30-day aged Akaushi ribeye from Sam & Harry's in Schaumburg
Ever since the beef industry started feeding cattle corn - thus fattening them quickly and efficiently - it has been at the forefront of promoting the "fat equals flavor" mantra. Thus, if USDA-graded Prime beef has the most marbling, it follows that anything with more marbling/fat would have more flavor, right? That's where the Japanese cattle ranchers come into the picture.
At first, there was Kobe. This import refers to the prefecture in Japan where a particular type of pampered cattle comes from. The cattle is fed a grain mash containing beer and sake, and results in extra-fatty cattle with more marbling than Moby Dick. These boys don't spend a lot of time running around the pasture and staying in shape. This particular type of cattle has been raised in America the past few years, but since it's not coming from that particular area in Japan, it's referred to as Wagyu. Sometimes restaurants will really try to pull one over on you, and call their beef "domestic Kobe" since that name has more caché, even if you don't live in L.A. Either way, the marbling is intense; when you look at a raw steak, it's more white than red, which indicates there'll be a hell of a lot of fat being rendered once it hits heat. Throw it on a gas grill, and you're likely to have a grease fire on your hands.
Enter Akaushi. This red Japanese cattle has marbling along the lines of Prime-graded beef, and has, for the last year or so, been raised and bred in Texas, under the HeartBrand Beef label. The company imported a half-dozen or so bulls and heifers a few years ago and began a strict regimen for raising them and monitoring their reproduction. The company claims the beef is 100% natural (no hormones or antibiotics) and also a good source of monounsaturated fat. In our area, Sam & Harry's has been one of the only restaurants to start using this particular breed. Located in the Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg, the chain steakhouse has been experimenting with Akaushi for the past couple of weeks. Rather than grill it, the steaks are pan-fried, drained of excess fat, then draped with browned butter, fresh thyme and garlic. Served medium rare, these extra-rich, beefy cuts are borderline fatty, but they aren't as overwhelming as most Kobe versions I've tried. You can see how they cook these new imports after 11:30 a.m. today, right here on the ABC 7 website.