Monthly Archives: June 2013

Marinated Flap Steak

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MARINATED FLAP STEAK

Treetop flyer: For years this cut has flown under the radar.  Much like short ribs before they became popular, the flap steak was either discarded or sent home with the butcher.  Similar to the hangar, skirt or flank, this is a cut from the bottom of the beast and less glamorous than the Filet, New York or Rib cuts.  With that unpopularity, the price was modest.  As the wonderful flavor was discovered, and the popularity increased, the prices followed.  The Latin cultures have used flap steak, and similar cuts for centuries.  If you like grilled Fajitas, it’s probably from this family of cuts.  The French have a version often called the “Bistro” steak and the Italians as well.  The bottom line is:  If this steak is cooked properly, it tastes great.

Mary meets Nate: This family of steaks does best when marinated.  They take to all spectrums of flavors and infusions.  I used a garlic lime combination with heat from Jalapenos and green onion.  It shines wonderfully with Asian flavors highlighted with Ginger and soy.  The sweet tang of Balsamic vinegar is a good choice.  Whatever flavors you choose, the flavor of this cut can hold up.

One tough customer:  Cook this cut past medium rare and you can patch the elbow of your old sport coat with it.  Cook it slowly with moist heat and you can patch those old shoes.  One thing about this family of cuts, they start out tough.  They are the lumberjacks of steak and need your respect.  Set your grill on high.  When it’s as hot as it can get, go grab another beer and then come back.  The flames, smoke, and hairless forearms are all worth the effort.  Cook these steaks on high for a nice exterior crust.  The thickest part of this steak rarely reaches one inch so to get that crust and leave the inside just north of rare, turn up the heat.  It’s got to be hot. 

The grain, the grain:  A very bad mock quote from Fantasy Island.  Sadly I’ve dated myself.  Picture this cut of meat like a piece of wood.  Cut the wood against the grain and it gives little resistance.  Cut the wood with the grain and the wood pinches and makes sawing almost impossible.  The same is true with this cut.  ALWAYS cut across the grain.  Even though the shape of the cut may tempt you to cut the other way, ALWAYS cut across the grain.  Otherwise you will be eating flavored rubber bands.  If you don’t believe me, cut a piece with the grain and start to chew it.  Start a load of laundry.  The laundry could be done before you are done chewing.  I learned the hard way.

Lime and garlic marinated flap steak

  • 2 flap steaks 1-2lbs each
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • 4 cloves of garlic crushed
  • ½ cup of EVOO
  • 1 bunch of green onions chopped
  • 2 Jalapeño peppers, 1 chopped, 1 roasted and sliced.
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped Cilantro dividedDSC06472

Clean the flap steak of membrane.  There shouldn’t be much.  Mix the EVOO, lime juice, garlic, green onions, salt, pepper and ½ the chopped cilantro in a bowl.  Mix and pour ½ the mixture over the flap steak in a shallow baking dish.  Coat the meat evenly and then flip.  Pour the other ½ of the mixture over the meat.  Cover and marinate for 1-2 hours at room temperature.  Heat the grill on high.  Place the meat on the grill and cook for approximately 3 minutes until crusty, flip and grill another 3 minutes until the meat reaches desired doneness.  I like this cut on the rare side of medium rare with a nice crunchy exterior.  Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing ACROSS the grain.  Serve with the roasted Jalapeno and the remaining Cilantro.  This meat pairs well with roasted summer vegetables such as yellow squash, tomatoes, peppers and corn.

Tips:  This is wonderful meat for a steak salad.  Try it with avocado, tomato, and roasted corn.  Make a dressing out of tomato salsa adding wine vinegar and some spices.  Try this cut Asian style with a Miso or Teriyaki marinate.  Serve on a salad with mandarin slices and the combo will knock your socks off.  When marinating with Ginger be careful not to let the meat set too long.  The enzymes in Ginger will break down the meat so it has a “soft” texture that can border on mushy.  If you’re not fond of heat, leave out the Jalapeño, both in the marinade and as garnish. The best tip of all.  Cut the meat ACROSS the grain.  Okay, I’m done.

 

 

Pull That Cork

For the love of wine

For the love of wine

PULL THAT CORK

UNSCREW THAT TOP

Wine makes me happy:  I am long overdue in sharing my wine ideas.  I’ve cooked several dishes and not mentioned a thing about the wine I drank (or would) with the dish.  For that, please accept my apology.  If any of you have waited for my recommendations to drink wine, then you owe me an apology.  Wine is not an exact science.  I can’t tell you absolutely this wine goes with that dish.  I can however tell you what I like and what I don’t like.  I can also tell you I do not have an unlimited budget or unlimited storage capacity.  So that being said, I am just an ordinary wine guy.  So if you like wine with your meals, or, think you might like to try wine with a few dishes, try a few of these.

Complement, contrast, or just plain tasty:  I prefer wines that complement the dish.  If there’s lemon in the dish, I like lemon in the wine.  If the dish is spicy savory, I like a spicy red.  If the dish is spicy sweet, I prefer an off sweet spicy white.  For example:  we’ve cooked ribs.  My ribs have a chili powder based rub and sauce.  With that spicy red flavor I like a spicy Zinfandel.  I like a Zinfandel with spicy red chili too.  I’m not a big fan of the big, jammy, fruit bomb Zinfandels.  Maybe with a hunk of Stilton or other stinky cheese but I prefer the peppery, spicy style.  I’m lucky to be close to the “foothills” in California, famous for Zinfandel.  There are dozens of fine producers but producers like Renwood, and Ravenswood, to name a few, are readily available.

Sweet and hot:  Not the wine you bring home to mom but fun none the less.  We made some red shrimp curry.  This is a sweet and hot dish. The first time I had Thai I was convinced I’d have to drink something besides wine.  What could possibly offset the heat? The wine selections at my local favorite Thai restaurant are very limited.  They have one chardonnay, one Riesling, and one Gewürztraminer. What the heck please bring one of each?  Much to my amazement these wines worked great with my hot curry.  I’m not a sweet wine fan by any stretch but the sweet of the wines cut right through the heat of the sweet coconut and curry.  Next time you order up that red or green hot curry, try an off sweet white.  Good news about these wines, they can be very inexpensive. 

Cover your bets:  Realistically there are thousands of wineries in the world with literally hundreds of thousands of wine choices.  There are mass producers readily available most everywhere, and little cult wineries that make only a few cases that only friends and family get to enjoy.  My personal rules are really simple.  If the food is delicate don’t overpower them with a big wine.  If you’re having scallops, have a nice light white wine.  If you’re having a big, fatty rib eye, match it with a big red like a cabernet based wine (or similar).  A little more delicate like salmon, try a Pinot Noir or light red like a Syrah, Grenache blend.  Tomato based Italian food, a stout Chianti or Brunello, red wines that can hold up to the acid in the tomatoes.  Complement the garlic, lemon and anchovy of a Caesar salad with a full bodied white, a chardonnay with lemon and some oak.  Pull out the grapefruit, lemon flavors with a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris (or Grigio).  Try those shrimp with a dry Rosé or even some sparkling wine.  Lamb is wonderful with a Spanish Rioja or even some Australian Shiraz.  Meritages or blends work well too.  Sauces and spices may dictate the direction you take.  The licorice taste in Tarragon may push you toward a wine that tones down that flavor. The earthiness of mushrooms pairs well with the earthiness of a Malbec or Mendoza, an Argentinean wine.  Try a big Chilean red.  Maybe one of the most undervalued and improved wine producing regions (in my humble opinion) in the last 20 years.  Try a Washington State cabernet, some great wines at great prices.

Tips:  Try an amber or dark beer with spicy barbeque.  It pairs well.  It’s in the sauce, goes well with the dish.  It’s hot outside and you’re barbequing, have a beer.  Don’t be afraid of the quality of wine in a bottle just because it has a screw top.  Some fabulous wines come with a screw top.  Australia and New Zealand have embraced the screw top.  California has many.  Not as sexy as the cork but we’ll be seeing more and more use of the screw top.  Start trying wines in your price point.  If it’s $15 or less, buy some and compare.  You may stumble upon a “sleeper” that is head and shoulders above the others.  Only way to know is to start tasting.  The recession has been good for wine consumers and brought many producers back to earth.  Wine is often on sale.  Keep an eye out for specials and loss leaders at your store or supermarket.  I found a Pinot from a reputable producer for less than $7 a bottle.  Recommended retail, $28.  The label was changing, not the quality.  Be a wine hawk.  Keep an eye out for specials and sales.  Have no fear. 

Red Curry Shrimp with Pineapple

Red Curry Shrimp

Red Curry Shrimp with Pineapple

Thai Red Curry Shrimp with Pineapple

Thai stick it to you: I can’t remember the first time I had really good Thai food.  But I do remember I was very intrigued with the flavors.  I became especially fond of the curries.  I like spicy food and the heat in curry is my favorite kind of heat.  Curry heat is kind of heat that shows up at the end of a bite, not the front.  Some spicy food is so hot it burns my lips and that ruins it for me.  I can’t get past the pain to get to the flavors.  This may not be a great comparison but some wines have such a long finish they just deliver layer after layer of flavors long after the sip is down the hatch.  That’s true for me with good curry.  Okay, I like chicken wings that are really hot just so I can extinguish them in bleu cheese dressing.  But, I like my curries with slow, backdoor heat.

Use your coconut: Coconut oil and coconut milk give this dish it’s smooth, rich, and off sweet flavors.  Just recently the heath benefits of virgin organic coconut oil have become recognized.  Coconut oil is healthy oil with a high flash point and great flavor.  Regular coconut milk is a must for this dish.  Skip the” light” in favor of full rich flavor and healthy fat.  Besides being wonderfully tasty, this is a pretty dish.  The pink shrimp and sauce with a dash of yellow from the pineapple and green from the basil and cilantro look like a decorator’s wheel. 

Cut and paste: Curry paste comes in all heat ranges.  I like a medium hot as a base so I can add enough paste to get the great curry flavor.  If the paste is too hot I find I back away from adding enough to bring out the curry flavor.  We can always raise the heat with other spices so use the paste first for curry flavor and next for heat.  The best way is to test some brands.  I’ve always bought my paste pre made but one day I’ll try to make it on my own. Most supermarkets carry curry paste in the Asian section but if you can find a Thai market better yet.  They may have many to taste so you can find your favorite.  This dish is made with red curry but I like green and Panang as well.

Red badge of Curry: I just wanted to write that down so I did.  What’s up with the pineapple?  I normally don’t make red curry with pineapple or mango but it’s a great combo.  If the curry is hot the sweet fruit offers a cooling bite and a great contrast in the dish.  I don’t cook the pineapple but add just before serving.  I also put it as a “condiment” on the table so some can add if they like.red shrimp curry with pineapple

Thai Red Curry with Shrimp and Pineapple

  • 2 lbs. of raw peeled shrimp, 30-35 per lb size
  • 3 Tablespoons of virgin organic coconut oil divided
  • 2-14 oz. cans of whole unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • ½ cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons medium hot red curry paste
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey to taste
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste
  • Dash of sea salt
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • 4 Thai basil sprigs (tops)

In a 12” heavy skillet heat ½ the coconut oil on medium high heat for 2 minutes.  Add the shrimp and cook until just pink.  Set aside and drain the remaining liquid out of the skillet.  Add 1 Tablespoon of the remaining coconut oil and add the onions cooking on medium.  Cook for about 2 minutes and add the garlic and the red pepper.  Cook for 2 minutes more until the peppers start to soften but not mushy.  Drain and set aside.  Add the remaining coconut oil and curry paste to the skillet cooking for a minute until the paste becomes fragrant.  Add the coconut milk (it may have separated in the can so be sure to get the thick stuff out) ginger, fish sauce and stir with a whisk, being sure to break up the paste and combining the ingredients well.  Simmer until the mixture starts to thicken.  Add the honey to get a slight sweet taste.  Then add the cayenne pepper to perfect the heat.  After the sauce has reduced by 1/3 add the shrimp, peppers and onions back to the skillet and heat through (about 1-2 minutes). Then add ½ the cilantro, stir.  Serve in a bowl or over Jasmine rice.  Garnish with the remaining cilantro and basil.  Salt to taste.

Tips:  If you don’t like to serve the curry over rice it looks nice family style served with rice on the side.  I will cook my jasmine rice in light coconut rice for extra coconut flavor.  It’s a little softer texture and can be a side dish with mango.

 

Stuffed Red Bell Peppers

Stuffed Red Bell Pepper

Stuffed Red Bell Pepper

STUFFED RED BELL PEPPERS

Pick a pepper:  I fondly remember having stuffed bell peppers when I was a youth.  I don’t remember how often we had them but do remember what I liked about them.  It was the ground meat.  I was then and still am a meat lover.  Bring on the meat because I’ll be eating the meat.  Most of the time they were green bell peppers, stuffed with ground meat, maybe rice, vegetables and I guess whatever was left around.  Baked and sometimes topped with cheddar cheese.  In fact I don’t think I saw a red bell pepper until I was an adult.  Did they exist in the 60’s?

What I remember liking about stuffed peppers, I remember what I didn’t like.  It was the soggy pepper that often would be sitting in a pool of liquid.  Sometimes a little bitter and often left behind with the “guts” scraped out.  We used to tell mom, “hey, can’t we just have the meat without the pepper?” Okay, I think I solved the soggy pepper problem.  Hey, don’t cook them for an hour. 

I think originally, stuffed peppers were invented as a way to dispose of leftovers.  Initially, I promised to offer up, so, keeping in spirit I used some of the leftover tri tip I encouraged you all to buy (and grind), that great ground sirloin that was on sale (if you got the butcher to help).  This is an easy recipe and doesn’t take much time or technique. If you want to taste your vegetables under cook them a bit.  Many recipes include rice for filler (back to my leftover theory), but if there’s rice there’s less room for meat so you know where I’m headed.     

  • 4 Large red bell peppers
  • 2 Tablespoons of EVOO
  • 3 lbs lean ground beef.
  • 3 celery ribs,  fine dice
  • 2 carrots fine dice
  • 1 large onion fine dice
  • 3 cloves of fresh minced garlic
  • 1   and ½ cup grated cheddar cheese divided
  • 2 Tablespoons Creole seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 cups diced tomato

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Cut the peppers in half along the equator and remove the stem, seeds and vein.  Cut each half as uniform in height as possible.  Next, brown the beef, drain, and set aside.  In a large skillet over medium heat add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes.  Add the celery, carrot and sauté another 2 minutes.  Add the tomato and the beef back to the skillet and stir.  Cool and add the cheese careful not to melt.  Put the peppers in a baking dish and fill each pepper equally with the mixture until all the mixture is used.  Top with remaining cheese.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and with a spatula and put one or 2 stuffed peppers on each plate.  Be careful not to burn your mouth as you may try to eat the peppers too soon!  I served this dish with a cucumber and Kalamata olive salad.

Stuffed Pepper

Stuffed Pepper

Tips:  Try chopped roasted green chilies in the mixture.  Add a strip of green chili on top of the pepper just under the cheese.  Add a fried egg on top of each pepper.  Yes, if you want to add leftover rice to the mixture, that’s okay.  Add up to 2 cups of cooked rice as filler.  Try different cheeses.  I used white cheddar.  Try smoked or hard cheeses.  Add some fresh parsley or dill.  Tight Lines!