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December 17, 2006

Return to Snake River

Dominic Armato
Tell me that isn't a thing of beauty.

A quick glance should make it clear that this isn't genuine Kobe, but it's still some damn fine beef. This is the Snake River Farms "American Kobe" that I wrote about back in June. My father's birthday was this weekend and I figured some premium beef would be an excellent present. So I threw together a quick and simple recipe that I thought was good enough to post.

The inspiration here is actually Italian. One of my favorite dishes on the planet is the Tagliata di Bue at Trattoria dei Tredici Gobbi in Florence. It's an exercise in simplicity and a common dish to boot, but they do it really, really well. They lightly season a thin steak, grill it hot so that it's charred on the outside and cool in the center, slice it up and top it with a pile of fresh arugula and a bit of balsamic vinegar. So I took the flavors of June's experiment, served them in a similar fashion, and added a nice starchy side. The beef was tasty, as expected. What surprised me was how well sweet potatoes and sake paired up. I thought it would work, but not that well. This is now officially my favorite way to do sweet potatoes, and it's subtle enough that it doesn't scream Asian so they'd work in a bunch of different contexts.

Incidentally, it pains me to endorse prepackaged greens of any kind but the Newman's Own baby arugula I used was surprisingly good. If it's consistently so (which remains to be seen), it's a winner.

Dominic Armato

4 sweet potatoes
½ C. tamari soy sauce
1 Tbsp. white miso
4 tsp. honey
1 clove garlic, very thinly sliced
½ C. butter, softened
2 Tbsp. finely minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. dry sake
½ tsp. salt
2 16-20 oz. NY strip steaks
coarse salt & pepper
4 C. fresh arugula

Japanese Tagliata di Bue with Ginger-Sake Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4

Unless a potato's explosive potential is more compelling to you than its tasty potential, poke the sweet potatoes a few times with a fork (I know, I know, they won't actually explode). Then roast them in a 425º oven for about 45 minutes, until they're soft. While the potatoes are cooking, you can prep the rest of the dish... you'll have more than enough time.

Pull the steaks out of the fridge so they won't be too cold when you cook them. While they're warming up a bit, mix up their sauce. It's a whole lot better if it rests for about half an hour, so it's best to start here. Combine the soy sauce, miso, honey and garlic, mix them thoroughly so that the miso dissolves and then let them rest at room temperature until everything else is ready.

Do the same thing with the butter, ginger, sake and salt. I'm a fan of mincing the ginger here. You could grate the ginger if you prefer, but then you won't need nearly as much.

Now, back to the steaks. Put a cast iron skillet over the highest possible heat, and let it get smoking hot. While the skillet is heating, you're going to do something that will make some steak purists cringe. Slice the two steaks in half down the middle, so you end up with four steaks that are only about ¾" thick. Season both sides of the steaks with coarse salt and a bit of coarsely ground pepper. I think cracked pepper is a little too potent for this dish, but that's your call. Give the steaks a good rub.

Wait until the potatoes are ready before you fire the beef. The potatoes will sit nicely for a few minutes. The steak won't. When the potatoes are ready, slice them down the middle, fluff them a little bit and fill them with a generous dollop of the ginger-sake butter.

Then, cook up the steaks. If there's a thick layer of fat around the outer edge, hold the steaks with a pair of tongs, stand them on the edge and give them a quick sear to soften and render some of the fat. Then, cook the steaks for just a minute or two on either side so that the outside is nicely seared with almost a light crust, but the center is still cool. Slice and plate the steaks, drizzle them with the soy sauce mixture, top them with a handful of the arugula and serve them with the sweet potatoes. If you get your hands on some Kobe, American or otherwise, don't you dare leave the fat on your plate... that's totally the best part.


I love Kobe beef! I had the best burger of my life at Martini's in St. Helena, CA during a splurge visit to Napa. It was then and there that I fell in love with Kobe.

ok, so i am a goober, but this sounds delicious. when you say to slice the beef, do you mean as a butterfly or to slice it lengthwise

Hey, Julie!

For the pre-cooking slice, I mean that NY strip steaks are generally about 1.5" thick, but with the SRF beef, I think it's best to quickly sear thinner steaks. I halved them so that each single NY strip was split into two that were only 3/4" thick.

For the serving slice, post-cooking, I just sliced on a slight bias, as you see in the photo, before hitting with the sauce. But that last one is a matter of personal preference. While I'm nostalgic for the sliced tagliata I get in Italy and it makes for a nice presentation, there's something to be said for serving it whole. It definitely cools faster when sliced.

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