Pride of place

More honors for Joseph Decuis

Wagyu Sirloin Steak Salad from Joseph Decuis. Photography by Neal Bruns

Wagyu Sirloin Steak Salad from Joseph Decuis. Photography by Neal Bruns

Everything will be just the same the next time any of us has dinner at Joseph Decuis in Roanoke. The conservatory will sparkle, the cafe will bustle, the club will be cozy, the courtyard will feel serene, and — without a doubt — the food and service will be sublime.
That’s the whole point of how Alice Eshelman and chef Aaron Butts are, in a way, leading by example as they respond to more high honors awarded to the farm-to-table restaurant and its fine cuisine. Joseph Decuis is a place where the food and the service are understood to be partners creating the kinds of dining-out experiences that inspire people to come again and again and to travel considerable distances to do so. Place that kind of thinking in a restaurant that raises its own beef, pork and chickens, grows many of its own vegetables, fruits and herbs and is passionately committed to fi nding local sources for every possible ingredient, and you have a very special place.
Joseph Decuis’s guests have given it so many stellar reviews on the OpenTable.com website that the restaurant now ranks in the OpenTable Diner’s Choice “Best Overall” Top 50 Restaurants in America list.
OpenTable welcomes free reviews from restaurant patrons (it has a collection of more than seven million from the past year alone rating restaurants in 22 states and Washington. D.C.), and it has 15,000 restaurants that use it to take reservations online.
In addition, AAA Chicago announced in January that it has once again awarded its prestigious Four Diamond Award to Joseph Decuis, which first achieved the distinction in 2005. Four Diamond restaurants represent only 3.6 percent of the current 59,000 AAA-approved and Diamond-rated restaurants nationwide.
“People come here for the food, and they come back continually for the service,” Butts said. “The food is honest. It’s local, obviously Indiana-driven, but the service just adds to that exponentially.”
Joseph Decuis manages to be both a foodie’s dream and an extremely welcoming and authentic place to eat.
“Our prices are on a caliber with other restaurants,” Butts said. “Our ingredients — that you can get from Indiana farmers — are about as nonpretentious as you can get.”
Come spring (after Eshelman and Butts and the rest of the team plan and plant for the season), diners can again enjoy farm tours on Saturday nights before their reservations at the restaurant.
“People love it,” Eshelman said. “It’s a neat way to get customers out there to see what we really do and then come to the restaurant later. Once we actually get you out there it’s ‘Now I really do get it!’ People have to see.”
The recipe Butts chose to share this month also makes the point. He prepares it with Wagyu beef raised at the Joseph Decuis farm, and he likes it for February because the salad greens can be obtained fresh locally even in winter.
Things like the truffle oil? He acknowledges it’s not local, but it is delicious. And that’s important, too.

Wagyu Sirloin Steak Salad
Serves 4
4 4-ounceWagyu sirloin steaks
3 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
ó teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Kosher salt
1 pound mixed mushrooms, cleaned and halved (shiitake, oyster,
chanterelle, black trumpet, etc.)
1 leek, pale green part only, cut into thin rings, washed and drained
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
Extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
Fresh cracked black pepper
1 head Frisee lettuce, trimmed, washed and dried
2 ounces baby arugula
2 tablespoons white truffle oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 farm fresh eggs
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1. For the vinaigrette, whisk together 2 tablespoons white truffle oil, 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Season with kosher salt to taste and set aside.
2. For the poached eggs, fill a medium saucepan two-thirds with water, and bring just to a simmer. Turn the heat down so no bubbles are rising to the surface and the water is still. Add the white vinegar. Crack eggs, one at a time into a small ramekin. Using a slotted spoon, stir the water in one direction to create a whirlpool effect. Once the spinning slows down a touch, carefully slip the egg into the center of the whirlpool. Poach the egg for 4 minutes for a warm, runny yolk, longer if you prefer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to a bowl of cool water to stop the cooking and rinse off any vinegar. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the salad.
3. For the roasted mushrooms, preheat oven to 450°F. In a mixing bowl, toss together the mushrooms and leeks, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with kosher salt and black pepper. Place mushrooms on a baking sheet and pour the stock in the pan. The stock will add just enough moisture to keep the mushrooms from sticking to the pan and also reduce into the mushroom essence that will go back into the salad. Dot the mushrooms with the cubed butter and roast in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender with crispy edges and the stock has reduced. While the mushrooms are roasting, prepare the steaks.
4. For the steaks, in a small sauté pan set over medium-high heat, toast whole peppercorns just until they begin to smoke slightly, shaking pan often. Set peppercorns aside to cool. Once cooled, grind in a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle, crush the peppercorns just to crack apart. The pepper should be very coarse. (The pepper can be done a day ahead.)
5. Place a large sauté pan or grill pan over medium-high heat. Season the steaks liberally with kosher salt, cracked black pepper and crushed red pepper, if using. Pour about one tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and swirl around the pan. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the steaks, being careful not to overcrowd them. If necessary, sear the steaks in batches. Cook for 3 minutes per side for medium-rare and 4 minutes per side for medium. Set steaks on a warm platter to rest.
6. To complete, transfer the poached eggs to a bowl of hot water for a couple of minutes to reheat. Transfer onto a paper towel, trim off any ragged edges and season with kosher salt and black pepper.
7. In a mixing bowl, toss together the frisee lettuce, baby arugula and warm mushrooms, along with a couple tablespoons of the reduced stock. Whisk the vinaigrette back together and dress the salad to taste. Check the seasoning, add a touch more salt or another squeeze of lemon to taste.
8. Slice each sirloin steak into 1/4-inch slices, and fan them out on your serving plate, pouring any accumulated juices back over the steak. Place a mound of the warm salad over the steak and top with the poached egg.

First appeared in the February 2011 Fort Wayne Monthly

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