Tuesday, January 29, 2008

January 29: Marinated or Dry-Rubbed Flank Steak

Kimberly and I were talking about steak the other day. She is a pregnant vegetarian whose baby is craving meat (sure, blame the baby) and still, she isn't interested in steak. Generally speaking, in a restaurant, steak's not what I choose, unless I run across a classic French onglet, a hangar steak with herb butter and real steak frites, which is rare, or a decent skirt steak, also rare.

The only steak I ever really make at home, besides an occasional exceedingly-special-occasion filet, is flank steak. I love the great chewy texture and the big, bold, beefy taste. Also, it gives me an excuse to come up with some kind of great marinade or rub and fire up the grill.

Flank steak is a decent stand-in for skirt steak, which isn't a cut that most grocery stores carry, in fajitas. Here's the deal, though--flank steak has to be cut across the grain. The meat fibers, run in one direction which is easy to see. When you cut it, you have to cut across those fibers. Otherwise, it's like eating beef-flavored shoelaces.

Flank steak is very lean. Even if you're not a fan of meat cooked to anything other than a blackened cinder, I urge you: do not cook flank steak past medium, or, ideally, medium rare, or you may as well just forget about it.

Try either this marinade or rub (but not both). Both are great on the flank steak. Don't bother with the grill. It's winter, haven't you heard? Fire up the broiler. Same idea: a source of high heat.

While the steak is under the broiler, throw together a great salad, with mesculine greens, diced tomatoes, red onion slivers, shredded carrots, a few crumbles of gorgonzola or other blue cheese, and chopped, toasted pecans. Slice the steak thinly, across the grain and on an angle, and pile on top of the salads. Or mash a couple of boiled, peeled Yukon Gold potatoes with three or four skillet-toasted cloves of garlic, half a stick of melted butter, and a handful of grated smoked cheddar cheese, and serve the steak slices piled over the potatoes, with any accumulated juices. Or wrap the slices in a soft tortilla with some sauteed onions and peppers and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

What I'm trying to say is, you can't go wrong with great flank steak. This one will serve four generously in any of the applications I mentioned above.

Dry Rubbed or Marinated Flank Steak

1 1/2 pounds flank steak, visible fat removed, if any

For peppered rosemary marinade:
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely minced lemon zest
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary, or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
2 teaspoons minced flatleaf parsley

or for spice rub:
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Combine all ingredients for marinade or dry rub. If marinating, put marinade in shallow dish or large resealable plastic bag. Add steak, turn to coat. Refrigerate for 4-8 hours. If dry-rubbing, sprinkle on the spice mixture and run into both sides of the meat with clean hands. Cover and let sit for 2-4 hours.

Preheat broiler to 500 degrees. Place oven rack in highest position.

Put flank steak on a broiler pan and slide under broiler for 4 minutes for rare, 6 for medium rare. Turn and broil an additional 3-4 minutes for rare, 4-6 for medium rare. Remove from oven and tent loosely with foil to rest for 15 minutes. Slice thinly on the bias and across the grain. Serve.

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