Saturday, September 23, 2023

Goodbye Summer - Hello Flatiron Steak!

Well, here we are, the last week of summer! I have to admit, after scorching heat and drought, I'm ready to see it go. No more futile watering, pesky mosquito bites, or walking around a little more "dewy" than I prefer! However, one thing I will miss is my recipe for "Ginger-Soy Flatiron Steak with Grilled Green Onions!" This more recent cut of beef, introduced in 2002, discovered by research teams from the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida, and funded by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, is a relatively tender, economical, and flavorful cut of meat. The flatiron steak is one of the most tender cuts from the beef chuck, is similar to a blade steak, but it's been cut flat instead of across the shoulder blade, eliminating the tough seam of connective tissue found in the blade steak. Other names for this cut of beef are top blade steak, top chuck steak, book steak, butlers' steak (UK), lifter steak, and oyster blade steak (Australia and New Zealand). It's even been touted as being as tender as the tenderloin with the taste of sirloin, and has become one of the best selling steaks in the world! 

The flatiron steak likes to be marinated, and is simple to prepare using dry heat cooking methods, like grilling. In this recipe, it is marinated in soy sauce, ginger, and garlic, and cooks in less than 10 minutes! The grilled whole green onions make a nice aromatic accompaniment. Trust me, it is delicious! I like to serve it simply with a green salad or grilled corn on the cob.

Ginger-Soy Flatiron Steak with Grilled Green Onions

Serves 4

For the Marinade
1/2 cup (4 oz) low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger (I grate it on a microplane.)

For the Steak
1, 1 lb flatiron steak
12 green onions, roots removed, ends trimmed
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

For the Marinade
Combine the soy sauce, vegetable oil, sesame oil, brown sugar, garlic, and ginger in a shallow, nonreactive dish just large enough to hold the steak. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Place the steak in the dish, turning to coat both sides. Marinate the steak at room temperature, turning occasionally, for at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate and marinate until ready to use, removing from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before grilling.

For the Steak
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling (over the coals) over high heat (400-450 degrees). Oil the grill rack. Remove the meat from the marinade, discard the marinade.

Grill the steak over the hottest part of the grill, turning once, until nicely charred and cooked to your liking, 4-5 minutes per side. (Do Not Overcook!) Remove the steak to rest. Coat the onions lightly with the vegetable oil and grill, turning once or twice, until softened and lightly browned, 3-4 minutes.

To Serve
Thinly slice the steak across the grain at an angle. Line a serving platter with the green onions, top with the sliced steak, spooning any accumulated juices over the meat.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

My Date with Mrs. Crispy!

After coming home in a rush and no plans for dinner, I was introduced to the wonderful world of "Croque-Madame," via Thomas Keller's cookbook, Bouchon. Somehow the Gods were smiling on me, because I already had everything I needed in my fridge! Perhaps it was a date with destiny? Croque-Madame ("Mrs. Crispy") is related to the Croque-Monsieur ("Mr. Crispy"), with the addition of a fried egg and a heavenly Mornay sauce. The name is attributed to the egg resembling a woman's hat. Not only is this the best ham and cheese sandwich you'll ever have, it is relatively simple, and any leftover Mornay sauce means you can have another! French fries are the natural accompaniment. Trust me, this takes bistro food to a whole other level!

Bouchon Croque-Madame

Serves 4

8, 1/2" thick slices Brioche, other egg bread, or pan de mie (about 4" square)
8 ounces thinly sliced boiled ham
8 slices (about 1/2 ounces each) Swiss cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 cup Mornay sauce (see below), warmed
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped Italian parsley

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    Lay out the bread slices. (I trimmed mine to be exactly 4".) Divide the ham among them, making sure it doesn't extend over the edges of the bread. Place the cheese over the ham. If the cheese is larger than the bread, bend it over to fit.
    Heat two large ovenproof nonstick pans or griddles over medium heat. (If you have only one large pan, made 2 sandwiches and keep them warm in the oven while you make the second batch.) Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to each pan. When it has melted, add half the bread cheese side up to each pan and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown. Transfer the pans to the oven for 2 to 3 minutes to melt the cheese.
    Meanwhile, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a large ovenproof skillet and fry the eggs. Cook the eggs until the bottoms are set, then place the skillet in the oven for a minute to set the top of the whites. (We cook the eggs in 4-5" individual skillets.)
    When the cheese is melted, remove the sandwiches from the oven. Place 2 slices together to make each sandwiches from the oven. Place 2 slices together to make each sandwich and put each sandwich on a serving plate. Place an egg on top of each sandwich. Pour about 1/4 cup of the sauce over the white of each egg, leaving the yolk uncovered. Grind black pepper over each egg and garnish the eggs with a diagonal sprinkling of chopped parsley. Serve with frites, if desired.

Mornay Sauce

This luxurious cheese sauce is perfect for gratineed scallops, macaroni and cheese, croque-monsieurs and croque-madames, and crepes.

Makes 2 cups

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup diced (1/4") Spanish onion
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream, or as needed
1 bay leaf
3 black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
Freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground white pepper
1/3 cup grated Comte or Emmentaler cheese (Gruyere would work as well.)

Melt the butter in a medium heavy saucepan set on a diffuser over medium heat. (I don't have a diffuser and it worked just as well.) Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly so that the roux doesn't burn or color. (You may have to lower the heat.) Whisking constantly, add the milk and cream and whisk until fully incorporated. Bring to a simmer, whisking, then add the bay leaf, peppercorns, and cloves. Move the pan to one side of the diffuser, away from direct heat to avoid scorching, and bring back to a gentle simmer. (I transferred it to a new burner on low heat.) Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, reaching into the corners of the pan, for about 30 minutes. (If the sauce does begin to scorch, pour it into a clean pan - don't scrape the bottom of the pan - and continue.)
    Remove the sauce from the heat and season to taste with salt, a grating of nutmeg, and a pinch of white pepper. Strain the sauce, add the cheese, and whisk to melt. Use immediately, or place in a storage container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to keep a skin from forming, and refrigerate for up to a week. If the sauce is too thick after refrigeration, it can be thinned with a little heavy cream.

Recipes from Bouchon, by Thomas Keller.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Pirates, Maroons, and a Serious Jerk!

The original "Serious Chicken," Negril, Jamaica

If you've ever been to Jamaica, you know that "jerk" is serious business! Jerk, the traditional Jamaican barbecue, is a process of marinating meat in a very spicy marinade and then slow-cooking it over hardwood coals. The marinade is a varying combination of green onions, thyme, garlic, citrus juice, scotch bonnet peppers, and a plethora of dried spices, such as nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon, etc., but it is the allspice (or pimento, as it is called in Jamaica) that makes jerk jerk. It's exotic, delicious, and very addictive! 

The word jerk is believed to have derived from the Spanish word "charqui," from the Quechua word for beef jerky. (I have also read that it comes from the Dutch word "gherk," meaning pickled or preserved.) According to Traveling Jamaica with Knife, Fork, and Spoon, by Robb Walsh and Jay McCarthy, the origins of jerk began with the buccaneers who used it to preserve meat. In fact, the name buccaneer was from the Arawak (the native inhabitants) word "buccan," for a wooden frame used to smoke meat. Eventually, the Spanish ran off the pirates and inhabited the island along with their slaves. In 1655, the British invaded causing the Spanish to flee, leaving their slaves behind. The slaves fought and escaped by fleeing into Jamaica's Blue Mountains (home of the legendary coffee) to live with the remaining Arawak and became known as the "maroons."

If you've never made jerk before, I have the perfect recipe for you from the now defunct Manhattan restaurant called, appropriately enough, Maroons. The marinade is not as fiery as some and incorporates espresso beans (a nod to the Blue Mountains no doubt) which adds another layer of flavor and helps to mellow the heat. I've adapted the recipe to use espresso powder rather than grinding your own beans and utilizing pork tenderloin eliminates the need to cook it for hours, rather about 20 minutes on a charcoal grill (which I highly recommend) or about 35 minutes in the oven. Mrs. P's Cornbread, made with coconut milk, is a perfect accompaniment and coleslaw (although not traditional) makes a pleasant cooling side. Although you can buy some good jerk marinades at the store (e.g., Walker's Wood), making your own will provide such stellar results that you will take it very serious indeed! Ya man!

Jerk Pork Tenderloin

Serves 6-8 (or halve the recipe for 2-4)

1 tablespoon espresso powder
1 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon ground mustard
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly groung black pepper
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon seeded and chopped habanero chile (I use 2 serrano chiles, stemmed but with seeds intact)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 pounds pork tenderloins (about 2, skinny end folded back and tied)

Add all the ingredients, except the pork, into a food processor and blend well until you have a wet paste.

Place the pork in a large glass baking dish or plastic freezer bag and coat with the paste. Cover or seal and marinate overnight.

To cook on grill
Preheat charcoal grill. Place pork over heat and grill, turning every 5 minutes, until a thermometer inserted in the center registers 140 degrees, about 20 minutes. Slice and serve.

To cook in oven
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Transfer the pork to a rimmed baking sheet and roast until a thermometer inserted in the center registers 140 degrees, about 35 minutes. Slice and serve.