It was six weeks since my birthday, but so what. I knew what I had in store.
My brother, unlike me, is a hard-working businessman. That means he goes on the odd business trip. Most often to Stockholm, Sweden. And Stockholm, through Östermalms saluhall (and here I’ll make a contentious claim), is home to the world’s best beef.
The meat is called “Guldkött” or “Gold meat”, with reason. The butcher, Willy Ohlsson, has an unusual way of treating his beef, as you can see in this film (Swedish only, but you’ll get an idea from the pictures). First, he selects the very best beef. You would think that would be from a young steer, but at Willy Ohlsson they disagree. They like to use cow meat, preferably from a cow that has had a few calves. The grain of the meat is finer, and the marbling better.
But even the best meat will turn to nothing unless it’s treated right. After selection, the Guldkött is dry aged for four weeks. After four weeks it is dipped in rendered beef fat, and aged for a further four weeks. The meat is then trimmed and a beautiful ruby jewel emerges from the rough-looking, time-ridden slab of meat. Oh, and it costs around 1,500 Swedish kroner (US$225) per kilo.
It was one of these jewels that my brother had brought me. I unwrapped it, my heart pounding, I was a five-year-old at Christmas. And there it was in my palm, resting on waxed white paper. A thick-cut rib-eye steak just shy of half a kilo. It smelled musky and meaty, but also fresh, like yoghurt. It was a blushing red, white-marbled thing of beauty. I admired it for a while. A tear came to my eye.
“Thank you”, I said and gave my brother a hug.
Later I called my friend Espen. I hadn’t seen him in a while and the Swedish mother of his child doesn’t eat meat. I thought that he deserved some carnivorous pleasure from Sweden, the country that had taken so much of it away from him.
On Wednesday evening Espen rang the door bell, bearing a bottle of wine. The steak had been on the counter for a couple of hours in preparation of grilling. I had planned a simple meal. Grilled steak, a baked potato, an undressed green salad, Maldon sea salt. Nothing was going to get in the way of the meat.
I heated my cast-iron grill pan until it was smoking hot and grilled the meat quickly on each side.
When the steak was seared, I put it in the oven at 175°C, with a digital thermometer set at 50°C. When the thermometer beeped, I took out the meat and rested it for ten minutes, loosely covered in foil.
I cut the steak across the grain. It was perfectly cooked. Golden brown and caramelized, almost crispy on the outside. A deep, juicy red on the inside.
It was truffles, it was butter, it was Roquefort, it was foie gras. It was tender, but not without substance. It was heady, but not overpowering.
It was Guldkött.
We drank some wine. And some more. When the wine bottle was gone, we moved on to aquavit, listened to record after record and behaved as if we weren’t both parents of toddlers, as if we didn’t both have to get up at five thirty the next morning.
But we did. Oh boy did we have to.
Edit: My brother informed that me he is 50% nicer than I thought. The actual price was 1,500 kroners/kg, not 1,000. This has been corrected.