Braun wins throwdown

By Gray Hughes

THROWN DOWN WINNER — Clark Braun, executive chef at the Alpine Inn, was the winner of the first ever Beef Throw Down hosted by the South Dakota Beef Industry Council to coincide with the 79th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Braun created a Steak Diane sandwich which received rave reviews from celebrity chef Justin Warner. Braun already has his eyes set on next year, although he does not know what he will make yet. [PN Photo/GRAY HUGHES]

South Dakota is known for its beef.

So, as part of this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the South Dakota Beef Industry Council held the “Beef Throw Down,” which took participants to 10 restaurants in the Black Hills that specialize in beef, including the Alpine Inn in Hill City.

Each restaurant had a specialty dish that was to be judged by a panel that consisted of ranchers and Justin Warner, a celebrity chef on The Food Channel.

Alpine Inn and its executive chef Clark Braun, C.EC., A.E.C, came up with a Steak Diane sandwich to enter, which won first place in the Throw Down.

“The Alpine Inn’s steak Diane sandwich was a delightfully unique interpretation and reinvention of a beef classic,” Warner said via the South Dakota Beef Industry Council Facebook page. “The sauce, typically finished with brandy, was never in competition with the beef itself— it augmented and enhanced the beef to a hyper-craveable level. The beef itself was uniformly cut and so tender that only mushrooms cooked to their silkiest and the bread of the sandwich itself provided textural resistance. Once the sandwich was in my hand and first bite consumed, I didn’t want to put it down.”

Braun admitted when the judges came to the Alpine Inn to test his sandwich, he got a little nervous because he was putting sauce on his sandwich.

But his faith in his sandwich calmed his nerves.

“(Warner) said that you could still taste the beef in my sandwich,” Braun said. “It just pushed the level up a little bit higher.”

His Steak Diane sandwich, he said, was taking a classic and putting a modern spin on it.

A Steak Diane is created by taking a demi glace, which turns into a bordelaise sauce through a red wine reduction with thyme, peppercorns and bay leaves.

Let the red wine reduce until it nearly turns into a syrup, he said, which makes the sauce into a bordelaise.

“At that point, you would put the sauce on the line,” he said. “It would be ready to prepare a Steak Diane. …Then usually you sear off your beef and then cook it to the temperatures it needs to be, but that’s not what we did here. What we did is I took the sauce made with the bordelaise and I added butter to the pan and then I sautéed off my mushrooms and added shallots and garlic and then deglazed it with brandy, and that is where Diane comes from.”

Usually, he said, when the meat is added back in, it is rubbed with mustard, but he added Grey Poupon mustard and Worcestershire sauce.

When he seared the meat, he put salt and pepper on the meat and garnished the sandwich with turned mushrooms.

The creation was served on fresh ciabatta bread and served with red cabbage salad and German potato salad.

Warner was impressed with Braun’s turned mushrooms, Braun said, and Braun said Warner even took pictures of the turned mushrooms and sent them back to his friends in California.

Another restaurant in the Throw Down entered a Steak Diane, too, Braun said, but they did not do the sandwich.

As much as a victory it is for him, Braun said the Beef Throw Down is just as much a victory for the Alpine Inn.

Braun was making the Steak Diane sandwich constantly, so the others worked double time on the other menu items.

The victory, he said, can only help the Alpine Inn, too.

“This victory can help increase our visibility.”

As for next year’s Throw Down, Braun said he is not sure what he wants to do, but he has his eyes set on another trophy.

“You don’t enter contests to lose,” he said.