Beef with a whisky chaser
Beef aged with whisky is all the rage—here’s why and here’s how
YOU HAVE LIKELY heard of whiskyaged beef by now. If you haven’t—take it from me—you’ll want to try some, soonest. In the meantime, I shall give you a quick backgrounder on its provenance and how you can make it—or, at least, how I did, with a little help from my friend Stephen Alexander, owner of the justifiably esteemed Ontario butcher-shop chain Cumbrae’s (cumbraes.com).
Steve’s shop was the first place in Toronto where I ever found a good dry-aged steak. And I mean back in the nineties— long before you could find anything similar in Montreal, or Vancouver, or anywhere in between. Or, to be more precise, long after you could—because dry-aging was of course how things were originally done, until the Cryovac bag and its associated economies came along in the 1960s and made dry-ageing an all but forgotten craft.
In the past decade or so it has come back with such a vengeance as to provoke something of a meat-locker arms race. Just five years ago, a restaurant menu offering 60day dry-aged steaks was all but guaranteed to impress impressionable customers. Now, it takes 120. I’ve even seen 160. And never mind that—there’s a butcher in Montreal called Marc Bourg (Le Marchand du Bourg,
Words and pictures by JACOB RICHLER
marchanddubourg.com) who has sold steaks at 365-days, and—with a view to seeking out media coverage—been known to boast of being at work on aging some beef for six or seven years.
Fortunately, before any us had to risk eating that, something new came along. Enter Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec, France’s best-known butcher (Boucherie le Bourdonnec, lebourdonnec.com) and its iconoclastic riposte to Italy’s Dario Cecchini. Le Bourdonnec is best-known for his breeding projects (like cross-breeding large, lean French Charolais with more steak-friendly British Angus). He also likes to push the
STEPHEN ALEXANDER (CUMBRAE’S).