Wagyu Rib Eye Ala Pobre
My favorite food blog just answered the question ‘What’s for dinner?’.
While shopping at a nearby Japanese grocery last weekend, I was lucky enough to find American wagyu rib eye on sale. Although still pricey at $29.99/lb, I rationalized my purchase by considering that a) I was getting one piece less than a pound b) this was still cheaper than ordering it at Nobu or Megu where an 8 oz portion could set one back over $60.
Initially, I intended to cook it the purist’s way, pan-seared with nothing but salt and pepper then finished in the oven. Then I came across a post on Market Manila for Beef Salpicao…
I hadn’t eaten Beef Salpicao nor its cousin, Solomillo Ala Pobre, in years. Reading that post took me back over twenty years to the Madrid Restaurant, one of the more authentic Spanish restaurants in its heyday and our next-door neighbor along the smog-filled highway that is EDSA. With dimly lit halls despite the massive chandeliers, heavy wooden chairs with intricately carved backs and frayed red velvet upholstery, Madrid’s decor was oppressively formal, but the food was good. My father who had an aversion to anything tomato-based (which eliminated half the menu), always went for the tried and tested choice, Steak ala Pobre. This was filet mignon topped with fried minced garlic and served with a side of green beans. The restaurant has long been gone, the owners having retired and moved on, but the one story building has found new life as a funeral parlor.
Most USDA meat found at supermarkets are rather lean and trimmed of excess fat before being presented to the consumer. Wagyu is the opposite. See those cream flecks interspersed with the red meat like an impressionist’s painting? That’s fat. The marbling is all over and, thus, impossible to remove. For those obsessive health-conscious eaters who conscientiously strip out the fat from their steak and set them primly aside on their plate, wagyu may probably not be for you.
I’m not averse to a little fat now and then. Fat equals flavor, essential in the enjoyment of food. The key is not to eat a boatload of it. Serving steak in cubes, Salpicao style, is one way of achieving that. For some reason, our eyes and brain seem to be easily tricked when perceiving portion size. A 12 oz piece of steak may seem only good enough for one, but cut that into smaller chunks and it can look filling enough for two. That must be the underlying principle to Jesus’ miracle with the loaves and fish.
Most Salpicao recipes start with already cut up meat. The problem is browning small pieces of meat requires a large pan and a lot of busy work. There needs to be ample room around each piece so that the liquids leaching out don’t stew it instead of brown it. It also means that you have to stand guard over the pan and check whether each piece is ready to turn or whether they are in danger of being overcooked. To get around this, I pan fried the steak whole on both sides, only cutting it up after it had rested and was ready to be coated with the sauce. I ended up with a better crust this way.
This was a quick and easy dish to do even for weeknights when time is tight. The wagyu cubes were very buttery and might have been cloying by itself, but the slight tang of the worcestershire sauce cut through all that richness. All in all, great eating for minimum effort.
3 cloves of garlic, minced
12 oz Wagyu rib-eye whole
1/4 tsp pimenton (Spanish paprika)
few dashes of worcestershire sauce
- Fry minced garlic in olive oil until crispy. Make sure to remove them before they burn.
- Season steak with salt and pepper and pan fry it whole in the garlic flavored oil.
- After both sides are browned to desired doneness, remove steak from pan and let it rest while preparing sauce.
- Add more olive oil into pan. Dissolve pimenton in the oil followed by worcestershire sauce. Stir till smooth and slightly thickened.
- Cut steak into cubes before returning to pan and coating with sauce.
- Sprinkle with fried garlic on top.