I was at work when my boyfriend texted that I’d finally received the package. Almost too excited to focus, I rushed home as soon as the clock turned 5pm. I’d been waiting for days for this shipment, and my heart would skip a beat every time I heard the mailman walk up to my door. He was to deliver something coveted by chefs, butchers, and beef connoisseurs alike – ribeye cab – the most baller cut of beef.
If you’ve never heard of ribeye cap, you're not alone. This little-known cut is hard to find, which adds to its allure. It’s a steak that’s as tender as filet mignon and as bold as ribeye. And if you’ve eaten ribeye, then you’ve sampled the cap; It’s the muscle wrapped around the eye, or center, of the steak and is densely marbled with flavorful fat. When you cut that muscle (the spinalis dorsi) from the ribs of beef, you have about 16 inches of pure deliciousness. After reading all about the glories of the cap, I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into some.
When I got home from work, my package from Snake River Farms was waiting for me. I impatiently tore into the box, opened the styrofoam cooler, and dug through layers of frozen gel packs to finally find 20 beautiful ounces of ribeye cap. Not only is the cap a special cut, but my beef came from a pretty amazing company. Snake River Farms is a beef purveyor obsessed with quality. Up until recently, they only sold the cap to some of the most exclusive restaurants in the country, including the French Laundry, one of the few restaurants in the world that has been graced with 3 Michelin stars.
After being so anxious about getting the meat, I left it in the freezer for days while I contemplated how to prepare it. I had to do this exquisite meat justice – no average preparation would suffice.
Then, out of nowhere, the solution fell into my lap: I would sous vide it. A friend of a friend unexpectedly lent me a professional-grade immersion circulator - the coolest piece of kitchen equipment I’ve ever laid hands on. For those of you who aren’t familiar with sous vide cookery, it involves vacuum-sealing food in a plastic bag and poaching it in a water bath. The immersion circulator precisely regulates the temperature and gently cooks the meat to an exact doneness, without any fear of overcooking.
With the help of a local restaurant (thanks Joe from Heritage), I vacuum sealed my ribeye cap and poached it in a 135 degree bath for about an hour. At this point the steak was a perfect medium rare but had no caramelized crust. So I liberally seasoned it with salt and pepper and heated a heavy bottom pan with some olive oil and pork fat. I also threw in a couple cloves of crushed garlic and dried thyme for good measure. Once the pan was very hot, I seared the steak for about 2 minutes a side. I served it with a simple arugula salad and a nice glass of red wine.
The steak was shockingly good – perhaps the best I’ve had in my life. It was so tender that I could cut it with my fork, and it had an intense, almost concentrated beef flavor. The sous vide preparation helped me cook it with precision, and the simple seasoning let the flavor of the beef shine. This dinner was one of the most memorable and decadent meals I've made. Although the ribeye cap is extremely pricey ($199 for 20 – 28 ounces), it’s something you should experience at least once in your life.