Chef Billy Oliva sat down with me in 2019 to talk about the way they make their awesome ribeyes at legendary New York City restaurant, Delmonico's. Interview appears below, after the tempting recipe!
Delmonico Ribeye with Herb Butter
Makes 2 to 4 servings (It's a lot of food.)
Two 20-ounce ribeye steaks
1/2 cup (1 stick) fresh unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/2 small shallot, minced
A few squeezes of fresh lemon juice
Canola olive oil blend
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Let the meat sit out for 30 to 45 minutes before you season. Heat oven to 450°F.
While steaks sit, in a small bowl, combine butter, chives, shallots, ground pepper, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Roll into small log, cover in plastic, put in freezer to firm up (but not freeze solid), about 30 minutes. Salt and pepper steaks generously all over, set aside.
In cast iron or other heavy oven-proof skillet, add a few tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Using tongs, sear all over, including sides, about 7 minutes total.
Place pan with steaks in upper half of oven, about 5 minutes each side (flip once) for medium rare, 8 minutes each side (flip once) for medium. Ovens may vary.
Rest out of oven for 10 minutes.
Cut butter in half if serving 2 persons, or more, depending. Top steaks with butter.
Heat butter on top of steaks in oven for 1 minute, serve.
An interview with Executive Chef Billy Oliva of Delmonico's, June 4, 2019.
Billy Oliva is one of America's top chefs, helming the country's first fine-dining restaurant, Delmonico's. The legendary institution, older than the Statue of Liberty, is the birthplace of Lobster Newburg, Baked Alaska, Eggs Benedict, and of course, the Delmonico Rib Eye. Chef Billy and his culinary expertise are regularly featured on national food and entertainment programs. He focuses on keeping menus current with seasonal, farm-to-table ingredients. The Delmonico brothers were actually pioneers of the farm-to-table concept when they first opened in the 19th century.
My first question is about steak because we know you’re the King of Steak. What are the essential things to know if you’re cooking a steak using your stovetop and oven at home?
Buy the best beef. It’s graded select, choice, and prime, prime being best. Go to a good butcher. Get choice or prime. The rib eye, which is the classic Delmonico cut, has a high fat content, is highly marbled, which is best in terms of flavor and taste. And when we say fat and marbling, we're talking about striations of white that run through the meat. In terms of cooking that in a pan, beef takes very well to a good cast iron skillet. And beef needs to be at room temperature. Very important, you never take it out of the refrigerator and slap it right into the pan. No. It will tighten up and lose a lot of juice. Room temperature beef's going to relax.
Once the steak hits the pan we leave it alone.
Next is seasoning. Home cooks need to season properly. Salt is key, a good quality salt. I'm not talking about iodized table salt. You want a kosher or a sea salt, which a lot of people at home don't have. Then for cooking steaks in a cast iron pan, we always start with a little bit of oil. I like to use about two tablespoons of a blended canola-olive. And once the steak hits the pan, we leave it alone. Once you have a nice caramelized brown color, then you flip it once. You want to get that same sear on the other side.
Now, depending on cooking temperature, a rare or a medium-rare steak's not going to go in an oven to finish. It'll be finished on top in the pan. Once you flip it, you can always make it taste better, right? We’re going to take two tablespoons of a high-fat European butter, a clove of garlic, some fresh thyme, and all that's going to go into that pan with the seared steak to baste.
Would you pepper when you're doing your salt?
Yes. We use a whole black pepper here to start, and white pepper, and kosher salt. We finish with Morton’s sea salt and La Boîte Pierre Poivre. The Poivre peppercorns are almost floral, not spicy. Then remember, when you take it out of the pan, the steak's still cooking. You need to rest it, ten minutes. Resting is the number one thing people don't do.
What would be one of your favorite summer cookout-type side dishes?
I grew up with a very Italian background. My father was Sicilian. So one of the things that was always around was cold pasta. Tortellini was a favorite. With pesto or olive oil, artichokes. In the summertime, it'd be tomatoes, basil.
If you had to improve some sort of traditional, warm weather recipe for cocktail hour, like deviled eggs or cocktail weenies, what would you do?
One of the most requested things in this restaurant is cocktail franks. So, a cool way to dress them up, we will take a caramelized onion mix, sauerkraut, and mustard and do a stuffed pigs in a blanket.
That sounds outstanding! Delmonico's is famous for originating popular dishes. What recipe of your own have you added that you think might become one of those enduring favorites?
The house-cured bacon that we do. It's cured in a maple bourbon. It's then smoked for about 9, 10 hours. And then it's sous vide, and then it's glazed. It's fork tender. You don't need a knife to cut it. We ran that as a special here, and the response was ridiculous. We could probably never take that off the menu. It's just turned into a thing that people expect.
Who was the best cook in your family, and why?
I'm going to say my mom.
What made her stand out? Was it her work ethic, her curiosity, her technique?
Her work ethic. We used to have sometimes 30 or 40 people over. She was good at organizing and getting stuff done.
Is there anything else you'd tell the home cook to make their dishes better?
When you're baking, you need to follow the recipe. Cooking fish or chicken or steak, you have your ingredients. If you like more garlic, you can add more garlic. You know, there's nothing set in stone. I tell people here all the time, and I've even said it to you, I make it up as I go along sometimes. And that doesn't hurt.