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Friday, July 24, 2020

Peppery Skirt Steak with Asparagus

What's better than a photobombing cat? 


This is an incredibly easy way to prepare skirt steak. It takes a hair of planning, but so long as you get this meat in the marinade in the morning, you can grill by the evening.

Skirt Steak with Asparagus and Green Beans

  • 2 lb skirt steak
  • 3 Tbsp good olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp ground chili flakes
  • 1 tsp dried mint, crushed - or about 8 fresh mint leaves, chiffonade
  • Kosher salt
  • Peppercorn mix: white, green, and black peppercorns, ground in the pepper mill
  • 1 lemon
  • Plenty of green beans
  • Asparagus
  • A few cippolini onions or some elephant garlic
  • Coconut Rice, for serving (my recommendation)
Start in the morning or the night before with your skirt steak. If you get your meat from a local provider, it will likely be in a long strip. Cut this in large pieces that can easily fit in a bowl, about five or six inches long, but don't slice into strips. You'll do this after it's cooked!

This recipe is about balancing flavors. This is not a new principle, as learning to balance flavors is part of becoming a great cook. Zest the lemon(fruity and fragrant) and add this to the olive oil(also fruity and mildly astringent), chili flakes(hot), and mint(cool-hot). You may notice that we're missing sweet. You can add a pinch of sugar or honey if you like, but I don't think it's necessary, as I served this with coconut rice which is a little sweet from the fattiness of the coconut milk. You'll also notice that we've left out bitter - this is because the vegetables we add are just a touch bitter.

Add your steaks to this olive oil mixture and season heavily with kosher salt and PLENTY of grinds of your peppercorn mix. A quick lesson on peppercorns:

You can head here for some more information
Peppercorns are berries from a flowering vine that are harvested and dried. They come in pink, green, black, and red, naturally. You get white peppercorns by soaking ripe pepper berries in water for about 10 days so they ferment, and then you dry them out. This is a similar process to processing cocoa beans to make them into proper nibs - this is quite exciting if you ask me! 

Your steak should marinate for at least 4 hours, to let the salt and fat do their work. Skirt steak comes from the 'plate' primal of the cow, which means that it's lean and full of rough muscle! It's nice to do low-and-slow, so if you have a sous vide machine at home, I highly recommend giving this a try! The trouble with it is that it's quite lean so therefore the low-and-slow cook method doesn't exactly do well since there's not a lot of fat there. This is why you must add some fat. 

You can grill this outside on an open flame, but the day I made this was incredibly stormy, so I opted to use my cast-iron griddle, that's happily parked on the two left burners of my gas stove. I love cast iron because it's virtually indestructible once you get it seasoned properly and care for it. I believe in buying things mindfully and investing in them, and I hope you'll give this train of thought a bit of consideration, too. 

Green beans are so prolific when grown en masse. It's an easy thing to grow - so please think about donating some if you grow too much!
Now it's time to think about our Victory Garden spoils! I've got quite a bit of them at this point, and I hope you do as well. This recipe includes green beans and asparagus because:

A.) I have a lot of both.
B.) They work with beef quite nicely.
C.) They are best when cooked quickly.

When you are ready to eat, remove your marinated steak from the fridge and let it come up to room temperature for about 20 minutes. Take your green beans and asparagus and prepare them. For the asparagus, cut off the hard woody root and chop into 2.5" pieces. Do the same for the green beans. If you have either cippolini onions or elephant garlic to add, slice them just as thin as you can manage to do so. Juice the lemon you had from earlier, and toss your vegetable mix with it, along with some more olive oil, salt, and pepper. Set this aside. 

Heat your griddle to high and brush with oil. Get this quite hot and turn on your vent, or open a window. It's going to get smoky! Sear your steaks on medium-high for 3 minutes on each side, and set them on a plate to rest. Don't you dare scrape off that delicious goodness that the steak left on the griddle! Instead, dump your chopped vegetables onto it and scrape it around as it cooks. Your veggies should be cooked fully within five minutes, and you'll have a delicious sear on them, along with all the flavor of the steak. When it's done cooking, you can remove from the griddle and set aside in a bowl. 

Turn off your griddle and pour some salt on it. Push the salt around with a little oil and a paper towel to clean it. Doing this immediately after cooking shows good habits and respect for your tools, so you may as well just go ahead and do it now. 

To serve, slice your now-rested steaks against the grain and toss with your sauteed vegetables. Serve on a nice big communal plate with coconut rice on the side and enjoy taking great photos before consuming! 

I love this recipe because it's easy to do, and utilizes what you (or, at least, I) have. It's a quick and simple recipe that takes minimal prep and doesn't skimp on the flavor profile. When it comes to good beef, you should show it respect and keep it relatively simple. There are many farmers that are willing to ship directly to you nowadays, and I highly recommend that you do some research and see who will ship to you and your area. The farmer is hurting just as much as the restaurant worker in this troubled time, so let's put our heads together and make sure we're putting our dollars in the right place. 

About half of the corn grown in the US is for animal feed; this is combined with a LOT of other goodies to make proper food for these cows that are both nutritious and delicious.
I've visited my fair share of beef farms in my day, and I can tell you this: they're actually quite a bit like you would hope to imagine them to be. What's better, out in Western Kansas, I've seen a good portion of beef farms double as wind farms; it's quite a sight to behold! Remember, the farmers in America don't often clear land through deforestation practices. Most of the farmers will buy and use land that's already rolling and hilly and difficult to cultivate, so they can just stick some animals on it and call it good. Quite ingenious, don't you think?

Through most of a beef steer's life, it's roaming around on a family farm, until it goes to a finishing yard where it basically gets to hang out in a smaller yard while it eats as much corn and grass and whatnot as it wants, until finally coming to a beef processing plant. Most of these animals, as far as I've seen, are treated well. Peace of mind is one of the many reasons that it's important to know where your beef comes from. An overwhelming 97% of all farms in America are family-owned, so you can at least feel decently good about consuming beef every so often. 

Remember, it's progress, not perfection! Switch to a locally-sourced protein versus the kind you get in the grocery store, which may come from out-of-state. Get a sampler box from a local farmer. Plant a garden. We don't need you to be pulling out your hair from the stressful attempt at doing everything perfectly. We just need everyone doing a few small good things collectively that'll push us in the right direction. Lead by example, and Godspeed! I assure you, it's going to be a load of fun. 

Enjoy that steak!

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