On a trip to New York City with my friend, Dorothy, our days were spent being tourists. However, 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. Our mission was to settle a dispute on whether the cut or the method was what created a Delmonico steak.
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, a fabulous intimate setting where we were seated at the bar and introduced to the three bartenders as “Max’s friends”.
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. Through the evening, as we dined on one of the most incredible steaks I had experienced, 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, “You have got to hear this.”
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, everyone concluded 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.
This entrée presents a beautifully prepared 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.
Rather than deep frying onion rings, here the onions are sautéed in rosemary infused olive oil. With a bit of char, they provide a flavorful garnish without the extra steps of battered onion rings.
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!