It took a recent Barolo and Barbaresco blind tasting and a new season for locally grown, organic, long-neck garlic to finally move me to share my not-so-secret, Mario Batali borrowed, dry rub Rib-Eye recipe. I say it is mine, even though it is not, because I have been consistently scintillating guests over the years deploying Batali’s oh-so-amazing recipe for preparing this cut of beef. I now also know that the 2006 Sottimano Barbaresco Pajore at $50 is a perfect accompaniment. It happened to be my favorite wine in a blind flight of Barolos and Barbarescos from 2004-2006 which I will detail later.
Now, let’s get back to the rib eye. Using good garlic will render an ultra ethereal result. Try to find the freshest possible garlic at your farmers market. I am so lucky to have the Sellew’s farm in my town in Massachusetts, where each year the family harvests their long-neck garlic and sets aside my allocation which takes me through the fall and mid winter. Once you have cooked with this kind of garlic it is a disappointment using a store bought product. Here are the rest of the ingredients you will need…it is pretty simple:
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
5 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry porcini mushrooms ground to fine powder in a spice grinder
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 28-ounce boneless rib-eye steak, cut 2 inches thick
drizzling olive oil
drizzling balsamic vinegar
I never make just 28 ounces; it only feeds two people. So as you multiply the beef weight for the number of diners you are serving, simply multiply the ingredient portions accordingly. Now, do this:
-Chop up the dried porcini mushrooms and grind them to a powder in your spice grinder
-Peel your garlic and put it in the spice grinder afterwards and chop until they reach tiny shredded pebble size
-Add the sugar, salt, hot pepper, black pepper, and ground porcini and mix well
-Add in the chopped garlic and olive oil and combine until the ingredients form a homogeneous mixture
-Lay the meat on plastic wrap and rub the ingredients evenly over all sides of the beef until coated
-Wrap the beef well in a couple layers of plastic wrap and put in refrigerator for a minimum of 12 hours and up to 24 hours
The great part of this for entertaining is that all the preparation happens early that morning or the night before. When your guests arrive and you are ready to cook, take the steaks out of refrigeration for an hour before to get them room temperature. Heat a grill (I prefer a wood fire but any grill will do) and place the steaks on the hottest part of grill for 25 minutes turning every six minutes, uncovered, or until the internal temperature achieves 120F for medium rare. Let the meat rest for five minutes and then slice all of it against the grain on a big cutting board. Drizzle sparingly with balsamic vinegar and generously with olive oil before bringing to the table. I usually accompany this with roasted fingerling potatoes that I salt and sprinkle with fresh chopped rosemary and thyme and splash with olive oil before going into a 375 degree oven for one hour.
Trust me, you may have never tasted anything this good. I have served it to serious Italian foodies, Texans, and compulsive New York steak house fanatics and they all know it is the best rendition of Rib-Eye they have ever encountered. The meat assumes dry-aging characteristics and the flavors of the porcini, garlic, sugar, and salt are kicked up with the hot red pepper flakes. All this works the beef over in ways that are inexplicable during the refrigeration process. The whole result is a bit magical and I urge you to try it and let me know if you agree.
Pairing something with such strong and distinct flavor is not easy. It calls for a big red wine with good acidity. Eric Broege from Vintages in West Concord just recently helped me organize, and then lead, a blind Barolo and Barbaresco tasting at my home followed by a vertical presentation of Cavallotto Riserva Barolos and Produttori Riserva Paje Barbarescos. We really did ourselves in ending the whole affair with two 1993 Barolos that were laying around in my cellar including Manzone Le Gremolere and Parusso Bussia Vigna Munie. Every wine that evening was a winner, and only the 2004 Marcarini Brunate Barolo drew a touch of unenthusiastic response. Admittedly, I do not understand these wines well at all and am a bit shy around them, but they are much easier to appreciate in the context we tasted them in. The blind tasting included:
2006 BURLOTTO Barolo “Cannubi” (Barolo)
2006 SOTTIMANO Barbaresco “Pajore” (Treiso)
2005 ALESSANDRIA Barolo “Monvigliero” (Verduno)
2005 CANTINA del PINO Barbaresco “Albesani” (Neive)
2004 MARCARINI Barolo “Brunate” (La Morra)
2004 ALBINO ROCCA Barbaresco “Brich Ronchi”(Barbaresco)
My favorite wine of the flight, the Sottimano Barbaresco, came in second only to the group’s aggregate top vote for the Albino Rocca. The Sottimano is perfect to pair with Batali’s Rib-Eye preparation. It is a giant mouthful of wine, with earthy and stinky notes combining with a smokiness that will remain detectable washing down the rubbed beef. There is a minty note that sneaks through as the wine completely coats your palate with a silkiness that finishes up with a good amount of acidity to help cut through the big beefy flavors.
Prepare yourself for a sensory explosion that satisfies at the highest possible gustatory level when you tackle this recipe. Do not overlook the Sottimano Pajore at $50, which will probably be cheaper than the beef. And finally, a giant shout out and thank you to Mario Batali!