I’ve never been a trend follower. If one thing’s all the rage, I most likely will not buy it, wear it, or make it if that’s what everyone else is doing. I’m not trying to be difficult or a diva (really!), but it’s just that I prefer uniqueness to homogeneity. However, and much to my friend Hunter’s chagrin, I have made Crocs an exception – but I only wear them at home while prepping for photo shoots or working in the garden because they are really comfortable and clean up nicely.
I’m usually not interested in food trends, either. Not just the Iron Chef-y type of oddity (like cooking with foam or using fussy kitchen appliances that only do one job) but specifically an ingredient that we have been bombarded with to the point of “enough already.” Like flank steak. But despite its recent overexposure, it will always remain a classic. The once rarely found cuts of flank, hanger and skirt steaks are now readily – and economically – available at local markets. Before the popularity of Mexican and Asian cuisines, not many people, including myself, really knew about these beef steaks cut from the animal’s lower hindquarters.
Prior to our being able to purchase a one to two pound package of this fajita and stir-fry staple, we had no idea that the intimidating slab of meat labeled “London Broil” was actually a large cut of flank steak that’s cooked whole. We also did not know that it had absolutely nothing to do with the capital of England. Some enterprising 1930′s butcher thought it would be clever to give this cut a regal name to dupe the pseudo-cosmopolitan shoppers into purchasing this not so tender piece of meat. Not me – I just stuck to the ones I knew. I didn’t cow. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Well, at least until almost twenty years ago when I experienced what I now call My Personal Waterloo. It was the second time I had seen my future in-laws and the first time I had cooked London Broil. I wanted to impress them with my culinary prowess and ingratiate myself in their hearts forever by fixing an unforgettable dinner. So, I took the “roast” from the fridge and prepared it the same way I did all my bovine buddies at that time: I braised it with the Holy Trinity (salt, pepper and garlic) and threw in some carrots and celery for good measure. I cooked that sucker low and slow until it was fall-apart tender. When dinner was ready, we all sat down and passed the food family-style. I was a little anxious, given their worldly palates, but still confident that my Southern down-home offering would bowl them over. As Adam’s Dad began to carve the beef, I noticed a very peculiar look on his face. I was sure I saw him throw his wife a nervous glance as the first slice fanned away on the platter. His mother leaned forward and examined the well-done meat and said, “This is a London Broil. You only cook it briefly. We eat our steak rare.”
The first and only thing that popped into my mind was the single profane English phrase I knew: “Bloody hell.” Oh, boy, I wanted to die. I teetered from mortification to self-loathing and back a few hundred times.His parents were very kind about the whole “misunderstanding.” They complimented the flavor of the meat and said that this new roasting method was quite clever and they may even give it a go themselves in the future. Probably not, I thought, but thanks for trying. But I guess I must have done something right that night since they didn’t threaten to disown their son if he married the girl who botched the beef.
So, the “How To Cook Not Roast” lesson learned.
Fire up the grill and enjoy this flavorful steak at your next gathering. Simply throw the marinade together in the morning (or even better – overnight), add the meat and let it linger in the refrigerator until dinnertime.
Balsamic-Marinated Flank Steak
- 4 tablespoons minced garlic
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1-(1-1/2 pounds) flank steak
- In a shallow 9-x-13 glass baking dish, combine all marinade ingredients through red pepper flakes. Season with some salt and pepper. Add the flank steak and turn several times to coat the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.
- Remove the steak from the fridge 30 minutes prior to grilling. Light a grill to medium-high. Remove the steak from the marinade and discard the marinade. Brush off any pieces of garlic from the steak (they can burn). Place the meat presentation side down on the hot grill and cook for 6 minutes. Flip the meat and cook until steak is medium-rare, about 6 minutes more.
- Transfer the steak to a cutting board and loosely tent with foil. Allow the steak to rest 10 minutes before thinly slicing at a forty-five degree angle against the grain.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: This is a great make-ahead dish since you can pop the steak into the fridge overnight. The longer it marinates, the better.
Product Purity: As always, check the labels on your soy sauce for high fructose corn syrup and/or added MSG.
Presentation: Go bistro-style: Set your table with a blue and white tablecloth and napkins, white oval plates and good Belgium beer. I like to serve the steak with grilled garlic sleds: Cut a baguette in half, then cut into 8 or 9-inch pieces. Lightly coat with olive oil and grill until golden. Rub a cut clove of garlic over the toasted surface to infuse the garlic flavor. To assemble the sandwiches: Smear a little horseradish aïoli on the toasted bread sleds and top with the steak slices. For added color to the plate and to round out the meal, serve with grilled corn and tomato slices seasoned with salt and cracked pepper. Sprinkle the plate with minced parsley just before serving.