Christoph Bob, the man who cooks meat for three days

Following the slow rhythm of monks, the German chef at Santa Rosa on the Amalfi Coast surprises with a superb rib steak

06-09-2017

Beef rib cooked for 3 days in a vacuum pack and grilled on lava rocks from Vesuvius, with grilled potatoes, buffalo milk yogurt and cream of friggitelli. A superb dish from Christoph Bob, chef at Il Refettorio del Monastero di Santa Rosa in Conca dei Marini (Salerno)

«I spent 3 months bending that rib at every possible temperature and cooking time. My conclusion is that the richest juiciness is given by vacuum cooking for 3 days at 58°C, followed by 45 minutes on the barbecue, using lava stones from Vesuvius, which keep the heat perfectly».

Christoph Bob in his retreat at Santa Rosa enjoys a good life: like Dom Pierre Pérignon and Belgian Trappist monks, the Monastero grants him the slow rhythm necessary to conceive precious delicacies. He might not have the luck of Champagne or Trappist beer, but the cooking of that poor cut of meat («6 euros and a half per kg from Michele, butcher in Conca dei Marini») that was grazing with its animal in the Alburni mountains,  is a final leap of joy for a client sitting in one of the most scenic sites of the Amalfi Coast and Italy (we wrote about it here).

Its crispy and tough armour traps some extremely tender meat, a texture that results form cooking the meat at a temperature that is slightly above that of a warm bath, with the crust given by a tonic barbecue. The result is not much different from that of a Sardinian piglet, but the meat is less frayed and juicier. And there’s almost nothing of the initial fat. This wisdom is the result of many years of attempts and errors with the main cooking techniques used with meat, including vacuum cooking. «After all», said Bob himself, with an accent from Campania learnt from a patient woman from Vico Equense, «before driving an automatic car, you must know how to change gears».

The initially strongly marbled beef

The initially strongly marbled beef

Lava rocks on the barbecue

Lava rocks on the barbecue

The rest of the dish is made of local and seasonal ingredients: in our case, tomatoes from Sorrento, grilled potatoes, buffalo milk yogurt and a superb cream of friggitelli. Most of the vegetables are sourced from the terraced kitchen garden above the Monastero, one of the few in Campania to be granted an organic certificate: «It was abandoned for 160 years until we recreated it».

The gardener who looks after it can rest in the shade of a centennial oak tree: it’s cool even when it’s 40°C in the sun. All around, there’s French beans, aubergines, tomatoes, pomegranate, lettuce, peppers and wild rocket salad enriching a menu strongly based on fish (Squid, couscous and lemon emulsion is very generous on the palate). A silent hectare, which is not affected by the draught as it is frequently watered by clouds of natural humidity: «There’s as much rain as in England in the winter», mentions the cook. Below, down the cliff, the wakes left by the boats between Amalfi and Positano, with Cilento on the horizon.

Sea bass ravioli with 3 types of tomato: green, Corbara cherry tomatoes and cream of yellow tomatoes

Sea bass ravioli with 3 types of tomato: green, Corbara cherry tomatoes and cream of yellow tomatoes

Christoph Bob, born in 1973, at Monastero di Santa Rosa since 2012 after Relais Blu in Vico Equense (Naples) and a long apprenticeship with Heinz Beck in Rome

Christoph Bob, born in 1973, at Monastero di Santa Rosa since 2012 after Relais Blu in Vico Equense (Naples) and a long apprenticeship with Heinz Beck in Rome

It’s a magic place we owe to the obstinate American owners who, after a decade of unnerving red tape to renovate the site, have been enduring another iniquity for the past five years: the mysterious indifference of the Michelin Guide. «This year, for the first time, we weren’t even mentioned in the paper edition», says Bob, who was already vexed in the past by a record of three years of “promised stars” from the Red guide which were never given «they told me it was a mistake. I asked them to at least correct it in the website, but I never got a reply. Too bad». And he returns to his retreat, to conceive lengthy cooking processes.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

Il Refettorio del Monastero di Santa Rosa
Via Roma, 2
Conca dei Marini (Salerno)
monasterosantarosa.com 
+39.089.8321199
Average prices: starters 24, first courses 25, main courses 34, desserts 14 euros
Tasting menu: 85 euros
Closed from the 2nd of November to the 10th of April

The infinity swimming pool at Monastero, overlooking the Amalfi Coast

The infinity swimming pool at Monastero, overlooking the Amalfi Coast


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