By Sol Vanzi
As active members of the tightly knit Manila-based foreign press community, my husband and I entertained at home a lot in the politically turbulent 1970s-1980s. We gathered fellow journalists, government contacts, analysts, and opposition leaders for casual evenings of good food, fine wine, and enlightening conversations. No TV cameras, no tape recorders.
The menu always included homemade whole smoked ham, beef brisket pot roast, and on special days, we had thick slabs of imported steak. In those days, almost everything on the party table had to be flown in, or bought in the black market from middlemen with contacts inside the US bases (Clark, Subic, John Hay, and Sangley Point).
Season before cooking
Like many expats of the era, we “commuted” regularly to Hong Kong for supplies, returning to the Manila International Airport with insulated bags and boxes of steak, cheeses, Italian sausages, and cured meats. We maxed our limits on wines and alcohol at the Duty Free Shop.
Because good aged beef was difficult to come by, I persevered to learn how to prepare steak properly, and shared techniques I learned with friends. These days, with trade liberalization allowing entry of what used to be rare consumables, I get more and more email and phone requests for guidance on how to properly cook steaks.
We therefore welcomed a thorough refresher course recently when Alternatives Food Corporation, importer and local distributor of American Wagyu steaks from Snake River Farms, hosted an event that taught the simple steps to preparing and cooking steak in partnership with chef Carlo Miguel (executive corporate chef, Foodee Group Concepts).
He used premium steak cuts from Snake River Farms, cattle breeders of American Wagyu heralded be one of the best success stories of cross-breeding the famous Wagyu breed outside of Japan.
Cook steak in a well-ventilated kitchen to avoid setting off smoke alarms and sprinklers. This happened to me in an Oakwood apartment in Washington D.C., and I had to apologize to the firemen who responded to the Oakwood residents who rushed out of their rooms.
Use a thick heavy pan, preferably cast iron. The pan has to hold heat well and stand up to the high temperature needed to sear the meat properly.
Never use forks to turn steaks or test for doneness—invest in long-handled tongs instead. A pierced steak bleeds, losing all its succulence.
Season the steak on both sides no longer than five to seven minutes before frying. Use a dry rub or just salt and pepper.
Instead of two thin steaks, cook one thick steak and slice to share.
Cooking the steak
Heat the pan until almost red-hot, then carefully put in the seasoned steak that’s been brushed with oil on both sides. Do not crowd the pan or it will get cold and the steaks will end up gray instead of beautifully crusted.
Turn over after a minute to sear the other side. Chef Carlo recommends flipping every 10 seconds to regulate internal temperature until desired doneness is reached.
He advises adding butter to the pan and spooning melted butter over the steak for flavor. After transferring the cooked steak to a plate, he also positions a spoonful of herb butter to melt slowly atop the meat and waits seven to 10 minutes before slicing. This, he says, is to allow the muscles to relax and the juices to settle.
For tenderloin steak, he recommends only rare. Sirloin, striploin, and other cuts could be prepared medium
rare to medium.
We all were served slices of various cuts, to compare and better appreciate the taste, texture, marbling, and other qualities of the Snake River Farms American Wagyu, which is served in a dozen five-star hotels and at least 50 top steak restaurants in the metropolis.
Good news: Snake River Farms steaks are now available at South Su- permarket and SNR. For orders and inquiries, please check out their social media sites and website: Instagram: @afcphils, Facebook: Alternatives Food Corp, and www.al- www.al- www.al- ternatives.ph.