051218 Fancy New York Dry-Aged Beef Comes to Town

December 31, 2005

The way butchers routinely handled beef decades ago has come back into vogue, but it's as expensive as fine, aged wines and handcrafted cheeses.

The process is called dry aging, and in Milwaukee, you can buy dry-aged beef at only one place: Ceriello's in the Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St. The New York-based company also sells dry- aged beef through its Web site,, and ships it fresh from the butcher counter on Long Island.

Most people wouldn't spend the extra money roughly double the price of non-aged beef for a typical dinner. But if you're seeking something special for New Year's Eve, dry-aged beef which is more expensive because it is a prime cut and takes up to a month to "finish" may be just the ticket.

At the least, it offers a great conversation topic. Let guests be the judge: Is it more tender, buttery and intensely flavored than a typical tenderloin or prime rib? Have we sacrificed quality in today's mass-produced marketplace, thanks to vacuum packaging and increased efficiencies in beef processing and transportation?

Joel Chesebro, a chef at the Sub-Zero/Wolf kitchens in Madison, would answer "yes" to both questions.

Chesebro recently taught a Roasted Prime Rib Holiday Dinner class at the Milwaukee Public Market, featuring dry-aged prime rib from Ceriello's.

"I do a simple preparation so the flavor of the beef shines through," Chesebro explained to the class. "It's definitely more tender and more flavorful. I figure two people per rib."

Chesebro said he appreciates that dry-aged beef is an artisanal product, guided to finish by a butcher who uses "his intuition to interact with the meat."

Like a winemaker, a butcher will closely monitor the character of the meat as it ages.

"A butcher will look at it, feel it and taste it," explained Alex Casalena, manager of the local Ceriello's. "Some meat will take longer to age, due to its marbling and other factors that determine how well it responds to aging."

Dry-aged beef begins with the best, prime grade young steer, which represents a mere 2% of all beef raised in the United States, Casalena said. The cuts hang in a closely controlled, refrigerated cooler for 18 to 30 days. During the aging process, the beef may lose up to 20% of its weight as natural enzymes break down the fibrous, connective tissue in the muscle, and moisture is lost. The enzyme action makes the meat more tender, and the moisture loss intensifies its flavor.

Aging also gives a deeper red color to the meat, Casalena said.

Modern processing plants process beef and place it in vacuum- sealed plastic bags within 24 hours. Much of this beef shows up in a grocery store meat case within two to four days after the animal is slaughtered.

Long Island roots

Ceriello Fine Foods, which started in 1973 as a Long Island north shore Italian specialty shop, has been offering dry-aged beef since the beginning, Casalena said.

The family-owned business now has locations in New York, New Jersey and Maryland, in addition to the Milwaukee shop, according to its Web site.

How Ceriello's landed in Milwaukee, in and of itself, is a conversation topic for a New Year's Eve party.

The architect who designed the Ceriello shop at Grand Central Station in Manhattan is the same architect who designed the Milwaukee Public Market, Casalena said. The architect thought Milwaukee needed a Ceriello's, so he approached the family about locating one of the shops here.

A sign in the meat case at Ceriello's in the Milwaukee Public Market explains why it's so expensive.

While value-conscious Milwaukeeans aren't lining up to buy it, Casalena said the shop has about a dozen loyal customers who come every couple of weeks or once a month to purchase the special beef. The shop has yet to snag its first restaurant client.

Typically only the highest-end steakhouses in America serve dry- aged beef because it is so expensive, Casalena said.

"It's people who really appreciate what they're eating who buy it," Casalena said. "Once you taste aged beef, though, if you can afford it you'll never go back. It's just like a fine wine or a fine cheese."

The Ceriello's lineup of dry-aged beef includes: sirloin, $15.99 per pound; prime rib, $18.99 per pound; rib-eye steak, $21.99 per pound; T-bone steak, $21.99 per pound; New York strip, $22.99 per pound; porterhouse steak, $23.99 per pound; and tenderloin, $25.99 per pound.

Here's a recipe that Chesebro prepared during his Roasted Prime Rib Holiday Dinner class at the Milwaukee Public Market. The crme frache should be prepared a day or so ahead. Sour cream may be substituted for crme frache if desired.

Roasted Prime Rib with Horseradish Crme Frache

2 tablespoons buttermilk

1 cup whipping cream(not ultra-pasteurized)

2 teaspoons grated fresh horseradish

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

10 garlic cloves, cut into slivers

1 trimmed rib roast, 6 pounds

Bunch of fresh thyme

3 onions, sliced

In glass bowl, mix buttermilk with whipping cream, cover and let sit at 80 degrees for 2 days. Mixture will become thick, with the consistency of sour cream.

Add horseradish and lemon juice and allow flavors to marry at least 4 hours or overnight. Just before serving, taste and adjust flavor with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

With paring knife, insert garlic slivers into roast. Season rib roast well with salt and pepper to taste.

In bottom of heavy roasting pan, place roast on bed of thyme and onions.

Roast in preheated oven 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue cooking until internal temperature with meat thermometer reaches 125 degrees for rare, or to desired doneness. (The roast will take about 12 to 15 minutes per pound to cook rare.)

Remove roast from oven and let rest at room temperature 20 minutes. Serve with horseradish crme frache. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Copyright 2005, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Meat Industry INSIGHTS Newsletter
Meat News Service, Box 553, Northport, NY 11768