Aug 21, 2014

Recipes, Windows Into The Culinary Mind

Recipe for flank steak marinade
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Written on scraps of paper, shoved into a drawer only to be resurrected later at the whim of the household cook. To me, a recipe is a fingerprint, a window into the culinary mind. It secretly tells something private about the person who wrote it. 

My mother was a great cook. She entertained a lot, so our refrigerator was always full of bottles of the latest nibbles and bits for her next party. She would often bring out an old recipe of her mothers, hand written on a scrap of paper, a recipe that obviously my mother loved and saved for years after her mother passed away.

I have written hundreds of recipes over the years, and usually start out by writing down what I think might be the right combination of ingredients to eventually make a delicious meal. I usually tape it to my kitchen cabinet, then test it, and usually by adding or subtracting ingredients and amounts come up with what I had hoped for. Ideas for recipes can come from many places, cooking shows, cookbooks, or just seeing a food item in the grocery store, like a flank steak.

In the olden days, thirty years ago, flank steak was one of the cheapest cuts of meat because it was tough. People bought it anyway because it had a great flavor, and it was dirt cheap. Naturally it became popular and now is harder to find, expensive, but guess what, it's still tough

The flank steak is a beef steak cut from the abdominal muscles of the cow. A relatively long and flat cut, flank steak is used in a variety of dishes including London broil and as an alternative to the traditional skirtsteak in fajitas. It can be grilled, pan-fried, broiled, or braised for increased tenderness.

Yesterday I was in the meat department at Friendly Market, here on Moloka'i, when the meat cart came out of the back room to replenish the meat display case. I love it when that happens because I can be the first person to grab the freshest cuts. Naturally when I saw only one flank steak on the cart, I grabbed it, why, because they hardly ever sell it there. The last time I bought flank steak, I had to drive out to our local livestock CO-OP in Hoolehua, you know, the slaughter house on Maunaloa Highway (give them a call at 567-6994 for prices, and to find out their hours).

To me the best way to cook flank steak is on the grill, but it has to be marinated first for at least 8 to 12 hours, to help tenderize it. After it comes off the grill, it has to be cut thin across the grain with a sharp knife, then the toughness is not so much of an issue.

Being a carnivore, right now my mouth is watering. I can't wait to get this baby marinated and on the grill. Stay hungry my friends, and keep trying my recipes. Feel free to change them to make them your own. 

Grilled Flank Steak with Sides
Marinating Flank Steak
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1– 2 pound flank steak ($5.99 lb. at Friendly Market)

Marinade ingredients:
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 fresh bay leaves
1⁄2 cup red wine (I use burgundy)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Tamari sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, stem removed and leaves chopped
1⁄2 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or Kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

It's very important to trim any silver skin and unwanted fat and gristle from the flank steak, then with a sharp knife, score the meat on the diagonal on both sides, making cuts in both directions to form a diamond pattern. Next, place the meat in a shallow baking dish or I like to use a Zip-loc freezer bag. Add the marinade ingredients, close bag and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for at least 8 hours, and 12 is even better.

An hour before grilling, transfer steak to a plate and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper; set aside so steak comes to room temperature. Transfer marinade to a small pot and bring just to a boil; set aside.

Build a medium-hot charcoal fire in your grill. Grill steak, turning only once until browned and medium rare, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Carve steak into thin slices, with a sharp knife, on the bias and serve with reduced marinade any accumulated juices. Makes 4 servings.
Note: If you have leftovers, try this recipe for "Steak Pita Pockets with Dill Yogurt Sauce".

1. Whole wheat pita bread, heated in the oven, then sliced or torn in half, and served with lots of butter. Friendly Market carries pita bread, but it's not in the bread section, but rather in the frozen food section at the back of the store in the right hand corner. They are a wonderful thing!
2. Bacon Potato Salad – Click here for recipe
3. Bok Choy with Oyster Sauce – Click here for recipe

Hawaiian Marinated Skirt Steak
Flank steak and skirt steak have one thing in common, they both come from the underside of the cow, but they both taste differently and have different textures. Flank steak is the leanest of the two. Skirt steak is much more coarsely grained than flank and quite a bit fattier as well, but that extra marbling gives the meat a lovely richness when grilled hot and fast over a blazing fire or seared in a cast-iron pan (it's a thinner cut than the other two, so it needs high temps to get a delicious crust outside without overcooking it inside). The skirt cut is long, and the grain runs across its narrow width. It's extremely important to slice thinly against the grain—cut skirt with the grain and it'll be too tough to swallow.

1/2 lime freshly squeezed
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon Asian chili oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/4 cup of fresh pineapple juice or the pulp of 1 large lilikoi (passion fruit)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried cumin
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

2-1/2 pound skirt steak, trimmed of connective membrane

Combine all of the ingredients together in a zip top bag, or large shallow dish, add skirt steak, coat well and marinate for at least an hour, refrigerated until ready to cook.

Preheat grill to medium-high.

When ready to grill, drain the skirt steak.

Brush and oil the grill grate. Place skirt steaks on the hot grate and grill for 3-5 minutes per side for medium rare to medium, depending on preference- turning as needed with tongs.

When ready transfer to a cutting board and let it rest for about 2 minutes.

Slice the steak thinly against the grain, starting at one corner and cutting on the bias.

Serve with large grilled shrimp and grilled asparagus. Makes 4 servings.

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