Forget the steak of yesteryear, a 24-ounce slab of sizzling excess. The steak of the '90s is a different animal -- smaller, leaner and more artfully presented.
It fits the more restrained role health experts advocate for beef -- and gets away from the huge, fat-loaded portions that Americans love and dietitians hate.
Today's steak is an ensemble player in a medley of food that includes vegetables, grain and fruit.
Today, most health organizations, from the American Heart Association to the American Dietetic Association, recommend a 3-ounce serving size for cooked beef. Even the Beef Industry Council promotes recipes for 3-ounce portions. A 3-ounce serving is about the size of a deck of cards. Four ounces of uncooked beef yields a 3-ounce serving.
Such a portion strikes a good balance between health considerations and personal taste. And smaller portions make beef more affordable, especially the luxury cuts.
Waste-free tenderloin can cost as little as $4.98 a pound in many supermarkets or as much as $9.99. Even at the highest price, that's $2.50 a serving for 3-ounce portions.
Bone-in cuts with some fat, such as T-bones and porterhouse, range form $5.79 to $7.29 a pound. At two to three servings per pound, that's as low as $2 a portion.
What's on the plate -- at home or in a restuarant -- also is leaner than is used to be.
"We're looking at cattle that are the same weight, except they carry a lot more muscle," says Wendy Gregor, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the National Livestock and Meat Board. "They're not carrying as much body fat as they used to," she says. And butchers are trimming more visible fat than ever, she says.
Trimmed luxury cuts average about 43 percent calories from fat, says Ms. Gregor, and rib-eyes are about 47 percent calories from fat. The leanest beef cut is an eye of round, at 26 percent calories from fat.
She recommends roasting, broiling, grilling or stir-frying luxury cuts to minimize fat, especially saturated fat, which has been associated with elevated blood cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease. A 3-ounce cooked tenderloin contains 174 calories and 8 grams of fat (3 grams saturated).
The following recipe is from "Sunset Light Ways With Beef, Lamb and Pork" (Sunset, $7.95)
Sauteed fillet steaks with wild rice, baby carrots
Makes four servings.
HTC 1 1/2 tablespoons margarine (divided
1 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon "herbes de Provence" or Italian herb seasoning
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 bunch baby carrots (about 8 ounces with tops)
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
4 beef tenderloin steaks (about 1 pound total), trimmed of fat
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup dry vermouth
2 teaspoons capers
parsley and lemon wedges for garnish
In a 10-inch skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon margarine over medium-high heat; stir in rice and herbes de Provence. Add chicken broth; reduce heat; cover and simmer for 35 minutes. Arrange carrots over rice and sprinkle with pepper. Cover and continue cooking until carrots are tender to the bite (about 10 to 15 minutes).
When rice is almost done, melt remaining tablespoon margarine in a wide, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in mustard. Add steaks and cook, turning once, until well-browned (4 to 6 minutes total for rare to medium-rare). Remove from pan and keep warm.
Gently stir lemon juice into rich mixture; spoon onto a warm platter. Season steaks to taste with salt and arrange on platter with rice and carrots. Add vermouth and capers to meat drippings. Bring to a boil, stirring and continue boiling for 2 minutes. Spoon vermouth mixture over steaks, rice and carrots. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.