Tuesday, February 19, 2008

February 19: Ancho-Coffee Dry-Rubbed Flank Steak

A couple of years ago, when we were in Michigan at Christmas, my husband and I were visiting the Saugatuck Spice Merchant, a local shop that carries a broad variety of dried herbs, spices, rubs, teas, and other implements of flavor, the man working in the store at the time suggested I smell the Coffee Barbecue rub. "It's very different," he said, "not hot, but spicy, with depth."

I never would have guessed that two flavors like this would have gone together this well, but they do. It has the warm dark notes of espresso-roast coffee, and the fruity, almost floral notes of chile peppers. I bought a 2-oz. bag and took it home, rubbed it into a piece of flank steak, let the steak sit in the refrigerator for several hours, then grilled it medium-rare on a hot barbecue.

Wow. Smoky, spicy, rich, and roasty--the most complex-tasting food I've ever prepared myself. I took one bite and was imediately glad I'd bought the biggest steak I could find, so that there would be leftovers. We ate the thinly-sliced steak on crusty bread with garlic mayonnaise the next day for lunch, chopped it and tossed it with a splash of lime juice and cilantro, and broiled it under cheese on open-faced quesadillas with guacamole and fresh salsa on the side the next night for dinner.

Since then, I've looked for a coffee barbecue rub--Michigan is a long way to go for this stuff. Here is the best of what I've found, at a food discussion website a few weeks ago. Haven't had a chance to try it out, but all the elements are there. The recipe does call for granulated garlic, which I don't care for. I've altered the character of this slightly, I'm sure, by suggesting fresh garlic, well minced or crushed, and worked into the rub. The garlic makes this almost more of a paste, but I would think the slightly sour, generally stale taste of granulated garlic would be distracting. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of granulated garlic, if you want to put it back in, by all means, do so, and omit the four cloves of fresh.

Ancho-Coffee Dry-Rubbed Flank Steak

For the rub:
½ cup Salt
1/4 cup Brown sugar
¼ cup Ancho chili powder
¼ cup Espresso Grind Coffee (very fine grind)
¼ cup Ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, very finely minced or pressed through a garlic press

1 2-pound flank steak, trimmed of visible fat
Vegetable oil for oiling the grill grate

Thoroughly combine all ingredients for the rub in a plastic bag or bowl. You will have enough for several applications of this.

Coat both sides of the steak liberally with the rub, pressing it into the meat with your impeccably clean hands. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours at least, up to 24 hours.

Light a medium-hot fire on a barbecue grill. When the coals are lightly covered with ash, put the steak on the grill for 4-5 minutes each side for medium-rare, 3-4 for rare. Turn once, grill an additional 2-3 minutes for rare, 3-4 for medium-rare. (This steak is at it's best cooked no more than medium rare--absolutely no more than medium.)

Let steak rest, loosely tented with foil, 10-15 minutes. Slice thinly across the grain on the bias. Serve immediately.

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