Friday, May 16, 2008

Cooking Steak with Mike Colameco

My future sis-in-law Diana invited Dan and me to a steak class, hosted by chef Mike Colameco of WNET-TV/Channel 13. I was very excited because I've heard a lot of great things about chef Mike, who has been in the food business for over 25 years. I was also looking forward to sharing this experience with Dan who's a big steak guy.

The class was held at the Delia/Viking showroom on 3rd Avenue and 58th Street. The space was absolutely impeccable and showcased a dream kitchen--beautiful stainless steel oven and range, marble countertops and of course the much coveted "island." Chairs were set up for us in front of the island (facing Mike) and on the side. The setup was good, I thought, because it was small, intimate and conducive to asking question (or one would think). Another nice aspect of the pre-show was a complimentary wine and cheese station sponsored by Beaujolais wine. I was disappointed that only red wine was served but this was a steak class, so I understood. The cheese was absolutely delicious though, and especially the gouda, which I paired with an apricot pattee.

What We Learned:
Overall, the class was a lot of fun and very engaging. It's obvious that Mike is comfortable in front of an audience--he tells jokes and many interesting steak stories. He seemed very knowledgeable about the history of steak, especially NY steak. He gave us a lot of good recommendations for Manhattan steakhouses--Craftsteak, BLT Prime, The Four Seasons--but he didn't have much to offer in terms of the outer boroughs. Dan brought up Christos to him and he seemed to remember it vaguely, saying that he liked it a lot but that he got lost in Astoria (Manhattanites find the streets and Avenues here confusing).

Steak Tid-Bits Courtesy of Chef Mike:
1. An ideal slaughter weight of a cow is approximately 1,100 lbs
2. Most American beef comes from cows that are corn fed
3. 98% of cattle doesn't produce prime meat--instead, it makes supermarket meat, which isn't aged properly
4. Most steakhouses are very expensive because they use prime meat, aged for 21-40 days. The longer the aging the better the meat.

Steaks that we sampled:
All of the steaks were sauteed in a cast iron skillet in vegetable oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

1. NY Strip: Mike mentioned that this cut of meat is similar to shell steak, except this one has no bone. It was my favorite because it was the most tender and the juiciest of all. I was sad that I only got one little piece because it was that good--Dan agreed.

2. Hanging Tenderloin: This is more commonly known as Hanger Steak. I liked it but it was a little tough, which Mike said happens when it's exposed to dry heat. I also happened to grab a well-done piece because that's all that was left--that might've been part of the problem.

3. Skirt Steak: Found in the diaphragm of the cow, this cut of meat tends to be one of the leanest and the easiest in terms of finding good quality (even in supermarkets). Mike's version was delicious--crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. I grabbed two pieces--one that was cooked medium and therefore flavorful and juicy and another that was well done but still tasty. I now understood what Mike meant when he said that skirt steak was hard to mess up.

4. Tri-Tip: Located in the bottom sirloin, the tri-tip consists of a small triangular muscle. I found this steak the most fatty of the bunch and didn't care for it. Dan on the other hand loved it and went back for a couple of medium-rare seconds.

The Sides we sampled:
All side dishes were prepared in a simple, classic style in which salt and pepper seasoning was used.

Sauteed Asparagus: I'm usually not too crazy about this dish but Mike's was amazing and I went back for seconds. The asparagus was sauteed in butter and cooked on high heat for an extra couple of minutes to give it nice char marks. The asparagus itself was of good quality, as it was thick and very very juicy.

String Beans: Again, a simple dish but when seasoned by a pro like Mike, it became extraordinary. Garlic bits gave this dish a nice zing!

Smashed Potatoes: These were nice, yellow fingerling potatoes that were buttery and creamy. Mike mashed them with a fork instead of a traditional masher, which kept them chunky. Mike's Potato Hint: If you'd like to give your potatoes flavor without the extra calories of butter, cook them in milk, not water.

Hash Browns: Mike made these from scratch and grated the potatoes himself. He formed it into one large potato pancake and sauteed it in a cast iron skillet. It was a perfect indulgence at the end of this meal, and one of the people in class called it an oversized latka.

This class lasted for about an hour and a half, ending at roughly 8:30pm. My only criticism was that most audience questions were dominated by two very inquisitive steak buffs. They happened to be two big guys with very loud voices, and when I tried to ask a question, my tiny voice was lost. But I didn't despair, instead I had Dan use his macho voice to help me out. Hey, what are guys for?

Thanks for a fun experience, Diana and Josh!

Interested in taking a class like this? Click here.


  1. Anonymous20 May, 2010

    Mike, when it comes to extra virgin olive oil,why isn't there a "us by date",posted on the container?

  2. Don't know - you'll have to ask him yourself.



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