The other half of Easter dinner was inspired by someone that I’ve never met (Actually, that would mean that both halves of dinner were inspired by people I have not met. Never mind.). I have exchanged Tweets with Albert Burneko on one or two occasions, but I find his writing on food delightfully sarcastic and blistering. He writes the way I want to write, with f-bombs and crude humor sprinkled throughout. He, however, has an arena at Deadspin and Gawker Media that embraces this, whereas I am still trying to build an audience.
I’ve referenced Burneko on a couple of occasions here, finding his pot roast recipe to be useful and entertaining.
A couple of weeks ago, he wrote about the beauty and splendor of the flank steak, which he dubbed the perfect steak for socialists because it encourages communal eating of something that is supposed to be wholly capitalistic. Steak, in all of its glory, is about men and guns and Camel non-filter cigarettes and fire, not fancy marinades and driving Volkswagens and slicing on a bias. It is big hunks of meat and FIRE (cue Tim Allen grunts) and knives.
I’m a big fan of London Broil and other shoulder cuts because they have a lot of flavor and I can usually drink a couple of beers in the time it takes to cook everything. They also happen to be cheaper, per pound, than the flank steak. Flanks, not unlike chicken thighs, pork shoulder, beef short ribs, used to be cheap cuts of meat. Seemingly overnight, these pieces of meat that supermarkets and butchers could not give away became $7.99 per pound premium cuts. Because of fat or marrow (or, in the case of the short rib, both), these otherwise ignored cuts have gained popularity. I blame Bobby Flay. I don’t have any good reason.
Back to Burneko. Of the flank steak, he writes:
This is a large, flat cut of beef from the abdominal muscles of a cow; it’s tougher than most other steak cuts, because the abdominal muscles of a cow do a lot of work, especially when the night is overcast and dark and the humans are reading in bed and the cows lay on their backs in the fields and do crunches in rhythm to lame techno music at modest volumes. This toughness, when handled well—which is to say, when held in check by marinating or slow cooking—makes the flank steak engaging and fun to eat, in how it demands a slightly larger share of your attention than, say, a butter-soft filet, so that you notice how much more flavorful it is than a filet. Handled poorly—overcooked, say, or allowed to languish in medium temperatures that neither break down the meat nor sear its outsides before its interior cooks through—this toughness can make the eating of a flank steak a miserable fucking chore.
With Easter Sunday’s weather in the 60s and sunny, and a table of seven to feed, I thought that this would be a solid nontraditional accompaniment to the nontraditional ham steaks.
WHAT WORKED: Citrus. Burneko employed a honey-soy-cilantro marinade. My aunt, also known as The Aunt, is a breast cancer survivor who has some sort of sensitivity to soy. Rather than tell her about the soy sauce and hear about the sensitivity for the 512th time in the past 18 months, I went in a different direction. Citrus provides the requisite acid to soften up the sinewy beef and flavor things nicely. Nothing special here. No crazy varieties of oranges. Just navels, lemons and limes. OH! This recipe is totally scalable. I actually made two steaks here.
WHAT DIDN’T: Everyone in my kitchen who kept staring at the steaks as they rested. They were very concerned about the steaks getting cold, tenting them with foil. Whatever…
WHAT DID EVERYONE SAY: My crowd, with the exception of The Sister, only gets grilled food at my house. They saw the presentation of grilled steaks of any variety as a harbinger of warm weather.
WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: I would think so.
One last dose of Burneko:
The best way to eat steak is to cook an enormous steak for several people, slice it into portions, and share it. Yes, this tends to mean less steak per person than if you were each having your own personal Fred Flintstone cut. Turns out, this actually is good news, for pretty much everybody but your cardiologist and whoever sells luxury cars to her. A more modest portion of steak, especially one that comes to your plate sliced into thin strips, encourages smaller bites and slower chewing, and maybe even combining those bites with some of the other good stuff for which your plate now has room because it doesn’t have an entire half-a-cow splayed across it, which means an opportunity to appreciate your steak as an actual foodstuff with actual flavor and texture and character, and not just as a signifier of your Total Macho Dudebrocity.
Citrus-Marinated Flank Steak
By Jared Paventi
- 1 large flank steaks, weighing 1 1/4 to 2 lbs.
- 2 tbsp. cup honey
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- pinch kosher salt
- 1 medium to large navel orange
- 1 lemon
- 2 limes
- 3 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil (not olive)
Grate the zest of one orange, one lemon and one lime over a large non-metallic mixing bowl. Slice the fruit in half and juice the fruit. Dump the juice into the bowl. Add the honey, salt, garlic, and oil to the bowl, and whisk vigorously until well-combined.
Lay the steak in a large, shallow pan or baking dish. Pour marinade over the stop and let stand for 45 minutes to 2 hours.
Preheat a grill to its highest setting (500 to 600 degrees, ideally). Place steak on the grill and cook 3 minutes each side with the lid closed. Remove the steak and let rest at least 10 minutes. Cut perpendicular to the grain and serve.