Q&A with Jason Smith, Executive Chef of Steak 954

Wine Enthusiast tapped the chef at this famous Fort Lauderdale eatery to tell us about the award-winning wine and food pairings menu.


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Steak house cuisine and an international wine list with a focus on boutique and cult wines attract meat and wine lovers alike to Steak 954 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Wine Enthusiast tapped the restaurant’s chef de cuisine to tell us about the award-winning menu and why the 18-ounce Dry Aged Rib-Eye with a bold California Cab or aged Barolo is considered his perfect pairing.

Wine Enthusiast: What has been your biggest wine revelation this year?
Jason Smith:
My love and appreciation for wine is apparent, but I am always striving to expand my knowledge of wine. With only 15 years or so of tasting, there is still much for me to experience. With that said, every new wine I try is a revelation because I am forever a student of wine and food and their intricacies and layers. I will always be amazed by the different flavors that aged [wine] can develop: leather, dark cherries, smoke, etc. Then when joined with the right pairing of food, it makes the wine that much better. I am continuously impressed by the quality of American wine being produced, particularly the quality of Napa and Sonoma wines, which I believe surpasses itself every year, but my biggest revelation this year is how approachable and affordable most Europeans wines have become. There’s a wine for every occasion, every meal and every palate, and I can’t wait to try them all.

W.E.: What do you drink when you’re off duty?
JS:
When I am not at work, I usually will drink a Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. I love the Oregon Pinots and their versatility and depth of flavor. I enjoy spicy foods and very fresh, light and bright flavors [in wine], so a great Pinot Noir will get me through most of my meal. Even dessert can be complemented by the right Pinot: chocolate and Torii Mor Pinot Noir goes very well together.

W.E.: Obviously, steak is a mainstay on your menu. What are your favorite pairings for carnivores?
JS:
My favorite pairing for carnivores would be an 18-ounce Dry-Aged Rib-Eye with Darioush Cabernet. I love the assertive flavors of the Napa Valley Cabernet to go up against the big and bold flavors of the dry-aged nuttiness. The aromatics and minerality (limestone) of Domaine de Ladoucette’s Pouilly-Fumé go up against the citrus of the King Crab and Maine Lobster Ceviche.

W.E.: Which wine and dish are your top-sellers?
JS:
Buehler Cabernet is our best-selling wine, and the 18-ounce Dry-Aged Prime Rib-Eye is the top-selling steak. So, my favorite pairings are not too far off of what our guests like. Aged steaks with dark, jammy Cabs tend to be a crowd pleaser, and I completely agree with this fan favorite.

W.E.: What’s trending in the wine and food scene in Ft. Lauderdale right now?
JS:
People are going towards approachable wines and big steaks, as steakhouses are very popular in Ft. Lauderdale. There are a few steakhouses in the area, and they are all very busy. Guests are more and more educated about wines and foods, so they are very demanding on quality and price, and have raised expectations. We have a “just-right-sized” wine list, with prices that are even with or below our competitors.

Here's an original Jason Smith recipe to make at home.

Maine Lobster and Alaskan King Crab Ceviche

Recipe courtesy Jason Smith, executive chef of Steak 954, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Kosher salt, to taste
3 lemons, halved
10 peppercorns
1 Maine lobster, approximately 1½ pounds
8 ounces Alaskan king crab meat, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice, divided
1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice, divided
1 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice, divided
2 sprigs cilantro
2 tablespoons julienned red bell pepper, reserving the top of the pepper
1 tablespoon julienned jalapeño, reserving the top of the pepper
2 tablespoons diced red onion, reserving the core of the onion
2 tablespoons pickled coconut (recipe below)
2 tablespoons pickled coconut liquid
Black pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large pinch of cilantro sprouts, approximately 2 weeks old

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the lemons and peppercorns. Place the lobster in the boiling water and cook for 7 minutes. Transfer the lobster to a pan and place it in the refrigerator to cool. When the lobster is cool, remove the meat from the shell and chop it into ½-inch pieces.

Place the king crab and lobster in a large bowl, and add ½ cup of orange juice, ½ cup of lemon juice, ½ cup of lime juice, cilantro springs, red pepper top, jalapeno top and red onion core. Allow mixture to marinate for 30 minutes. Strain and reserve.

Mix the king crab and lobster with the julienned red bell pepper, julienned jalapeño, diced red onion, remaining citrus juices, pickled coconut and pickled coconut liquid. Season with black pepper to taste.

Place the ceviche in a serving bowl and drizzle the mixture with the extra virgin olive oil. Top with the cilantro sprouts. Serves 4.

Pickled Coconut

1 cup rice wine vinegar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup julienned fresh coconut
1 finger of fresh ginger, about 2 inches long, peeled
1 cup coconut milk

Place the vinegar, sugar, fresh coconut and ginger in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for approximately 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the coconut milk and let the mixture cool. Remove the ginger before serving.

Read more about Steak 954.

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