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Best To Leave That A-1 Sauce in the 'Fridge!

If you have been oil field gate guarding long enough,  you will discover one of the job perks is food.   At least down here in the South Texas Eagle Ford Shale  it is. Just finding a decent place to eat can be a real challenge so I guess part of the solution to keeping the rig boys working productively is just to bring the food to them.   Good food etiquette also means including the gate guards as well.  I don’t know who started that custom but you will hear no complaining from us.

The other day the area boss for the vacuum trucks that haul out of here daily stopped on his way out.  By the time I was out of the door, he had the lid cracked on his White Yeti Cooler that you see all over the oil patch down here.  Out came two packages wrapped in white butcher paper;  “Enjoy the steaks!”  John said as he got back in his Superduty and drove out the gate.

Dry aged on the right

Miss Kathy and I waited until the weekend to break out the Weber Q 200 Gas Grill. I took the 2 T-bone steaks out of the wrapper and got quite a surprise. The steaks were dry aged and it had been forever since I had seen one.  We can barely afford a cheap strip steak these days —  much less a premium steak. I f you want to get an idea of the cost of these steaks- Dry Aged Porterhouse Steak 2 Steaks – 32 oz each    I told her to forego any marinade,  just a little salt and pepper and we would be good to go.  Now, Miss K is not a big steak eater.  Hell, she is not a big eater period but she just doesn’t get all worked up about a steak.  She usually will eat 4 or 5 bites and then I get the rest for lunch the next day.  Not this time, she ate every danged bite of the one inch thick t-bone and at one point I think I even saw her gnawing on the bone. She said that steak was possibly the best steak she had ever had in her life.  So I had to tell her the story of how I knew it was a dry aged steak when I saw it.

Elm Grove Shopping Center- Looks like some time during the 1940's

You may be shocked to learn I have not always lived in Texas.  About 20 years ago I scrawled ‘GTT’ on the door of the place in Newnan,GA and well, here I am.  We grew up in Tennessee, My Bro and me, and we spent the last seven years of school living in Oak Ridge which is over by Knoxville and famous in its’ own right.  I got my first ‘real’ job at 15 or so as a bag boy at a small mom and pop Piggly Wiggly grocery store.

I worked hard there all the way through the remainder of High School and I learned plenty.  One of the draws to that store was they had an old fashioned meat market replete with a skilled butcher.   His name was Kyle and he was quite the character.  I googled him up this morning and it appears he is still alive at 88 years old.  I hope he is still enjoying a good, full life.  I looked up to and respected Kyle because he was always the gentleman, always a hit with the ladies and a truly skilled butcher.  Back then, the cuts of beef did not come in little tubs that allow them to be stacked in refrigerated trucks and trucked in from 100’s of miles away.   You ever wonder why all the Wal-mart meat is in those deep little tubs?  Well, there ya go  — all the butcher at Wal Mart does is put it on the shelf.   He is about as much a butcher as Tuco the Dog is a flying pig.

Kyle would order his beef just a few steps removed from still eatin’ grass.  They delivered sides of beef  to us at the store.    A half of a cow that looked more like a cow than it did a t-bone or a chuck roast at that point.   They would tote those sides in on their shoulders and hang them on a meat hook in the cooler.  Kyle would get out his big sharp butcher knife and his sharpening steel and go whick whick whick fast as you could blink an eye –  knife against steel.  I can still remember the sound.   Then he would set to work  separating that side of beef into various cuts.

I guess over the years I got to be a fair butcher’s helper.  I learned the basic cuts of meat and how to make hamburger meat and such but I had no real talent for the trade.   Kyle was the one who knew his business and I enjoyed watching a true master tradesman at work.  I wish now that I had paid closer attention.  One of Kyle’s real talents was dry aging the choicer cuts of beef. Well, that and sweet talkin’ the ladies.

Dry aging is nothing more than letting the cut of beef hang in the cooler until as much as 50% of the moisture in the meat evaporated and the connective tissue breaks down.  I think there is some bacterial action involved as well.  The expertise comes in by gauging when the meat is at its’ peak of tenderness and flavor.  Their is no rote time to age the beef as every cut of beef is different.   Kyle could tell; he just knew.  He would run his hand down the outside of the cut to gauge how much of a rind it had developed.  He would smell it.  He would take the ball of his thumb and press it into the round or loin to feel the give.

You know what made it all the more amazing?  Kyle was about 85%  or more blind.  Yep, he had glasses that made the bottom of a coke bottle look negligibly thick by comparison.  He had a huge magnifying glass that he used with the glasses to read in somewhat of a fashion.  The fact he still had all his fingers was a testament to his skill.   Over the years, his blindness advanced and I was called back to the meat counter more and more to set the numbers on the meat scale to print the ticket that went on the meat tray or to read out the weight on the weigh scale.  When I finally moved on, Kyle was still back behind the meat counter doing what he loved best.

The good news is John stopped by on Monday and didn’t forget about Miss K and I.  We will grill up two more steaks and a pair of baked sweet potatoes on the 4th.

End Note:   Grainger County   by Nathan Hamilton from the Tuscola cd.

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Best To Leave That A-1 Sauce in the 'Fridge!, 9.9 out of 10 based on 10 ratings
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5 comments to Best To Leave That A-1 Sauce in the ‘Fridge!

  • Joel

    Andy, I just emailed you a pic of you working at the P-W.

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  • David

    Hi Andy,

    My first real job in Oak Ridge, after I gave up my Oak Ridger paper route in Woodland, was pumping gas and washing cars (plus an occasional oil change) at Downtown American, on the Turnpike next to McDonalds.

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  • Libby

    In fact, I used to eat lunch every Sunday at the Elm Grove Drug Store, right next to that Piggly Wiggly! I remember you working at that grocery store. Simpler times for sure….but you’re still making good times Andy! Thanks for sharing them!

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    • Andrew

      Connie Burris made the best grilled ham and cheese sandwich EVER there.

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