What other major American city besides Omaha is defined by one specific food? No, we couldn’t think of one either, meaning when it happens, you know it’s got to be the best. And so it is with Omaha and steaks and the company who put them all together–Omaha Steaks. Long known for producing tender, tasty, grain-fed, hand-cut steaks, Omaha Steaks also is a fine purveyor of seafood, pork, lamb, chicken and such starters and sides as Filet Mignon Pastry Bites, Steakhouse Cauliflower Au Gratin and Mini-Lobster Grilled Cheese.
As a serious carnivore, I was extremely lucky–and enthused–when asked to join a group of food and travel writers in a Zoom tour of the Omaha food scene where city’s famed steaks reign supreme. The webinar, organized by Visit Omaha’s Director of Communications, Tracie McPherson, was also sponsored by Omaha Steaks. Designed to introduce us to the city’s food scene, we met (virtually, of course) three of the city’s best chefs who shared tips and recipes on how to prepare what are considered the best of the best when it comes to quality meat.
But first a little history.
During the webinar, we learned that Omaha beef history dates back to 1862 when a Wyoming rancher asked a group of Omaha businessmen to consider creating a stockyard. Though it ended up being a boon for Omaha, the rancher had a mercenary motive as well. Western ranchers sending their cattle to the Stockyard Exchange Markets needed a place to feed and water their cattle as they made their way east. Omaha, located right on the banks of the Missouri River, was bountiful in corn and grass making it perfect for plumping up the cattle ensuring a higher price. Besides that, the city also was a growing transportation hub as the Union Pacific Railroad was expanding west making it perfect for a stockyard. So perfect that by 1890, Omaha Union Stockyards were ranked third in the United States for production. By 1910, the operations had 20,000 animals arriving daily. It was more than feeding and watering the cattle on their way to east coast markets, Omaha had become the market.
And now the chefs and their steak preparation methods.
We met Chef Nick Strawhecker, owner/chef of Dante, who who trained in Europe and specializes in authentic, wood-fired Neapolitan pizza and rustic Italian cuisine. Cultivating relationships with growers and producers throughout the Midwest, his menu is seasonally driven. He also owns one of the few restaurants in the country that has pizza certified by the Italian Government.
Dante– Chef Nick Strawhecker
Steak Cut: 20 oz. Bone-in Ribeye
- Temper steak for about two hours, prefer room temperature
- Season with fresh cracked black pepper and diamond crystal salt
- Prepare in a hot cast iron pan with olive oil
- Placed steak in wood-fired oven
- Internal temperature of steak should read 115 degrees to 120 degrees (rare to medium rare)
- Let steak rest then cut across grain
The steak sandwiches are served with a variety of condiments like Fresh mushrooms, pickled vegetables, different sauces etc. Very versatile that can feed a crowd.
Chef Nick’s Tip: At home, the key is a good cast iron skillet that you preheat on a stove, oven or grill.
Chef Jake Newton of V. Mertz learned to cook from his mother and after high school, attended Johnson & Wales University in Denver before moving to Europe where he worked and dined in some of the world’s best restaurants. Now he’s head chef for V. Mertz, part of Omaha’s culinary scene for more than 40 years, which is ocated in Omaha’s historic Old Market Entertainment District.
Steak: Boneless Ribeye
- Start with a very dry steak by removing all of the moisture
- Season with a liberal amount of salt and cracked black pepper
- Sear steak on the hottest service possible to create that crust and caramelization on the steak.
- Once steak has the nice exterior crust, let it rest for 5-7 minutes, the goal is to cool the external temperature to be less than what you desire the internal temperature.
- Finish steak in a hot oven (450 degrees) for about 5 minutes (depending on your oven) until you reach desired internal temperature
- Final resting period is around 15 minutes
Chef Jake’s Tips:
- Use canola oil in pan, it heats nice and hot
- Move pan to another hot spot to keep the temperature of the pan high
According to our presententer, that Chef Colin Duggan and his wife Jessica, owner of Kitchen Table, make the kind of food that changes the way you eat. Before moving back to Omaha to open their restaurant, the couple spent time in San Francisco perfecting their culinary skills. Kitchen Table’s menu changes almost daily and is full of locally-raised seasonal food. Almost everything, including bread and jam, is made in house. The crew makes a Snack Mix of house bacon, candied nuts, and house popcorn that should come with a warning: highly addictive.
Steak Cut: Teres Major (very versatile and large enough to have several servings)
Made three meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Trim silverskin of the steak but leave some of the fat
- Prepare pan with butter and herbs (unintelligible due to connectivity)
- Season steak with in-house seasonings
- Use very hot cast iron pan to create sear and crust on steak
- Cook eggs and vegetables on grill. Seasons with oil after cooking to absorb flavor
- Steak salad with housemade Greek Goddess dressing and Kitchen Table seasoning
- Jerk Spiced steak with marinated tomatoes
- Same Cooking method for steak
- Use reductions to accompany steak
Chef Colin’s Tip: Season steak up to 12 hours prior to cooking to infuse maximum flavor
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