February Kitchen Play Part 2: Rib Eye Steak with Apple Slaw and Spicy Honey Balsamic Drizzle

The second appetizer in our trio for Kitchen Play‘s February Progressive Dinner Party is a juicy pink rib eye served with a bright, herbed apple slaw and spicy honeyed balsamic drizzle.  This is a crowd-pleaser for sure, with the rich buttery meat offset by the freshness and tang of it’s counterparts.  Also, at cooked between to just over medium rare, the rare eaters will are still comfortable with the pink, while the more well-done chompers won’t be horrified by any red.  Some people might say that cooking beef to 135ºF is mediocrity and appealing to the mass market, but I say that it’s perfection…and that’s from someone in the rare camp!

When it comes to selecting a great steak, there can be a lot of confusion.  After all, what constitutes “the best” steak for you might not be the same for your neighbors or that little old lady down the road who secretly chews on prime rib bones when her floral curtains are closed.  That said, there are a few key things to bear in mind when selecting the best steak for you.

1.  MARBLING, which refers to the thin white veins of fat that run through the meat.  Fat means both flavor and texture, and a well marbled steak will be juicier and more toothsome than a leaner cut, or even a cut which is less marbled but has a thick fat cap.  Marbling doesn’t mean tender, however, and a more marbled steak will be less tender than a lean, mean tenderloin, but what’s lost in texture is made up for in flavor.

2. SIZE MATTERS, because a thinner cut needs a lot of care and attention to avoid over or under cooking, and a cut which is too thick (more than 2 inches) is difficult to cook beyond medium rare without charring the outside.

3. AGE COUNTS, and although most Canadian beef has been aged for somewhere between 3 days to 3 weeks, you’ll really notice a difference.  Aging the meats encourages activity of bacteria which will break down tough connective tissue and result in a more tender, flavorful cut.

For more information on how to select a great cut of beef, I encourage you to visit this contest’s sponsors, Canadian Beef, who have a world of information on their site.

Personally, my favorite steak is the rib eye, which is cut of beef from the rib section.  If you think about location in the animal, a rib steak cut from the same general area as a rib roast or back ribs.  Compared to the short loin (T-bone, Tenderloin and Porterhouse) or the sirloin (Sirloin steak, NY Striploin frequently), this is the least tender out of the three.  However, it is also exceptionally well marbled and has a rich, deep, beefy flavor that I adore.

When you’re buying a rib eye, the cuts that you find wrapped in the meat counter are normally 3/4-1″ thick, which is fine to go on the barbecue, but I like a thicker cut when possible.  Ask your butcher to do a custom cut for you, and make it a nice thick one that’s about 2″ thick.  That’s not a Fred Flintsone sized steak which is not for one person, of course, but it is perfect to slice as an appetizer for a group of folks, or served as an entree for between 2 and 4, depending on greed.

Inspiration for the bright flavors in this dish was actually stolen from our wonderful dinner at Mario Batali’s Eataly.  We enjoyed an appetizer trio which included Carne Sala, a dish of thinly sliced cured beef laid upon matchstick apples with a tangy balsamic drizzle.  For our trio, we wanted to take that idea but make it more robust, hence the juicy pink rib eye, fresh flavored herbed apple slaw, and piquant but sweet dressing.

Rib Eye Steak with Apple Slaw and Spicy Honey Balsamic Drizzle

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer, or 2-4 as an entree

Rib Eye

  • 2″ thick single rib eye steak *
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp coriander seed
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Apple Slaw

  • 2 granny smith apples
  • 1 lemon
  • small handful chives (2 tbsp finely chopped)
  • small handful fresh basil (2 tbsp finely chopped)
  • small handful fresh cilantro (2 tbsp finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil **
  • salt and pepper to taste

Spiced Honey Balsamic Drizzle

  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar ***
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp red chili flakes

* Be sure to keep your fan on and windows open when searing the steak, because it will smoke.  A lot.  Consider yourself warned.

** Use the best, fruity extra virgin olive oil that you have.

*** Reducing the balsamic vinegar with honey is what gives this sauce a lovely sweetness.  To that end, don’t splurge and buy a $30 bottle of 25 year old balsamic, because an el cheapo bottle from the grocery store will do just fine. I promise you, the sharp tannic bite will be reduced.

Start with the honey balsamic drizzle which can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and kept refrigerated in a tightly sealed container.  In a very small pot or mini saucepan, heat the honey, balsamic and red chili flakes over medium low heat.  Let this simmer away for 25-35 minutes, or until it has reduced by about a third and has a syrupy consistency.  Take this off the heat and set it aside to cool.

Pound the fennel and coriander seed into a powder using a mortar and pestle, or use a spice grinder to expedite the process.

Pat the meat dry and season quite  liberally with salt and pepper on all sides. Don’t worry about having a heavy hand, because that’s a lot of meat.  Rub the ground spices all over the meat, massaging it into the sides as well, and set the rib eye aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.

In the mean time, heat the oven to 350ºF with the racks set in the middle.  Take a fairly large cast iron pan (or a heavy bottomed oven safe pan) and wipe the inside with oil.  Set the pan over maximum heat until it is unbearably hot.

Carefully lay the rib eye into the pan and let it sear, undisturbed, for about 1-2 minutes.  Don’t fuss with the meat or poke at it, but after a minute try to lift it up. The meat should release easily and there should be a dark brown crust before you flip it and brown the other side.  Let the second side sear for 30 seconds and then immediately pop the pan into your oven.  Let the steak cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes (your oven temperature may vary, as could the thickness of your meat) until an instant read thermometer registers 133-138ºF.

Take the pan out of the oven and tent the steak with tin foil.  Let it rest for 8-10 minutes so that the juices can redistribute.

While the steak is cooking (and later resting), make the apple slaw.  Wash and core both apples, and then slice the fruit into fat matchsticks, about 1/4″ thick or less.

Squeeze the juice of a whole lemon over the apple and toss it immediately to reduce discoloration.  Finely chop the chives, basil and cilantro leaves.  Drizzle in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and white pepper.

To plate it up, slice the rib eye fairly thinly across the grain.  Mound a small amount of the herbed apple slaw in the center of your plate, and fan a few slices of rib eye out around it.  Drizzle over the dish and around the edge of the plate with a wee splash of the spiced honey balsamic, and serve while the steak is still warm.

Taste memories often hang around with me for quite some time, but I swear that I’m still drooling when I think about this mouthwatering rib eye. Mike may have hoarded the leftovers to appetizer 3, the beef shanks on polenta, but this was the dish where he closed his eyes and had a moment of silence, followed by a gurgling, “Yurrrrrmm…!”

This easy appetizer or first course was a hit in our house, and I’d encourage you to try this recipe or put your own spin on things! While we’re at it, why not do that during the month of February when you have a chance to win $100 from Kitchen Play? In case you missed it, you can check out our video here, as well as the other dishes in our appetizer trio like seared beef carpaccio and sherried beef shank on polenta.