Harvey’s Guss Meat Co.

Is it possible for four people to eat six pounds of porterhouse steak? When my friend, Greg, brought over said meat (handsomely profiled in a previous post, “The Emperor of Steaks”), we figured there was going to be a LOT of leftovers. There was not. Usually my wife and I eat half a pound between us. But this was some seriously good dry-aged meat. We had a first serving. Then a second… None of us could stop. This was dry-aged nirvana from the hallowed coolers of Harvey’s Guss Meat Co. in Mid City L.A.

Meat mural

Our bookkeeper, Joe Gussman, had been telling us for years to come visit his dad’s butcher shop sometime when he was working. I made a mental note but never got around to following up. But one day friend Greg asked me whether I knew of Harvey’s Guss, the fabled L.A. butcher. I connected the dots but had my wife give Joe a ring just to confirm.

Fast forward a couple months after the porterhouse, and I decided to visit Harvey’s Guss myself. I ordered two 2-inch thick rib steaks on the bone — my favorite cut. Just by chance, Harvey was out of town so Joe was in charge when I went to pick up my steaks. The place is located in a strange confluence of streets and cultures — where the Fairfax Ethiopian neighborhood abuts the old Jewish Mid City abuts mini-Tijuanas all around. If you were driving along looking for it you’d probably miss it. Was it in that apartment building I just passed, or was that a warehouse? And you can’t turn on the street where it sits, like water for thirsty Tantalus, just out of reach. So you must drive around and around until you figure your way through the labyrinth. There’s no open sign, no helpful customer service associate to assist you, you enter through a metal security door into a space where white-frocked workers are busy. They wave you in, point you to the office. That’s where Joe (or probably Harvey when he’s around) sits, sorting orders, answering the phone. This is meat at its most glorious, and meat sales at its most elementary. If you want a nice gift box, go to an Omaha Steaks boutique. If you want a bag to put your meat in, bring one.

I got a tour of the dry aging cooler, which maybe all customers get if they ask. I prefer to think it was a privilege of knowing Harvey’s son. Joe graciously consented to my filming his explanation of what I was seeing to share with you. Here it is:

Funny to think when I was younger I didn’t like steak.

In case you don’t feel like clicking over to the links page to find your own way to Harvey’s Guss, here’s the info you need: (And don’t forget, call a day ahead. The Gussmen are busy and have meat to sell…)

Harvey’s Guss Meat Co.
949 S. Ogden Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 937- 4622


The Emperor of Steaks

This blog spends a lot of time in Italy, particularly the north. (In our mind, at least, if not in reality…) And now, I humbly present the king of all carnivorous northern Italian preparations — Bistecca alla Fiorentino.

6 lbs. of dry aged porterhouse, courtesy Harvey's Guss Meat Co.

If you have a crappy steak you bought from Costco, by all means — smother it in A-1, teriyaki sauce or sauteed mushrooms. If you have a good steak or a great steak, there is no option but Fiorentino. This will be the simplest recipe I have given you yet. And perhaps the most important. Unless you are a vegetarian. This will not work with a tofu cutlet.

Bistecca alla Fiorentino

rib-eye or porterhouse steak on the bone (about 1/2 lb or more per person), cut at least 1 inch thick
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup arugula per person
sea salt & pepper

Take the steaks out of the fridge an hour before you will cook them. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.

Get the grill as hot as it will get. 600 degrees or above is good. Sear the steaks on each side, about 3 minutes per inch for medium rare. (Use a sharp steak knife to poke into the steak and make sure it is cooked to your liking.)

Here’s a neat trick my friend, Greg, taught me: On a cutting board, drizzle a little more olive oil, squeeze some lemon juice and sprinkle some salt and pepper. Remove the steaks from the grill and place on the cutting board to rest for 5 minutes. (The olive oil and lemon juice you put on the cutting board will soak into the meat when you cut it, and will bind to the meat juices so the steak will remain juicy.)

When they are done resting, slice the meat first off the bone, and then cut across the grain into 1/3 inch thick slices. Spread half a cup of arugula on each plate, arrange 4 or 5 slices of steak on top of the arugula. Squeeze lemon juice over the meat and arugula, drizzle some olive oil over the top as well. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Deep in the Heart of Texas

We were beginning to enjoy the cool fall weather. And then it hit. In Southern California, we call it the Santa Anas. You might know it as Indian Summer. Put simply, it got @#$%ing hot!!! 110 in the shade.

Life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. The perfect opportunity for a last barbecue or two. So the other night, we called some friends over and did Texas-style. Stood out on the deck with my tongs like a cowboy. Hollered at the chickens and the kids, spit into a tin. Perhaps it’s still warm where you are, and you’ll want to try it too. Put on some Patsy Cline and call the cowboys in…

More knowledgeable people than I could speak more articulately on the regional differences in barbecue. In Texas, I know they love their beef, and they like chilies. I know you’ll love this steak with salty-sweet chili rub. To go with it, I made cheese grits and an iceberg wedge salad with bleu cheese dressing and pancetta — neither strictly Texan, but pretty good foils to the flavorful steak. We drank one of our big jammy family zinfandels — there’s no better varietal with barbecue. Of course, beer, a nice mint julep or even a zesty margarita would’ve paired well. This Texas dinner will serve 4, amply.

*   *   *

Cowboy-Style Grilled Steak

2 lbs good steak on the bone (rib-eye, preferably; but porterhouse is good too)
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp pimenton (Spanish smoked sweet paprika) or regular paprika
1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
1 tsp ground pasilla or other mild red chili

Take steaks out of the fridge about one hour before you grill. In the meantime, combine other ingredients to make a rub. About 10 minutes before grilling, sprinkle steaks evenly with rub. Gently massage the rub into the meat.

Heat your BBQ as high as it will go — mine gets up around 600 degrees. Cook your steaks 3 or 4 minutes on each side, depending on thickness, until cook medium or medium rare to your preference. Remove, cover with foil, and let sit for 10 minutes. Then use a very sharp knife to cut across the grain into 1/2 inch thick slices. Spread a few slices on each person’s plate, and serve with cheese grits.

Cheese Grits
(Note: I highly recommend buying some Anson Mills grits from the link on this blog. They’re about the best grits on earth. While you’re there, pick up some dried polenta, including the fabulous rustic polenta integrale. Make your shipping costs worthwhile!)

1 cup dried grits
1/2 cup grated cheddar
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano or asagio
1 tbsp butter
salt & pepper to taste

Heat about 2 cups of water in a pot to a simmering boil, and add dried grits. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring and adding more water frequently, for up to an hour. Grits should be tender and not at all crunchy. Add salt and pepper to taste, then stir in cheeses. Stir in butter last, and then cover and let sit for five minutes. Scoop some onto each of four plates, and surround with a fan of the steak slices.

Iceberg Wedge Salad

1 head iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese (roquefort, gorgonzola, etc.)
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp mayonnaise
4 strips pancetta (or bacon), cooked to crisp
salt & pepper

Remove the core from the lettuce, and cut into quarter wedges. Mix the bleu cheese, milk and mayo vigorously together until it forms a thick dressing (some chunks of bleu cheese should remain). Drizzle some dressing over each of the wedges, then drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and lay a cooked strip of pancetta on top of each. Serve.

Next Newer Entries