The rib eye is one of the most popular steakhouse cuts and most fans like it served up simple—well seasoned and broiled or grilled. At the nine-location Smith & Wollensky, the menu offers a prime, dry-aged 28-oz. rib eye steak just that way. But executive chef Matt King wanted to do something more for customers looking for a bit of adventure and variety.
The deconstruction process
A rib eye has two clearly defined muscles. King starts out by removing the outer cap muscle and the bone, leaving the well-marbled 9-ounce eye.
“The two sections have different textures and flavor profiles,” King points out. “The outer muscle has deep pockets of fat and a more pronounced dry-aged flavor, while the eye of the rib is richly marbled and inherently tender.”
Evolution of the dish
King decided to braise the less tender cap in red wine, veal stock, garlic, shallots and herbs to break it
down and release the flavor of the meat. The boneless eye was seasoned with salt and pepper and broiled like a classic Smith & Wollensky steak.
“My wife inspired me to create this dish,” notes King. “She loves a rib eye, but would only eat the inside.” Once braised, the cap was transformed into a meltingly tender, rich ragout. King serves five ounces on a grilled baguette and plates it with the broiled eye and a “cup” of roasted bone marrow. (See below.)
Getting the recipe right
King determined that thyme and a tiny bit of rosemary were the best braising seasonings. The choice of mushrooms took more trial and error. “I started with shiitakes and domestic white mushrooms, but neither stood up to the meat,” he says. Chanterelles were too delicate; black trumpets had an unappealing texture. But morels worked perfectly. “The morels didn’t break down during braising and had body to stand up to the ribeye’s flavor. They pushed the dish over the edge.”
Rollout and feedback
Smith & Wollensky makes decisions on menu items from a customer’s point of view. “We ask ‘will the guest like it and order it,’ then we find efficiencies in the kitchen to make it happen,” King explains.
The Deconstructed Rib Eye was first tested internally, then added last September to the menu at the Atlantic Wharf unit in Boston. It has since rolled out to all nine locations. “People are impressed that there’s something more creative that is steak-driven. We did that with our fish options, but not our steaks, says King.