Take a walk through the meat department at your grocery store and look at the beef cuts available. You expect to pay more for the more tender, leaner meat: tenderloin (filet mignon), sirloin, the in-between (T-bone/porterhouse). Pick up a pack of sirloin steaks and compare the price with steaks cut from the flank or skirt. Do yourself a favor and try not to drop anything, because they are probably the same. Actually, you might find the sirloin strip steaks priced cheaper than the tougher flank steak.
Why? Because flank steaks are trendy. Think of them as the summertime version of short ribs. Restaurants can get these cuts cheap, marinate them and attain a big markup on dishes like carne asada or fajitas. The kicker is that flank and skirt steak come from the underbelly of the cow, supporting the weight of the animal and undergoing quite a bit of stress and strain. Flank, plate and shoulder cuts get worked a lot, meaning that the muscles get a workout. And, strong muscles mean tougher, sinewy meat.
While flank and skirt prices go up, flap steak remains affordable. Called bavette by the French and sirloin tips in New England, flap steak is the new cheap cut. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
An extension of the T-bone and Porterhouse steaks, flap meat is officially part of the short loin section, explains Bob Fanucchi, known as Butcher Bob by his students at San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy. “It’s actually in the belly of the animal,” he says. “You remove the flank, take the layers of fat off and the meat is called flap meat.”
Like the aforementioned skirt and flank, it’s best marinated and cooked over high, dry heat. The genius J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from Serious Eats writes that flap steak is bad when cooked rare and best at medium.
Flap steak was the order of the day on this dual holiday: Memorial Day 2012 and The Wife’s birthday. In an effort to breakdown some of the toughness, the meat soaked in Goya mojo criollo (I would ordinarily make my own, but I did a bunch of other cooking on Sunday and needed at least one shortcut) for a little more than 24 hours. I thought this would work well with a chimichurri topping, but decided to go with salsa verde instead (we’re having chorizo tacos later this week, so a little salsa can go a long way for the week).
- Six tomatillos, husked and halved
- Three garlic cloves
- Half bunch of cilantro leaves
- Half of one medium white onion, chopped
- Juice from one lime
- Kosher salt
- Two pounds flap steak
- One quart mojo marinade (I used Goya, but you can make your own)
Marinate the beef in a large zipper bag overnight.
Preheat your broiler on high. Broil tomatillos skin up 5-7 minutes until the skin starts to get black. Remove and cool slightly. Add onions and garlic to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides with a spatula, add the cilantro, lime juice, salt and tomatillos, and run on high until well pureed. Empty into a bowl and cool in the refrigerator. (I suggest doing this a day in advance to let the flavors mingle.)
(OH! If you’re looking for a little heat, add two stemmed, chopped jalepeño peppers to the food processor with the tomatillos. Remove the seeds from both for medium heat, from one for strong heat or leave the seeds lone if you live on the edge.)
When it’s time to cook the steaks, preheat the grill with all burners on high. Get the grill to a nice, consistent heat (about 550-600 degrees). Keep half of the grill on full blast and lower the other half to medium/medium-low. Add the meat to the grill. Cook six minutes, turn and cook an additional five to six minutes. Remove from the grill and let rest five minutes before slicing.
Cut the steaks with the grain to prevent fluid loss. Serve with the cold salsa verde.