Thursday, November 3, 2011


So, I went to the grocery store today, and I was trying to figure out what to get to cook for tonight's dinner. I walked up to the meat counter to place an order for some Andouille links to pick up next week (jambalaya!), and while I was doing that, I spied a curious item - a 1.17 pound piece of flank steak that had been wrapped up and marked down for quick sale, because it had been in the case too long. I paid $4.67 for the steak ($3.99 per pound for those of you keeping score at home - the regular price on flank steak is closer to $6.99 per pound). It just so happens that the steak had pretty much been dry aged by the enviroment it was kept in - a cotrolled low temperature, sitting in a pan with an absorbent pad under it, with the pad changed regularly.

Once I got it home, I trimmed off the hard edges, and mixed up a marinade.

Southwestern marinade for an approximately one and a quarter pound flank steak

3 Tbsp corn oil
1-1/2 Tbsp lime juice
1-1/2 Tbsp lemon juice (I ran out of lime)
1/2 Tbsp green jalapeno Tabasco sauce
1/2 Tbsp mesquite liquid smoke
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 tsp ground oregano
1 tsp dried cilantro
1-1/2 tsp chili powder
4 grindings black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup water

Whisk everything together, place the steak in a gallon size plastic storage bag, pour the marinade into the bag, seal the bag, move the steak around to coat it with the marinade, then place the bag in a square dish and refrigerate for at least two hours, longer for stronger flavors from the seasonings.

After I got the steak marinating, I turned my attention to rice. Following the directions on the bag of Par Excellence brand extra long grain white rice, I put 1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water into a saucepan and brought to a boil. Instead of butter and salt, I added 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp dried cilantro, and 1 tsp kosher salt. After it came to a boil, I reduced the heat to low and simmered the rice for 15 minutes, undisturbed. I then let it sit covered for five minutes before I fluffed it with a fork and covered it again to sit and come to room temperature.

When it came time to actually cook dinner, I sliced up a couple of largish green bell peppers, and 3/4 of a medium large yellow onion. The other 1/4 of the onion and a little green bell pepper from the garden got diced. I turned on the broiler and let the broiler pan heat up, then took the steak out of the marinade and put it on a wire rack over a cookie sheet to drain off any excess marinade. Next, I put the big cast iron skillet over high heat and let it preheat for about 6 minutes. I added just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then added the diced pepper and onion and a heaping tsp of minced garlic. I sauted that for a minute or so, then turned the heat down to medium. About that time, I put the steak in to broil. Back to the cast iron skillet, where the aromatics were just starting to get tender, I sprinkled on a liberal helping of chili powder, then deglazed the pan with a little beef broth. I poured in about 1/8 of an inch worth, let that cook off, poured in the same amount, let that cook off, then added a can of black beans (drained, but not rinsed). I mixed that all together, added about 1/4 inch worth of beef broth, and let it simmer while I flipped the steak. I then put the room temperature rice into the cast iron skillet with everything else, and poured the rest of the can of beef broth (about 1/2 a can). I stirred everything together, and simmered until the liquid was all absorbed or evaporated away. Then I stirred in half a jar of Chi Chi's thick and chunky salsa, let that heat up, and moved the pan off the heat and covered it.

Meanwhile, the steak is perfectly medium rare. I took it out of the broiler and put it on a wire rack over a cookie sheet to rest (not the same one the raw steak sat on, by the way). Then I put the smaller cast iron skillet on the stove over high heat and heated it for about 5 minutes, until it was screaming hot. I sliced the steak into thin strips across the grain, then prepared plates.

A little vegetable oil went into the HOT skillet, then I added a small handful of the sliced bell pepper and quickly sauted it, giving it a some nice sear and heating it all the way through, but still leaving it fairly crisp. I put the peppers on top of a portion of the rice and beans, then laid a couple of steak strips over that, and topped it all off with a sprinkle of shredded Mexican blend cheese. That was my daughter's plate (she likes her steak with a decent chance of recovery, just like her dad).

For my wife, the process was mostly the same, only I used pepper and onion, and also put her strips of steak into the pan to get rid of the pink. For mine, a hybrid of the two - peppers and onions, bloody steak. Yum!

(Sorry there's no pictures. I only took two shots of a finished plate since the action in the kitchen was so hoppin'. The first didn't have enough light, so the colors were way off, and the second had plenty of light, but I was too close and the focus was all fuzzy. Oh well. Can't win 'em all.)

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