September 9, 2006

A Good Piece of Flank Steak

(Adapted from a March 2004 Food & Wine recipe)

One of the meals from my childhood that I remember with a good deal of fondness is cube steak. At the time, I didn’t realize the cube steak was most likely pieced together from some of the least desirable cuts of the cow. I wouldn’t have cared anyway. I was a kid and, unlike my mother’s overcooked pork chops, it tasted good.

It’s been years since I’ve had cube steak, but a cut of meat that I think some people may lump together with cube steak and that I’ve really come to enjoy is flank steak.

One reason that I suspect flank steak is underrated is, well, because the cuts available at many grocery stores, or even butcher shops for that matter, are of fairly poor quality. Also, once it’s cooked past medium, even a quality piece of flank steak starts to toughen up (like those overcooked porkchops from my childhood) and lose its flavor.

This flank steak recipe is very simple to make, yet is reminiscent of a meal you could get in a good Asian restaurant. It involves just a few ingredients. But the key to its success revolves around two factors.

First, it requires a quality flank steak. We have had great success with flank steaks purchased from Whole Foods, which gets a lot of its meats from Coleman Natural. Yes, you are going to pay probably twice what you would pay for a flank steak from your usual grocery store, but the end product is well worth it. That said, some of the bigger grocery chains are now carrying their own line of hormone-free, antibiotic-free meats, and they seem to be of a decent quality—although, again, they are more expensive.

Second, the meat cannot be cooked past medium. Even medium, in my view, is a minor travesty, particularly if you’ve actually paid for a good piece of flank steak. So, if you’re one of those squeamish sorts who, for whatever reason, equates eating red or pink meat with pouring laundry detergent in your eyes, then perhaps you should skip this recipe. It’s your loss.

  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of finely grated fresh ginger (do NOT substitute ground ginger)
  • ½ cup soy sauce (low-sodium is fine, and healthier)
  • 1/3 cup of dark brown sugar
  • Two pinches of crushed red pepper
  • 2 lbs or so of flank steak
  • Salt and pepper

Get a grill going over medium-high heat

Heat the canola oil in small sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook for about a minute or so, stirring a few times, until garlic is just starting to golden. Dump in the soy sauce, brown sugar, and crushed pepper, stirring here and there, and let it get syrupy, which should take 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool. Reserve about 2 tablespoons or so in a separate bowl.

Season the flank steak with salt and pepper and put on the grill (and leave it alone!). Cook for 4-5 minutes and then turn it over. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, and then brush on all of the glaze (except for the reserve) for the last minute or two of grilling.

Remove it from the grill and let it sit for a few minutes on a cutting board. Remember, it’s still going to cook for a few minutes while it sits there. So unless it's a particularly thick steak, 10 minutes is the maximum time it should be on the grill.

Slice the steak crosswise into half-inch strips and drizzle the reserve glaze over top.

Note: In terms of a side to eat with this dish, I would highly recommend making a little bit more of the glaze than the recipe calls for (just adding a little more of each ingredient to the pan), and using one tablespoon or so to quickly marinate some asparagus, which you can grill at the same time as the flank steak. We’ve done that on several occasions and it’s a perfect combination.


Anonymous said...

I've made something similar to this from a recipe I found in a magazine. It became one of our staples because it's so easy. Not overcooking is definitely the key.

Fillippelli the Cook said...

We don't make it that often these days just because it's tough to make it to Whole Foods on a regular basis. Although I'm going to work on finding a local farmer who provides beef to customers.