In Scout’s How to Cook Vancouver series, we will be striving to combine our addiction to dining out with our passion for cooking by challenging ourselves to make Vancouver’s best restaurant dishes in our own homes.
One of my definitive special occasion dinners lies in a most unsuspecting spot. Tucked away on the quiet(er) end of Robson Street under a discreet red awning, just sequestered enough from the nearby din of Denman to feel especially haven-like, Tavola is exactly what I’m looking for when I need to sit down and feel self-congratulatory for a couple of hours. This charming Italian restaurant is somehow both well-known yet not, to the point where you could actually feel like you’re making a really niche dinner recommendation to someone, depending on what area of the city their lives are steeped in (hint, this person – like me – is probably an East Van lifer and tends to have their blinders up when it comes to anything west of Cambie).
But even when this recommendation is not a unique one, you will likely be met with a resounding “oh, YES” when reminding your listener about the pillowy brown butter gnocchi, the creamy chicken liver-slicked crostini, and my personal show-stopping favourite: the dry-aged prime rib steak. Served with the perfectly acidic punch of salsa verde and just enough greenery to restore a sense of balance to your life, this is truly the best dish to prove to yourself that you have done something great and deserve an edible pat on the back. It was the meal I ate after finishing my master’s degree and the meal I ate before starting the first job of my career. It should probably be one of the meals I currently eat to commend myself for simply existing as a pregnant person (did you know how bad the whole world smells all the time? So bad.)
If shelling out for prime rib in a restaurant simply isn’t within your capacity right now, fear not for purchasing a similar cut and preparing a comparable version to Tavola’s masterpiece at home can be accomplished for a fraction of the price (trust me, I actually did the math and it comes in at less than half the price of eating this steak in public). Identifying a good butcher who can walk you through the perfect steak for this recipe is imperative to feeling confident that you’ve purchased a steak worthy of a Tavola tribute.
My personal go-to butcher shop is Windsor Quality Meats on Main Street, but excellent butchers can be found scattered throughout the city. I’ve typically stuck with a bone-in rib-eye when I’m opting for an occasion special enough to splurge on a cut of red meat (for Earth reasons, this is something we should probably all be considering as more of a “sometimes treat”). This time though, I decided to try a beast of a dry-aged prime rib steak, one which weighed in at 36 beefy ounces and gave me a sense of deep comfort as I felt the weight of it wrapped in butcher’s paper between my hands. Both cuts – when sourced from a quality butcher shop – are mouth-wateringly luxurious, but the prime rib steps it up to the point of causing your eyes to briefly roll back into your skull.
Source note: The salsa verde comes adapted from the home cook’s tome, The Food Lab, by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. The general process for cooking the meat comes from Rick Martinez and his infallible grill wisdom.
Grilled Rib Steak w/ Salsa Verde
Serves at least 3 (4 if there is an additional side dish)
2 – 2 ½-inch thick bone-in prime rib or rib-eye steak, ~2 lb
2 tsp kosher salt, divided (Diamond Crystal – check equivalent if using Morton)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper + more to serve
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon), to serve
Salsa and Accompaniments:
1 medium shallot, very finely diced
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ cup very finely chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil + more to dress arugula
1 tbsp capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped (optional)
3 anchovy fillets, very finely chopped
Red pepper flakes, to taste
A few generous handfuls of baby arugula (or more if desiring extra vegetation)
Juice of ½ small lemon
¼ cup freshly shaved parmesan cheese (use a vegetable peeler)
Crusty bread, for juice moppin’
Snip off any strings that may be around the steak. Place the meat on a wire rack set on a large plate or small baking sheet. Pat the meat dry on both sides with paper towel and season with ½ tsp kosher salt on each side. Chill uncovered for at least 1 hour and up to 3. Remove the steak from the refrigerator 1 hour prior to cooking and let come to room temperature. Before grilling, pat the meat dry again with paper towel. Season with another ½ tsp kosher salt per side and ½ tsp black pepper per side. At some point while your meat is either chilling or de-chilling, it’s a good idea to get all of the ingredients prepared and ready for your salsa verde (the first 7 ingredients listed under ‘Salsa and Accompaniments’) since you’ll be assembling it right before serving.
Heat a gas grill to high, leaving one burner on low (this is your cool zone). Sear the steak for 4 minutes per side over the high heat burners with the lid of the grill open (unless it is VERY windy out) until you have beautiful grill marks. If a major flare-up occurs, use tongs to gently slide the steak to the cool zone, but ideally the grill will be so hot that the fat sears quickly instead of slowly melting and dripping down.
After doing the 4 minutes per side on high, gently transfer the steak to the cool zone and cook for another 4-6 minutes per side, this time with the lid down (longer time for thicker steaks, less time for thinner). You can rotate the steak 90 degrees when transferring it to the low heat burner in order to achieve crosshatched grill marks, though these make no difference to flavour, just aesthetics. Using tongs, place the steak on its side (still on the cool zone) and sear the fat for 1 – 1 ½ minutes; you’ll probably have to hold it in place while you do this. Repeat with the other side, as well as with the “fat cap” end (do for closer to 1 minute if your steak is closer to 2 inches). The thickness of the steak will dictate the amount of time allotted to cooking each side, as will the cook that you like on your steak (rare or medium-rare – there are no other choices). My steak was nearly a full 2 ½ inches thick and the total cook time to get it to rare was 24 minutes, as I did the longer cook time for each side (on the cool zone) and when searing the fat sides/cap. There are so many purported ways out there to gauge the internal temperature of a steak without poking a thermometer into it, so if you feel comfortable using one of those methods to determine the doneness of your meat, go for it (I feel like I’m finally doing well with the version that involves poking the webbing between your thumb and pointer finger). If a thermometer would help you feel more comfortable, pull the steak off at ~110-115 degrees for rare or ~120-125 degrees for medium-rare. Rest the steak for ~10 minutes.
While the steak rests, get the salsa ready by placing the shallot and red wine vinegar in a small bowl; let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile in a separate small bowl combine the parsley, olive oil, and capers (if using) along with a generous pinch of salt. Mash in the chopped anchovies with a fork to combine. Use a fork to strain the shallot from the vinegar and stir into parsley mixture; taste and decide how much (if any) of the leftover red wine vinegar you want to add in – a couple small spoonfuls is quite perfect, in my opinion. Taste again and add in red pepper flakes to your liking (start with a pinch).
Place the steak on a large carving board and carefully cut away the bone. Save for gnawing or making beef stock (or perhaps even for the luckiest dog on the planet – not mine!) Slice the meat crosswise using a very sharp knife and transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and black pepper. Spoon salsa verde over the sliced steak. Place a few handfuls of arugula alongside the meat and drizzle the leaves lightly with olive oil and lemon juice. Scatter the arugula with parmesan shavings. Place the crusty bread, torn into hunks, within arm’s reach. Devour everything with an unnecessary sense of urgency.