Love me tender

Updated: April 26, 2007 - 2:11 pm

Find a good cow. That’s rule number one for Garth Thornton, executive chef at Manny’s Steakhouse. He thinks of his supplier as the first link in a careful chain that ends with butterknife-tender steaks on his customers’ plates.

“There’s a guy in Kansas City I’ve been buying from for about 13 years,” Thornton said. “He’s a meat man. He ages meat and cuts it and sends it to me.”

His Kansas meat man is picky from the get-go, says Thornton: he checks out the animal’s size and fat content and what they’re fed (corn is best). One thing he doesn’t care much about, says Thornton, is the breed.

“He’s an equal opportunity slaughterhouse,” Thornton laughed. “He doesn’t care what color they are. Some of it will be Angus, some of it will be Hereford.”

After the cattle are butchered, the meat is dry-aged: it hangs in a special cooler for two weeks, with fans blowing air enriched with ozone to retard spoiling, said Thornton. Then the steaks are cut and shipped to Minneapolis in cryovac bags.

“All you got to do is season ’em and put ’em on the grill,” Thornton said.

The chefs at Manny’s use seasoning salt. “You sprinkle it on, then use a five-prong ice pick and work it into the meat,” said Thornton. “At home I use a fork.”

Another important link in the chain is the broilers, where the meat sits below the heat, rather than above it.

“It definitely cooks ’em better,” said Thornton. “Fat drips away from it and you can get ’em hotter without burning the heck out of ’em.”

And does he rage inwardly when diners order one of these fine steaks well done? Not at all, says Thornton: even he, a 19-year veteran of a steakhouse kitchen, doesn’t eat all his meat rare. How long he cooks it depends on the cut, he says.

“Filet mignon, rare. New York strip, medium rare. Ribeye medium, porterhouse medium rare. Because they’re different kinds of steaks,” he explained. “With filet, there’s not as much fat so it tends to be drier if you overcook it, but the New York strip has a little more fat content, so it stays juicy.”