Ever sit down for a steak that is so sumptuous you think about it for days after? A steak whose marbling melts like silk as it’s entering your mouth? Then, when it finally does, all your worries seem to dissolve away with it? That’s a Holstein; an iconic black-and-white breed of cattle commonly lauded for its dairy.
In America, the destiny of female Holsteins is exclusively that of lustrous milk. The males, on the other hoof, are typically destined for veal production with a life span of 14 months to 20 months.
However, Flannery Beef, a West Coast purveyor, has homed in on these steers, believing they have “won the genetic lottery”—the notion that the animal’s intrinsic makeup nurtures predominant intramuscular and thin outer layers of fat. This draw, a unique characteristic that results in ultra-marbling, has given the males a longer life and a new purpose.
The family-run steak company spans three generations, with humble beginnings as a neighborhood San Francisco shop called Bryan’s Quality Meats. “My grandfather started the company in the 1960s, and it functioned as a direct-to-consumer business, selling to the likes of Alfred Hitchcock,” says chief operating officer Katie Flannery, who works in tandem with her father, Bryan. “The word-of-mouth popularity over time led to our rise in wholesale inquiries. It’s incredible to think that we grew from the good old neighborhood family butcher to becoming the purveyor for top chefs across the country.”
Today, Michelin-starred chefs—Joshua Skenes at Angler, Kevin Meehan at Kali, and Jeremy Fox at Rustic Canyon and Birdie G’s, to name a few—pursue Holstein for its distinctive succulence and texture, and Flannery’s dry-aging process that develops the flavor so intensely it’s like reducing a sauce to a demi-glace. “It has a certain richness and umami without being greasy or too fatty,” says Meehan, who uses Flannery’s bone-in rib eye, New York, and porterhouse, and special beef blend for the lunch burger at his Los Angeles restaurant Kali.
The highly-marbled Holstein meat, beefed up from its genetic difference, results in unadulterated and juicy cuts that make an ideal canvas for celebrated dishes. At Birdie G’s in Santa Monica, chef Jeremy Fox merely applies a homemade Montreal meat rub to grilled rib eye. “Sliced and served simply with lemon squeezies,” says Fox. “You can add on sauces if you like, but it’s so good off the grill with just lemon.”
When collaborating with chefs, Katie and her father delve into the process with great regard: conversing and educating along the way. “We meet in the middle and have a dialogue about their ultimate vision for a dish,” says Katie of their process with chefs. “We pepper in a response about various textures and portion sizes of different cuts. It’s really fun to be a part of.”
Sign, seared, delivered
Same goes for home cooks. Flannery dubs its Holstein variety California Reserve to illuminate the derivation of its product. Among a short list of purveyors specializing in the often-overlooked Holstein breed, Flannery sources directly from farms in Southern California, ensuring strong, reliable, and consistent relationships. “It’s important to know where the meat comes from,” says Fox. “Instead of just [using] factory-farmed meat that changed hands many times before it goes into a grocery store.”
Many home cooks take to full-service markets for their steaks, which often lack variety and specialty cuts. A growing segment of connoisseurs, however, seek specialized goods online even if that means losing face-to-face contact. In the case of Flannery Beef, it serves as a “virtual butcher counter,” as if it were still that corner shop way back when. “If a customer at home is on the fence between two different steaks, we’ll spend as much time as we need to discuss the virtues of each cut,” Katie says. “We ask the customer how they plan to prepare it, who are they serving, and what are their expectations.”
Beef Up Your Dinner
For the impending holidays, don’t fret over lavish entertaining. A club roast is a feasible alternative that still sears with indulgence. “[It’s] one of the easiest roasts to cook and carve,” Katie says. “And it’s slightly larger in width than a tenderloin roast, but with the rich flavor of a New York.” It’s the perfect base for anything from traditional peppercorn sauce to chimichurri. Extravagance should have no bounds, especially in the marbling of meat.
“Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money,” Fox recalls. “Occasionally we would have steak, and my mom would get the best steak we could find. She’d tell us, ‘If you’re going to get steak, get the best steak or just don’t eat steak.’”
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