Beefsteak Dungeon


I purchased Secret Ingredients, The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink because it collected an eclectic mix of food writing by some of the most interesting American writers like Woody Allen, Dorothy Parker, Steve Martin, Calvin Trillin and even a surreal piece by Roald Dahl.

But what attracted me was a 1939 piece by Joseph Mitchell entitled “All You Can Hold For Five Bucks”. It was an exposé on the New York steak dinner or “Beefsteak”. It lamented how the whole beefsteak dungeon (as the underground cellars where the action was were called) scene was ruined in 1920 when it allowed women who insisted on better manners, fancy salads and cocktails. And it defined the different styles of Beefsteak into the West and East side schools.

I won’t go into it in detail as I strongly recommend that you get a copy of the book to read. However, the essay contained intriguing tidbits on cooking and serving the beefsteaks, so there’s no helping but to duplicate this delicious beefsteak dinner.

Best I can do with a home stove

New York East Side School of Beefsteak

As a home cook in a small flat, I don’t have the trappings to do the more elaborate West Side School of beefsteak as it also requires lobster, hickory wood and other things. What I did here was to extract the essence of the East Side School of simple “ripened beef” served on day-old bread with a side of celery sticks and lots of good beer.

The method of cooking steak is a tried and trusted method using butter. It is French, I think. In any case, Raymond Blanc provides a very detailed step-by-step of this method in his autobiography that is repeatable with predictable and excellent results, so I’ll just provide the broad strokes where I mainly use The Force.

While it is possible, I don’t use this as an appetizer or starter because it is so delicious that it is easy to become the main course.


Ingredients: (serves 1)

  • 800g of Dry-aged* Beef Ribeye or Sirloin (yields about 9 slices)
  • 3 tbsp of Unsalted Butter
  • 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 loaf of day-old Baguette
  • Salt & Pepper

*Dry-aged beef is important in this recipe for the “ripened beef” experience.


Cooking the steak:

  1. Season the beef on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. On medium heat, place 2 tbsp of the unsalted butter into a pan and let it melt.
  3. Once the butter has melted and turned brown, place the beef in the pan. It should sizzle and smoke.
  4. Cook the beef until all sides develop a light brown crust, remove from the pan and let the beef rest for about 10 minutes.
  5. Reserve the pan juices.

Making the sauce:

  1. Pour the pan juices (consisting of brown butter and beef drippings) into a bowl.
  2. If there is insufficient liquid, add the remaining tbsp of unsalted butter and let it melt in the pan on low heat.
  3. Add the 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce into the bowl and whisk lightly to incorporate.
  4. Rest the sauce for at least 5 minutes.


  1. Cut the baguette into half-inch thick slices.
  2. Drip or brush the sauce on the baguette.
  3. Slice the beef into half-inch thick slices and lay it on top of the baguette.
  4. Serve immediately warm with lots of cold beer and optional mugs of celery sticks.


  • Tempering the beef is important, that is, you have to let the beef come to room temperature before cooking it.
  • Seasoning the beef with salt and pepper can be done just before putting it in the pan. Salting the beef too early may “cure” the beef resulting in loss of juice.
  • Browning the butter is essentially making it into a Beurre Noisette, so look out for a nutty aroma as a sign that it’s ready.
  • The beef must sizzle and smoke when you place it in the pan with the brown butter. If it doesn’t sizzle, remove the beef immediately and heat the pan some more, taking care not to burn the butter.
  • You may use any type of bread you like but I prefer a crusty baguette.

Beef jus and butter drippings


Best I can do with a home stove

Posted on 18th Nov 2011 in American, Food and Drink, French, Meat, Old School, Recipes


There Are 6 Comments


havanoe commented on November 19, 2011 at 12:25 am

hi, where can we get aged beef in singapore, cant seem to find it in the Cold storage or carrefour..



Ivan commented on November 19, 2011 at 11:14 am

@havanoe: You’ll have to go to a specialty butcher like the Swiss Butchery or QB (they have a new outlet in Tiong Bahru) for dry-aged beef. But do call first because it’s hard to get.


Su-Lin commented on November 20, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Oh my…this looks just amazing. Love the simplicity of it. I’ve got to find something to replace the celery though…


Ivan commented on November 21, 2011 at 2:19 am

@Su-Lin: Yup! There’s no where to hide with such simplicity. 🙂 I’d recommend serving a Cobb Salad instead. Somehow Carrot Sticks don’t do it for me.


Eileen commented on November 21, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Hi Ivan, this dish looks yummilicious. Btw, read that you mentioned that we can buy aged beef at QB and there is a new outlet in Tiong Bahru? Do you have an exact address for this outlet as I live nearby and would love to buy some aged beef to try making this dish!
I’ve tried googling it and cant find anything on this new outlet.
Thanks 🙂


Ivan commented on November 22, 2011 at 12:24 am

@Eileen: Thanks! It’s really easy to prepare.

I can’t remember exactly where is the QB retail outlet exactly but the boss told me it should be visible from the main road. Sorry. Will go take a walk there soon and report back.

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