"Can you bring me a cow?"
We're in the kitchen of Gaucho Dubai, in the heart of Dubai's International Financial Center, or DIFC. It's an area rich in contemporary restaurants, art galleries and urban architecture. In Gaucho's kitchen, preparations for the popular business lunch are in full swing, but one station has been set up for a beef masterclass.
Seven Cuts of Steak
All beef served at Gaucho comes from Angus, Hereford, or Shorthorn cattle raised on the grasslands of Argentina: the pampas, where cattle not only finds a varied grass diet, but also plenty exercise. Seven cuts of beef are used in the Gaucho kitchens: Lomo (fillet), Chorizo (sirloin), Ancho (ribeye), and Cuadril (rumpsteak). In addition, Gaucho uses Entrana (thin skirt), Vacio (flank steak) and Picanha (top rump). We get to unwrap, clean and divide the lomo and the ancho. I'll take you through it.
The Lomo is the fillet or the tenderloin. The tenderloin is not a weight-bearing muscle: it does very little work, which makes it a very tender piece of meat. Quite the opposite, all fat and sinew (connective tissue) around the tenderloin are hard and tough, and will not cook away.
|lomo ready to be unwrapped, trimmed and cut. The onion, red pepper, parsley and condiments are for the chimichurri, a tangy Argentinian sauce great with grilled meat|
From the fillet "head", chef cuts the lomo churrasco. The churrasco is a spiral cut which will be marinated for up to 48 hours, grilled and sliced to serve 1 or 2 (depending on the carnivorous appetite). From thickest to smallest part, the lomo is next divided into:
- chateaubriand (averaging 400 gr, a chateaubriand is grilled whole, rested and sliced to serve two)
- Bife de Lomo (fillet steak or tournedos)
- Medallions (if cut as one steak, this would be the filet mignon)
|tenderloin tail folded to form a steak|
One thing the chef stresses throughout the masterclass: handle the meat gently. Don't turn it over and over, touch it as little as you can. Every touch and turn means you're bruising the meat.
*the chain is the meaty "string" of connective tissue. Usually, your tenderloin is already trimmed of it. When it isn't, don't throw it away. It may be a lot of work to clean the beef chain of all sinew and hard fat, but it's tasty meat and makes for great fajita steak, for instance!
|notice how the chef holds the knife blade between thumb and index finger, balancing the handle with remaining three fingers? It allows him better control over the blade as it cuts through the meat|
The Ancho is the ribeye. Nestled in the upper rib cage, the ribeye is marbled with good fat. It's called the "meat lovers' steak": a juicy steak with lots of flavor.
From the ancho, chef cuts a thick-cut ribeye steak. He then proceeds (he is showing us some great knife work) to cut a tira de ancho, or a "belt" of ribeye steak. It is grilled slowly and brushed with chimichurri towards the end. Same style but smaller is the tapa de ancho: the top of the ribeye.
|the Gaucho grill with V-bars at a slight angle, so meat doesn't steam or stew in its own juices|
In general terms, a marbled steak will need slow grilling. Fat takes long to cook, and undercooked fat is NOT pleasant. Tenderloin, on the other hand, wants its natural velvety tenderness preserved: the longer a tenderloin cooks, the grainier (drier) it becomes. All grilled meat needs proper resting before serving.
|no fingers poking in food in|
chef Mike's kitchen:
tasting spoon ready
(he has one in his back pocket too)!
Here is how Gaucho grills its ancho cuts:
- the steak is placed unseasoned on the grill, presentation side down.
- a generous amount (I'm talking heaps) of coarse salt is sprinkled all over, and left to cook on the meat
- the meat is turned only when it comes away from the grill bars without tearing.
- also note: the meat is turned only once, cooking time divided roughly into 70% first, 30% after turning
- when it is turned over, most salt will fall off, having seasoned the beef as it slowly cooked on the grill
- experience will tell if the meat is done to your liking. Otherwise, use a meat thermometer. Chef doesn't like fingers poking in food to check for doneness but it is a good indicator: doneness ranges from much resistance (well-done) to little resistance (rare).
|a knockout side: twice cooked sweet potato steak fries. Drizzled with honey, lemon confit and capers|
Black quinoa tamales: the black quinoa is prepared like a risotto and bursting with flavor.
Gauchos Grill Restaurant originated in the Netherlands in 1976. The first restaurant was called Los Gauchos Argentinian Grill Restaurant and was opened in Amsterdam. The concept proved a success and soon after more Gauchos Grill Restaurants opened throughout the Netherlands, before making the jump to the UK. To finance the expansion, Gauchos was listed on the London Stock Exchange for a brief period of time. Soon after, Gauchos split into the Dutch Gauchos Grill and UK Gaucho.
The Gaucho menu offers flavors of South America. Group Executive Chef Michael Reid was telling us that Gaucho UK now is adopting a seasonal menu, and the Dubai restaurant will follow suit. Question then, which season will that be for Gaucho Dubai? Europe or South America? Gaucho Menu here
Final remark: cooking, or in this case eating without waste
A grilled steak is gorgeous (to a meat lover, of course). However, portions in many a steakhouse are often absurdly huge. I've said it in previous posts, and I will say it again: abundance is only great if nothing is wasted. One way to be (meat) prudent: don't order or buy more than you can chew! By the way, at Gaucho beef scraps -perfectly good meat that is cut away when meat is trimmed of sinew and hard fat - are used to make burgers. As Chef Mike put it: "this is expensive meat, and you do not want to waste a scrap of it."
ps. I was invited for this meat masterclass, courtesy of Gaucho Dubai. For more information on Gaucho Dubai's (Beef) Masterclass (as well as an interesting range of wine masterclasses): here
How do YOU like your steak?