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Perfect Rib Eye Steaks and 14 California Reds for Labor Day

Get great grilling tips from a Grand Award-winning steak house, plus recently rated reds from the Golden State

Laurie Woolever
Posted: August 27, 2010

Labor Day weekend, considered the unofficial last weekend of the summer season in the United States, is just around the corner. You've likely been grilling all manner of meats, vegetables, seafood and maybe even fruit since late spring, and now it's time for a classic—rib eye steak—to end the season with a bang. We asked the hardworking chefs at Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Houston, to share their grill tips and secrets for getting the best flavor out of a grilled steak. They've shared their Perfect Rib Eye recipe below, along with a simple, delicious tomato salad recipe to serve alongside.

And of course, we've got some wine suggestions, in the form of tasting notes, scores and prices for 14 recently rated reds from California. The list includes a handful of Pinot Noirs, which Pappas Bros. wine director Drew Hendricks particularly recommends for pairing with rib eye. Happy grilling, happy drinking, and happy Labor Day!

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse Perfect Rib Eye

Pappas Bros.' executive chef Michael Velardi says, "Prime beef can be purchased from your local butcher; ask for a cut that is 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick, with predominate marbling. Angus or Choice rib eye steaks can be used if Prime is unavailable."

• 4 Prime rib eye steaks
• Kosher salt to taste
• Coarsely ground black pepper
• Salted butter, softened

1. Prepare the grill by preheating it to high. High heat is important for searing and browning the meat; this will contribute to the flavor of the finished steak.

2. While the grill is heating up, pull the meat from the refrigerator to remove some of the chill.

3. Just before grilling, season the steaks generously with salt and pepper. Do not pound or press the steaks before or during cooking; this will cause toughness and reduce juiciness.

4. Place the steaks on the grill, keeping lid open throughout the grilling process. Gently flip the steaks every 2 to 3 minutes, to achieve an even sear on both sides. Pappas chefs suggest grilling to medium rare; this will take about 8 to 10 minutes total, depending on the heat and thickness of the steak.

5. Once the steaks have reached the desired doneness, remove from grill and let rest for 5 minutes; this will allow the meat to relax and retain its juices.

6. Finish by lightly brushing the top of each steak with butter. Serves 4 to 6, depending on size of steaks and guests' appetites.

Beefsteak Tomatoes with Roquefort and Onions

Chef Velardi suggests choosing large beefsteak tomatoes that are ripe and deep in color. When in season, heirloom or locally grown tomatoes will also work well in this salad.

• 4 large beefsteak tomatoes, each cored and sliced horizontally into 3 pieces
• 3/4 cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
• 3/4 cup crumbled Roquefort cheese
• 12 large rings sweet yellow onion, each 1/4-inch thick
• Kosher salt
• Coarsely ground black pepper to taste

1. Arrange tomato slices on four individual serving plates. Sprinkle salt evenly over the surface of tomatoes.

2. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the oil and vinegar. Pour half the vinaigrette mixture into a separate bowl, and mix the cheese with the remaining half of the vinaigrette. Distribute the cheese and vinaigrette mixture evenly over the tomatoes.

3. Place the onion rings on top of the tomato slices.

4. Drizzle remaining red wine vinaigrette over the top.

5. Finish by sprinkling with freshly ground black pepper. Serves 4 as an appetizer.


Note: The following list is a selection of wines from recently rated releases.

ORIN SWIFT Zinfandel California Saldo 2008 Score: 91 | $28
Well-built, yet rich and stylish, with spicy blackberry aromas and zesty, layered flavors of black cherry and licorice framed by toasty oak. Offers a long, satisfying finish. Drink now through 2015. 14,000 cases made. —T.F.

WHITEHALL LANE Merlot Napa Valley 2007 Score: 90 | $28
Sleek and classy, with black cherry and delicate toasty oak aromas that lead to supple, layered flavors of red currant, mocha and spice. Drink now through 2015. 12,130 cases made. —T.F.

CLINE Zinfandel California Ancient Vines 2008 Score: 88 | $16
Juicy and jammy, showing soft but lively black cherry pie flavors, with mocha and toasty dill notes. A crowd-pleaser. Drink now through 2014. 97,500 cases made. —T.F.

B.R. COHN Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast Silver Label 2007 Score: 88 | $20
Trim and focused, with spice, dill, cedar, black cherry and plum flavors. Full-bodied and elegant, ending with delicate fruit and cedar notes. Drink now through 2016. 64,400 cases made. —J.L.

ROBERT MONDAVI Pinot Noir Napa Valley Carneros 2008 Score: 88 | $28
A medium-weight style, displaying simple, delicate strawberry, plum and cherry flavors that are pure and focused. Successful in presenting the grape in a delicate and persistent manner. Drink now through 2014. 30,300 cases made. —J.L.

PARAISO Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2008 Score: 88 | $25
Firm and complex, featuring spicy wild berry, blueberry and raspberry fruit that's full-bodied and intense, focused and balanced. This ends with pure fruit and a touch of mineral. Drink now through 2015. 14,672 cases made. —J.L.

PEDRONCELLI Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Mother Clone 2008 Score: 88 | $15
Ripe and jammy, but nicely structured, with ripe cherry, licorice and roasted herb flavors. Drink now through 2015. 6,000 cases made. —T.F.

ARTESA Pinot Noir Carneros 2007 Score: 87 | $25
Crisp and focused, this offers tangy cranberry and cherry flavors that have a strong mineral edge. Distinctive and sleek, with fragrant fresh-cut herbs that fill in on the finish. Drink now through 2012. 22,000 cases made. —M.W.

BELLE GLOS Pinot Noir Sonoma-Monterey-Santa Barbara Counties Meiomi 2008 Score: 87 | $25
Offers a complex mix of dried berry, cranberry, anise and fresh earth. This is full-bodied, elegant and refined, with earth and fruit on the finish. Drink now through 2015. 17,500 cases made. —J.L.

CASTLE ROCK Pinot Noir Central Coast 2008 Score: 87 | $13
Plump and generous, with ripe plum, black cherry and blueberry fruit that's smooth, fleshy and full-bodied, ending with good depth and persistence. Drink now through 2012. 36,000 cases made. —J.L.

KENWOOD Zinfandel Sonoma County 2007 Score: 87 | $14
Zesty and spicy, with black cherry and tomato leaf aromas and briary raspberry, toasty vanilla and licorice flavors. Drink now through 2015. 26,600 cases made. —T.F.

VALLEY OF THE MOON Zinfandel Sonoma County 2007 Score: 87 | $16
Brambly, with lively black cherry, toasted coconut and spice flavors. Drink now through 2014. 7,000 cases made. —T.F.

CLINE Zinfandel California 2008 Score: 85 | $12
Juicy and user-friendly, with modest cherry vanilla and spice notes. Drink now. 97,500 cases made. —T.F.

MCMANIS Cabernet Sauvignon California 2008 Score: 85 | $11
Appealing grapey wild berry, plum and spice notes are full-bodied and complex, with flavors that linger. Drink now. 112,000 cases made. —J.L.

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