Beef is red meat most influenced by the feed of the cattle or the way of grazing. Beef differs from baby beef by stronger colours and fat of the meat. Meat is dark red, and the fatty tissue is yellowish. Beef is older than 14 months, and depending on the part of the beef and the weight of the meat piece, the length of cooking differs. Given that the butchers’ most often sell fresh beef, before preparation, meat is left to rest a little bit, whether in wet vacoom, marinade, or simply in the fridge so that it gains some softness.
There is almost no part of beef for which a world’s renowned culinary master-piece is not conceived, whether it is steak, goulash, sauces, carpiccio, steak tartare, hamburger, casserole dishes, soups, fillings for tortilla or raviola, and most inspiring delights have been made from the most demanding parts of beef like cheek, tail or tongue.
As beef preparation requires “past service” in the culinary job, we decided to look for advice from chefs who disclosed to us all the methods of preparation of beef. Given that a menu opens with a starter, we have started the culinary story from the beginning. In the heart of Varaždin, gourmets can enjoy the Verglec Restaurant in which, in addition to the local cuisine, one can taste other most renowned gastronomic classical dishes. Chef Zdenka Pajtak organised a mini school for the preparation of steak tartare for us, and we also learned how to prepare beef tongue.
"The most famous dishes that are prepared from beef fillet include beefsteak and steak tartare. Steak tartare is traditionally prepared in front of the guest by the waiter, however before its on-site final processing the meat should have stayed in marinade. So, first, we clean the beef fillet from fat and venatio, and marinate it in black pepper, salt, mustard and oil. Such marinated fillet should stay in the fridge for at least four to five days. Before the guest, meat is chopped finely or cut into tiny pieces almost to the level of spread on a wooden plate, and such processed meat is lightly added up with other ingredients. Of other ingredients, the steak tartare includes mayonnaise, finely chopped red onion and garlic, salt, black pepper, ground red pepper – hot and sweat, Worcester sauce, Tabasco sauce, caper, anchovies, lemon juice, cognac, and chilli. The guest tastes tartar during preparation and according to his/her taste, the waiter doses the ingredients. When it is ready, the dish is served on a fried toast, on which we first spread butter and then put steak tartare."
For another starter, we tasted sliced beef tongue.
"We always supply the tongue dried and smoked. We first boil it for about an hour and a half, depending on the weight – they quite often weigh one kilogram or a kilogram and a half. We should also add root vegetables in the water in which the tongue is boiled. During boiling, it is important to check whether the tongue is ready; you should only do this with a wooden stick because a metallic one would leave black traces on the meat. When the tongue is over, we have to peel the membrane and let it cool. It is also good to marinate the tongue in oil and leave it in the refrigerator to rest for a couple of days to soften. We serve it on a bed of fresh lettuce and always with the horseradish sauce."
A restaurant situated on the Međimurje Wine Road and the Road of Tradition, the family-run Međimurski Dvori mainly offers traditional dishes from Međimurje adapted to the seasonal offer of the foodstuffs as part of its basic offer and main menu. The Međimurski dvori picnic area and restaurant is a choice of many families who organise their family celebrations here, and on those occassions traditionally cooked beef is served as a hot starter. The owner of the restaurant and chef Tatjana Martinjaš shared with us how they prepare it and what other beef specialities they offer.
"In our menu, we offer beef as a main course, we prepare beef ragu and beef goulash accompanied with traditional side dishes such as trganci and šiškrlini (home-made pasta) or home-made cheese or potatoes croquettes. A holiday starter of the kitchen of Međimurje without which no holiday lunch can be imagined is the cooked beef. We actually cook the beef in soup. First, we put the meat to cook in salty boiling water and after the water starts boiling and creating foam, we take the beef out, change the water and put vegetables in it: carrots, celery, onion, leek, parsnip and garlic, and then we add salt, black pepper and cook it up to two hours. After an hour and a half of cooking, we take the beef out from the soup and chill the meat in cold water. We cut the cold beef into slices, pour hot soup over it and cover it with foil, and warm it in the oven until served. We cut the cooked beef, arrange it on a hot serving platter or a plate, sprinkle with cut parsley or chives. We serve the cooked beef with optional side dishes: for formal lunch, we recommend it with cooked vegetaables: carrots, Brussels sprouts, leek and sauce of horseradish and sour cream, dill or tomato and basil."
A very sincere restaurant, the Fortica Tavern, has nestled in small charming alleys of the beautiful town of Kastav, with a view of the Kvarner Bay. The culinary team led by the chef and owner of the restaurant, Željko Markus, has devised a simple menu that offers the best ingredients from Istria prepared in the spirit of the local culinary traditions. And the greatest pride of Istria and Kvarner is the indigenous cattle boškarin, and for specialties made of boškarin at the Fortica you have to wait for a place more.
"We prepare beef in our restaurant, but not the beef of any kind since we always point out that the boškarin meat cannot be compared to other beef. Except of being our local Istrian cattle, the diet and grazing of boškarin give the meat a completely different structure, smell and taste. Boškarin is fed only with hay and its meat literally smells like grass. From beef, we prepare dry-aged rib-eye steaks and rump steaks. We also prepare the tail, cheeks and shank of the boškarin. Actually, we prepare everything by the sous-vide method of cooking, i.e. in the vacuum, or the vacuum bag. We dry-age the steaks from 40 to 60 days, depending on the size. We dry-age them by putting them in a wet vacuum. We dry-age the beefsteaks from 20 to 28 days, depending on the size, but they are usually from 2 to 2.5 kilos. The vacuum is changed at least two times per a dry-ageing cycle. We put only meat without spices in the wet vacuum, except when we prepare carpaccio from boškarin that is dry-aged up to five days. For it, we make marinade with the Kvarner’s herbs, and for the marinade, we use rosemary, laurel, bay-leaf or crithum if available, we sometimes use lavender, then we put salt in the quantity of two percent of the whole quantity and we do not change the vacuum and keep it on the temperature between 4 and 8 degrees."
The main specialty of the Oštrija is beef cheeks and their guests book a place even several weeks in advance for them.
"First we fry the meat fast on olive oil, we add salt, take it out, cool it and put it in the vacuum bag. Along with the meat, we put teran (grape) and root vegetables. We vaccuum all on 72 degrees. The meat is cooked in the vacuum for 16 to 18 hours. When the meat is cooked, we put it for slow cooling, and all the ingredients from the bag are mashed and strained through a strainer in order to get a silky sauce. We serve the beef cheeks with home-made potato gnocchi with a glass of teran or plavac wines."
Whether you have reserved the upcoming days for showing your culinary skills or you decided to go to a restaurant, beef is certainly the classical dish of all the times.