The month of December, and the holidays in general, are always a time for excess. I personally like to be extravagant in the meals I make. I think it makes the colder weather easier to deal with. 

A great meal is also a great addition to what is already a festive time. I recently attended a holiday get-together with work colleagues, and I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to bring for us to eat. 

I went back and forth on a number of different options before really digging into the extravagant theme that always seems to take me this time of year. I decided that I would bring steak. 

But not just any steak. I wanted to attempt to make the best steak I had ever made, and without spoiling anything for you, I think it was as close to a success as is possible in that lifelong pursuit of perfection. 

I started with excellent beef. Prime New York strip steaks from black Angus cows. I wanted to use a marinade that would bring out the intense natural umami in the beef without overpowering it. 

It involves a few specialty ingredients, chief among which are dried, fermented soybeans and fermented black garlic. You can find these in most specialty stores. But you can also order them online. They are so versatile you will be able to use them in dozens of applications in your everyday cooking. 

The marinade process works overnight, and I am telling you that these are the most intense, tender and flavorful steaks that I have ever made. I just want to reiterate that the intended marinade time
is 24 hours, so definitely plan accordingly. 


1-2 pounds of at least choice grade New York strip steak, cut about 1.5 inches thick. Whatever cut you choose will work, but note that cooking times may need to be adjusted.

2 cups dried, fermented soybeans. Also known as Chinese black beans, these can be ordered online or found at a specialty Asian grocery store.

10 or so cloves fermented black garlic. Black garlic is slightly sweet in flavor and creamy in texture. It is very important to counteract the saltiness of the black beans, making for a balanced marinade.

2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar. This can also be found in an Asian grocery store. It is called Chinkiang vinegar. It is essential for tenderizing the beef and rounding out the flavor profile of the marinade.

Water. I didn’t include an actual measurement here because you are just using water to thin the marinade so it will combine in the blender. Add it slowly and a little at a time until the marinade is close to the texture of brownie batter.



  1. Pat your steaks dry and have a gallon-sized Ziploc bag ready to place the marinated steaks in.
  2. Combine the black beans, black garlic and black vinegar in a blender or food processor. Start to blend them. Add splashes of water as necessary until the mixture blends smoothly and is the consistency of brownie batter. 
  3. Generously coat the steaks with the marinade. Any leftover marinade can be frozen for future use. It really will work with any meat. 
  4. Let the meat marinate in the Ziploc bag in the refrigerator at least overnight. 
  5. When you are ready to cook the steaks, remove them from the bag and rinse the marinade off them in the sink. The reason to rinse it off is that it becomes bitter when it cooks, and we would like to avoid that. 
  6. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel. Let them come to room temperature for approximately an hour. After an hour season both sides liberally with salt. 
  7. Cook the steaks for approximately 4 minutes a side for a lovely medium-rare. I chose to use a grill, but you can use a cast-iron pan on a stove-top as well. 
  8. Let the steaks rest for at least 6 minutes so they don’t leak all of their moisture. 
  9. Carve and serve along with some of your favorite sides.

I hope that this recipe makes its way onto your holiday table. You can use it for any meat whatsoever. If you choose to use it with fish, I would only marinate it for an hour or so, as the vinegar will cook it rather than tenderize it. You can even use it to marinate vegetables. 


In Recipe of the Month food writer Steven DeSalvo shares a recipe Montclairians might enjoy making. DeSalvo has a degree in hospitality business management from the University of Delaware and has worked extensively in restaurants and hotels. If there is something you want to know how to make, or if you’ve eaten a dish at a local restaurant that you are dying to make at home, drop us a note at