Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How now luscious cow!

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend a butchery class run by artisan butchers Victor Churchill, as part of the Sydney Good Food and Wine Show. As well as learning to break down a lamb (yep, I’m now a whizz with a boning knife!) I was fascinated to learn about the different techniques for raising cattle, the importance of knowing where your meat comes from, sustainable farming, the processing and ageing of meat and the difference between a good quality product and a bad one. I walked away knowing a whole lot more than when I walked in and with a burning desire to build on that knowledge. I am planning to attend a more detailed butchery course in the near future – I fear I may have missed my calling!

After benefiting from the incredible wealth of knowledge from the Victor Churchill butchers, on the weekend we decided to pay the shop a visit and to treat ourselves to the crème de la crème of beef – premium Wagyu. From the minute you step into the shop you know you are in for something special. Here are people who care passionately about what they sell and who present it with the upmost respect and so much style. The shop and everything in it is a beauty to behold. Visit the shop at 132 Queen Street Woollahra, NSW or have a virtual visit online at  http://www.victorchurchill.com/

Australia has gone Wagyu crazy in the last few years and the market is flooded with all sorts of product claiming to be Wagyu. If you intend to purchase Wagyu, you want to ensure that you are getting the real deal. In Australia, beef can be sold as Wagyu with only 50% Wagyu genetics – and unfortunately most of what you will see labeled as Wagyu at the local butcher will fall into this inferior catergory. Good quality premium Wagyu must actually contain 100% full blood Wagyu genetics. The breed originates from Japan and is highly prized for the intense marbling of fat, making it melt in the mouth tender and giving it a sublime flavour. Wagyu actually means "Japanese Beef".

Wherever you purchase your Wagyu, ask the seller about the origin of the meat and ensure that what you are buying is actually proper Wagyu. Expect to pay in the vicinity of $185 a kilo for the authentic premium article. If your butcher can’t verify that it is 100% full blood, or can’t tell you where it’s come from, my advice is to forget it and cook something else for dinner!

Wagyu is graded according to the amount of marbling in the meat. Here in Australia, it is rated on a scale of 1-10 (in Japan the scale goes from 1-12) We chose 600 day dry aged, grain fed, scotch fillet cuts with a rating of 9+, so we are talking premium product here.

Blackmore's Wagyu 
600 Day Grain Fed, Dry aged Scotch Fillets

The Wagyu we chose came from the Victorian farm of the Blackmore family – at the forefront of Australia’s leading premium quality beef. The Blackmores have been farming award winning purebred Wagyu for over 20 years. Their Wagyu boasts 100% full blood Wagyu genetics and are not diluted with any other breed, making it a very high quality product. We were blown away by the standard of the meat - it was, quite simply, the best beef I have ever eaten. If I could hug the whole Blackmore family and their entire herd, I would!

For more information on Blackmore's Wagyu, their history and sustainably grown beef, check out their website. http://www.blackmorewagyu.com.au/

What 9+ grade marbling looks like

So, how did I cook our precious Wagyu? Originally we had planned to cook it over coals on the BBQ, however we were advised against this due to the very high grade of the meat and the 9+ rating of the marbling. The concern was that as the fat throughout the meat melted, it would drip onto the coals and cause the flames to flare up too much, burning the meat.

For this reason I cooked it on a grill pan on the stove, sprinkling a little sea salt into the dry pan and then cooking the meat for 3 minutes each side. I then transferred the meat to a 200C oven for a few minutes and then rested the meat for 5 minutes before serving. Because of the superb quality of the meat, I did not add a jus or sauce, preferring to enjoy the Wagyu unadulterated. On the side, we had simply steamed fresh beans and creamy mash – made super special by the addition of beautiful French butter and Tetsuya’s Truffle Salt. To - die - for. (You can buy Tetsuya's Truffle Salt at some gourmet stores or on Tetsuya's website)

Cooked to perfection
with creamy mashed truffle potatoes and green beans

Good quality Wagyu is extremely rich, so it is recommended that you serve about 250 -300g per person maximum. Although we purchased two steaks, we cooked one large scotch fillet between us and then cut it in half at serving time – it was more than enough for two. The flavour is very sweet and buttery, so I would avoid any kind of buttery sauce with it. If you must serve a sauce with it, lean towards something with a touch of acid (lemon, vinegar) to balance out the richness. Me? I think that the meat speaks for itself.

There is no doubt that good Wagyu is expensive, but I would rather savour one sublime serving of this every month or so, that eat any meat at all for the rest of the time. It's really that good.


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