Perhaps one of the most fascinating meats served out there is the riserva from Carnevino at the Palazzo. Aged up to 240 days, the restaurant from Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich selects its best cuts of meat for this long dry-aging process that's served by the inch. Here, Jason Neve, the culinary director for B&B Hospitality Group, talks about the aging process, how Carnevino came up with the riserva and dared to taste beef aged so long and more.
For the layman, what's the difference between wet aging and dry aging?
Dry aging is the original means of preserving meat prior to modern refrigeration the natural skeletal structure (bones) and fat coverings on particular cuts of meat help protect the meat during the aging process. While the meat is aging in controlled cold environment it loses water weight which is important because less water means less possibility for harmful spoilage to occur. Concurrently though man discovered that this aging process also helps to concentrate the flavor of the beef and allows for a breakdown of proteins due a natural enzymatic reaction that helps to tenderize the lean muscle.
Wet aging is a modern technique that employs air tight bags to hold meat and stop it from spoiling. While wet aging does allow the natural enzymes to do their job and tenderize the meat, it does not allow for any water loss so the change in flavor to the meat is not as significant as in dry aging.
I know you do both at Carnevino, but why wet age the filet mignon and dry age everything else?
The filet cannot be dry aged due to its physical make up. It has no large fat cap or bone to help protect it during the aging. If we did try to dry age tenderloin we would end up with something similar to bresaola.
Tell me about your facility on Dean Martin where you age your steaks. How big is it? Any other interesting details like how much steak you normally have on hand there?
The cooler at our offsite warehouse is BIG, really big, big enough to drive a fork lift in, so that pretty big.
What's involved in aging the steaks there?
In the grand scheme of things there isn't a whole lot involved really only a few steps. First we buy the best beef possible, then comes the manual labor. Chef Nicole Brisson and her team weigh, tag, move and monitor every piece of meat on a weekly basis. Lastly we wait until time does its job; product, labor and time.
Tell me about your 180-day dry-aged riserva steaks by the inch.
Our Riserva program is one of those secret things we started that's not so secret anymore. We decided at one point along the way to start tagging some of the best pieces of meat we received and setting them aside as a kind of special selection. Then we realized that we could age these best of the best cuts for longer and longer periods, and what we ended up with was Riserva. The steaks are aged 180 to 240 days and are cut by the inch to order when available. It's the pinnacle expression of dry-aged meat with a flavor reminiscent of great American beef, foie gras and blue cheese.
How in the world did you figure out that aging the steaks for so long would taste so good?
We just kept tasting. We saw that it took about 90 days to get the flavor we liked and that became the standard for Carnevino. Then we kept going and found that there is a bit of a plateau after 90 days where the meat just hangs out. Then when we hit that six-month mark, things happened and the beef got beefier.
Was there ever a concern about having so much stock tied up in inventory for so long before it's sold?
How's the saying go? If it's not worth doing right it's not worth doing at all. There is only one way to dry age and that is to get a lot of meat and wait, so that's what we did, with the singular plan to do it right and make it work.
What's the most popular meat dish on the menu now?
Most popular and most ordered has to be the dry-aged beef, either the ribeye or Fiorentina.
You have a tasting menu too. Can you tell me about that?
We have a beef tasting menu that gives you the opportunity to taste your way through a number of beef dishes all the way from our raw Carne Cruda (steak tartare) to our signature dry-aged ribeye. It's a great way to sit back for the night, let your server guide you on an adventure and enjoy all the Carnevino has to offer.
· All Coverage of Carnevino [~ELV~]
· All Five Days of Meat Coverage [~ELV~]
Jason Neve [Photo: B&B Hospitality Group]