For some time now I've been having one craving. Not chocolate, not sugar, not even bread. I've been craving giant, fat-marbled, melt-in-your-mouth meat cooked to rare perfection with a sear so caramelized it almost makes you cry. I want smoky cuts of brisket, giant slabs of a fatty ribeye and a porterhouse so big it would make me dizzy just to behold it. But how, in our little Cairo, do I satisfy this craving?
In the interest of full disclosure, I actually grew up in Texas and make my way there at least once a year if I can afford it. This is the reason I laughed when Time said Lucille's had the best burger in the world and why I shrug my shoulders at eating steak in Cairo. Nothing really compares to real grass-fed beef (steak, burger, or otherwise) served to you by a waitress in red leather boots at a steakhouse that's been open for the better part of the century.
For years I'd been making my way to Charwood's for a good cut of beef. Anything they cook from the tenderloin doesn't disappoint, but they don't offer much else aside from a ribeye that's rarely ever available and most of the time chewy and unpleasant. I've even taken to going to Steak Out due to their much better ribeye and on-point cooking (your steak will never be under or overcooked.) But it hasn't been enough.
By far, the best steak you will ever have is one you make yourself — if you have a good cut of meat. That, in essence, is my problem.
Very rarely do I ever find a good cut of steak in Egypt. Tenderloin is nice and all, but how much lean meat can you really eat without getting that hankering for a marbled sirloin or even a cheaper flatiron steak? You may find the occasional ribeye at Carrefour (cut much thinner than I would like, but typically good) and some cuts you'll find at Gourmet if you don't mind paying through the nose for completely tasteless Australian beef.
There was the time I ordered a tenderloin from my mother's butcher. With it, he sent me a giant cut of indiscernible meat my mother just called lahma (meat). "Well, what cut is this?" I asked her. "What do you mean what cut? It's meat," she said.
"Do you at least know where on the cow it came from? The shoulder, the shank, the flank?"
My mother then looked at me like my face had turned green. "It's just meat, cut it up and cook it."
I'm not really an expert on meat. I can kind of tell what cut is what by looking at it, but not always. I can tell a filet from a ribeye, a tri-tip from a flank, but beyond that I'm lost. So I took the lahma, I seared it and slow cooked it within an inch of its life in a pot roast. It was delicious. But who knows if it could have been incredible pan-fried and sliced too?
To be completely frank, I don't have much to add to this meat debacle. I don't have a special butcher who can give me a good brisket or prime rib, I don't know anywhere in Egypt that will serve more cuts than filet and ribeye and I don't know what to do about it.
Readers, help me out, here. Have someone you know who cuts a mean steak? Know of a gem of a restaurant that serves up a good London broil? How about a rich entrepreneur willing to invest in some grass-fed cows and a butchering license for me so I can open my own steak house? What? A girl can dream, can't she?
In the meantime, if you want to give yourself a little meat education, try this interactive guide from Primer Magazine. For now, I will have to get my proper meat fixes when I head back home and Cairo will remain sadly beef barren.