Saturday, August 20, 2011

Friday Dinner: Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce, Tomato Feta Salad, Mexican Corn and Grilled Focaccia

Friday dinner with Lynn, my cooking partner in (delicious) crime. I love cooking slow - layering ingredients where the application of heat creates new flavors, but sometimes... hot, fast and easy is good, too. One of the best parts of this dinner was piling a little of the tomato salad and feta on the grilled bread (that had been rubbed with a cut clove of garlic and brushed with a little olive oil), then drizzling it with a dollup of  chimichurri sauce. That combination could be a meal unto itself.

Good corn needs nothing more than butter (and I can even forego that), a little salt and pepper but I'd never had Mexican "street corn" and wanted to try it. "Elote" is the word for corn on the cob and in most areas (some serve it cut off the cob) it is seasoned with crema (sour cream or mayonnaise may be substituted), lime, queso anejo (aged cheese, usually Cotija or Chihuahua) and chile powder.

Finally, a variety of halved sweet cherry and grape tomatoes, red onion and parsley left to macerate in the refrigerator for an hour then dressed with just a little olive oil and garnished with crumbled barrel-aged feta cheese.

Simple - grill the flank steak. One of the cardinal rules of cooking a piece of meat on the grill is to salt it and another is, don't screw it up.

Flank steak is both easy and hard. One end is generally flat, often about 3/4 " thick and the other is thicker - up to 1 1/2 - 2", sloping down to an inch or so Not the perfect cut for a crowd that all likes rare or medium rare, but good for a mix of the two. It's easy to overcook and this is a situation where an instant read thermometer can be your BFF.

The best way I know to grill a flank steak is to sear it fast on each side over hot coals (2-3 minutes a side and make sure the flank steak has been out of the refrigerator so it's not cold) and then let it cook on the cool side of the grill for 3-4 minutes.
Left: Areas, in descending order of thickness. Right: Where the cow keeps the flank steak (Wikipedia)

Yeah, I got a little overzealous grilling these and about half of them were pretty aggressively 'browned' (and that's being kind). Thank you Lynn, for scraping and making them edible.
  Grilled Flank Steak
  Chimichurri Sauce
  Mexican Street Corn
  Tomato and Red Onion Salad with Feta
  Grilled Focaccia 

Serves 5-6
Other than the salt, the dry rub is there to flavor the crust and not overpower the flavor of the meat. My preference is to apply it to the meat no more than 2 hours before grilling. The rub recipe makes about a cup - extra may be stored in an airtight container in the cupboard for a couple of months.
  • 2 1/2 lb flank steak
    • If there is silver skin (white, opaque connective tissue) on the flank steak (see image, above), trim that off.
 Dry Rub
  • 1/3 cup paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Pat the meat dry and apply 2-3 tablespoons of dry rub generously to each side of the meat. Cover the flank steak and store it covered in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. At least 20 minutes before you are going to grill the meat, remove it from the refrigerator and pat the meat dry.
  • Prepare your grill for high heat with the coals on one side. Holding one hand about 5 inches above the coals, or the heating element, you should feel a strong desire to move your hand after no more than 2 seconds. Clean the grate with a wire brush and thoroughly oil it with a high smoke point oil (peanut or canola).
  • Grill for 3 minutes on each side and then move the meat to the side of the grill with no coals (or heat) and cook it for just a few minutes until it is done to your preference. An instant-read meat thermometer is your best meat-grilling friend.
  •  Remove the flank stead from the grill and tent with foil for a few minutes. When you are ready to serve, slice it very thinly across the grain.
Makes 8-10 ounces of sauce.
Chimichurri sauce is commonly used as a marinade or sauce on grilled beef. I kept the ratio of parsley to cilantro heavy on the parsley for one diner who isn't fond of it, but you can certainly up that to 1-to-1.
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 3/4 packed cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 packed cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1⁄4 packed cup fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1⁄2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon  lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • In a food processor, pulse the garlic, add parsley, cilantro and oregano. Pulse until finely minced, but not pureed.
  • In a separate bowl, emulsify vinegar, pinch salt and pepper and lime juice, cumin and olive oil.
  • Mix with herb/garlic mixture. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. May be made 1 day in advance.

from: SFGATE Serves 6

  • 6 ears of corn, shucked
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 small clove of garlic, pressed
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 heaping cup of grated cueso anejo (Cotija, Chihuahua, parmesan or romano work, too)
  • chile powder - mild, medium or hot, it's up to you

  • Combine the mayonnaise, garlic and lime in a small bowl; refrigerate until needed.
  • Preheat your grill for high heat and cook the corn cobs, turning so that each side has some color
  • Spread the grated cheese out on a place. Remove the corn from the grill. Brush the corn with the seasoned mayonnaise, and roll in the cheese. Sprinkle on a dash of chile powder.
  • Remove the corn from the grill
Serves 5-6 as a side

  • 2 pint containers of mixed cherry and grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced very thin and rinsed under cold water
  • 1/2 cup of barrel aged feta, or regular feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil (maybe a little less)
  • 2 tablesppons of minced parsley
  • salt and fresh ground pepper

  • De-stem and cut the cherry and/or grape tomatoes in half lengthwise and add to a bowl. Add the thin-sliced and rinsed red onions and combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  • Thirty minutes before you are ready to serve, remove the tomato and onion mixture from the refrigerator. When you are ready to serve, add the parsley and drizzle in the olive, one tablespoon at a time (tasting after each addition and toss to combine. It's okay if you use less than the proscribed amount of olive oil.
  • Serve, and top each serving with a tablespoon or so of the crumbled feta cheese

Serves 5-6 as a side

  • 1 slab of focaccia bread cut into 1 1/2 inch high by 4 inches long slices
  • sea salt
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • olive oil

  • Grill each slice of focaccia bread on your barbeque grill. If you are grilling on the hot side, do NOT turn away for a second. Watch those slices like a hawk. You want the slices to have grill marks on both sides, but still be tender in the middle.
  • Remove the toasted slices to a tray and rub one side with a clove of garlic. Brush that side lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt and serve.

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