, Dorothy said, “We have the answer from the expert.”
With bartenders, wait staff and diners around us; he began to relate the story behind the Delmonico steak. It did not begin as a particular cut of steak. In the beginning, it was simply whatever aged steak the butcher provided to the restaurant on any given day. Whatever the steak, the method was always the same: a simple sprinkle of salt and pepper, cooked over an open flame grill, brushed with butter, returned to the grill for a good char and then topped with a slice of herbed butter. I sat rather smugly when he concluded.
That was until he continued with the current Delmonico steak story. He told how now, while they used the exact same cooking method, the Delmonico steak found on the menu was an aged Prime rib eye steak served with a topping of thinly sliced crispy onion rings. Dorothy smiled. It was a specific cut.
In the end, Dorothy and I had both been correct: and thus, the only dispute that ever stood between us was brought to resolution. Our mission was complete.
As we departed Delmonico’s and collapsed in the back seat of our cab, Dorothy turned to me and said, “Always ask the source for what you want right up front. The worst they can do is say no and you never know what the best will be.”
I have followed her bit of wisdom to this day. It has served me well.
In creating the Delmonico Steak experience, rather than capture the dishes of a steak house, it brings in some of the fabulous dishes experienced in all of the iconic restaurants experienced by Dorothy and I on our New York City adventure.
The appetizers give a nod to Sardi’s and Tavern on the Green. Broadway Caviar on Wine Shortbread provides the perfect balance of the saltiness of caviar with the wine sweetened shortbread. Foie Gras in the Park counters with the deep, rustic flavors of pumpernickel bread and seared foie gras then softened by a spiced chunky peach sauce.
The entrée presents a beautifully prepared Dorothy’s Delmonico Steak with Charred Onions. The key is to begin with an aged Prime rib-eye cut. A brushing of clarified butter ensures the sealing of juices inside and provides that delightful outside crispness. Finishing with a final flavor tier of herbed butter provides an aroma and taste your guests will not soon forget.
Side dishes are reminiscent of those served at Lupa and Keen’s Steakhouse. The Steakhouse Creamed Spinach is reminiscent of the side dish served at Keen’s. Here, though, the addition of herbs and a quick few minutes under the broiler provide an updated twist. The West Village Black Truffle Risotto is a perfect side to a hearty steak. With black truffle oil as the foundation and shaved black truffles as a final flavor tier, it provides a woodsy, cheesy side.
Only a Baked Alaska is a worthy finish to this steak dinner. Opening Night Tuxedo Baked Alaska layers dark chocolate sponge cake, dark chocolate ganache and vanilla bean ice cream within a toasted meringue shell. Rich and delicious, it is best served with a aromatic cup of java.
I am drawn to songs that create a visual story in my mind; songs with the ability to transport me to a moment in time. Suddenly, I am there reliving conversations, emotions, events and people. I relish these songs. I will play them again and again allowing the memories to wash over me and join long lost friends. Such a song became the basis for this Experience a few weeks ago when listening to Tom Russell’s song Van Ronk. I was immediately walking the streets of Greenwich Village with Dorothy.
If you follow the musical family tree of Van Ronk, you discover how Bob Dylan’s work was influenced by the year he spent sleeping on Van Ronk’s Greenwich Village apartment couch while creating with other notables such as Joni Mitchell and Phil Ochs. All of who influenced the Rolling Stones, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Strummer and Tom Waits. Who in turn influenced the likes of Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters and John Mellencamp. And it all began with the Pope of Greenwich Village.
Indulge me with the final song in this set. For me, Johnny Cash’s rendition of Kris Kristofferman’s Sunday Morning Coming Down represents the greatest visual song ever produced. Close your eyes, sit back and see what becomes visible in your mind’s eye as you listen.
Four 12 ounce aged Prime rib-eye steaks
4 T unsalted butter, softened, divided
¼ t rosemary, dried, crushed
pinch sage, dried, crushed
¼ t parsley, dried, crushed
1 c thinly sliced onion
1 T rosemary infused extra virgin olive oil
1 t kosher salt
½ t black pepper, finely ground
3 T clarified butter (ghee)
Cover steaks loosely with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Pat steaks dry with paper towels.
In a small bowl, mix together 3 tablespoon butter, rosemary, sage, and parsley. Set aside.
Place 1 tablespoon butter, rosemary olive oil and sliced onions in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Sauté until deep brown, stirring continuously, about 5-6 minutes.
Remove onions to a paper towel to drain. Set aside.
Pre-heat broiler to Hi. Place steaks on broiler pan. Evenly divide salt and pepper between the steaks.
(If using a grill, heat to high heat.)
Place steaks under broiler for 3 minutes (medium rare) or 4 minutes (medium). Turn steaks. Cook an additional 3 minutes (medium rare) or 4 minutes (medium).
Brush steaks on both sides with unclassified butter (ghee).
Return to boiler. Cook 1 minute. Turn and cook 1 additional minute.
(Same timing applies to grill cooking)
Place the steaks on four serving plates. Top each with 1 teaspoon herb butter. (There will be extra.) Evenly distribute the grilled onions between the steaks.
Let rest 5 minutes to seal juices. Enjoy!
I selected wine from two of my favorite wineries, Jonata and The Hilt, for this experience. It so happens they share the same winemaker, Matt Dees.
If there is ever a time when it is essential to find the perfect red wine to pair with dinner, it is when serving steak. From the Jonata winery, serve a La Sangre de Jonata 2014 “The Blood” Syrah. It has the full-bodied richness to withstand the boldness of the steak but the dark fruit and polished tannins provide a deeply smooth finish.
For your guests who prefer a white wine, head to The Hilt winery and serve The Hilt Chardonnay 2015. A medium-bodied wine, it is clean and crisp with outstanding notes of spiced apples, citrus blossom and brioche. For white wine lovers, it is bold enough to pair with the entire meal.
A hearty steak dinner requires a beer with enough strength to enhance rather than compete with the flavors. A good red ale works here such as North Coast Red Seal Ale. The malt and hops are well balanced to provide a long, spicy finish.
With the appetizers, it is best to serve a German style lager to complement rather than overwhelm the flavors of the caviar and Foie Gras. Try Pauline Original Munich Lager. It carries a subtle yet spicy flavor with an appreciated crispness.
This is a bold dinner from the appetizers to the dessert. Serve an equally bold spirit, rye whiskey. For guests who are acquainted with whiskey, serve Michter’s Straight Rye on the rocks. Angel’s Envy Rye’s sweeter finish is a perfect selection for guests just beginning the whiskey journey; on the rocks, of course.
End the evening with Joe’s Bourbon Java . A fresh cup of coffee, laced with cream and caramel, and finished with bourbon provides the perfect ending to a perfect meal. Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon provides the proof to withstand the strength of the coffee.
Simple caviar becomes complex when served atop wine shortbread. Broadway Caviar on Wine Shortbread offers the perfect balance of sweet to salty to fresh as a beginning to the evening.
Delightfully rich, Foie Gras in the Park provides an excellent first course companion to the caviar. Simple seared Foie Gras is presented atop toasted pumpernickel bread then finished with a spicy peach sauce.
End the evening with an elegantly presented Opening Night Tuxedo Baked Alaska. Dark chocolate sponge cake, dark chocolate ganache, vanilla bean ice cream and a toasted mound of meringue come together for an incredible finale.
Rustic, creamy and cheesy, West Village Black Truffle Risotto is the perfect complement to a grilled steak. Beginning with a slight sauté on the rice in black truffle oil provides a woodsy flavor tier. Topping with shaved black truffles provides a beautiful presentation and well as fabulous final flavor tier.
Creamy and cheesy, Steakhouse Creamed Spinach is worthy of being served with a bold steak. Parmigiano-Reggiano provides the cheesy flavor tier and heavy cream provides the creaminess. With thyme included to provide a hint of a woodsy flavor.