It was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and I was waiting in line at the Balducci's meat counter. Much to my mom's chagrin (she's an A&P devotee), I admittedly favor the convenience of shopping at local (in other words, expensive) grocery stores for fresh produce. Particularly when I buy beef, I want to see a live person on the other side of the counter who will answer all of my questions and prep the meat exactly to my liking. A special shout out to my butcher buddies Andrea, Gio and Juan.
The customer in front of me was hemming and hawing about which cut of steak to buy. He was entertaining and wanted to impress. I couldn't help myself; I had to jump in. He was considering the sirloin? Well, I said, why not step it up and go for the NY Strip, which has more marbling, or fat, which means more flavor. And, I told him, don't forget to take the chill off before you cook it; and pat it dry before you season it, and let it rest before you slice and serve. I debated offering more culinary council, but decided to leave it at that. He appropriately nodded, thanked me for the unsolicited advice, and bee-lined to the dairy department.
As for me, I settled on skirt steak. I intended to marinate the meat in a chimichurri sauce, which meant that I didn't need to spend a fortune on the most expensive cuts like filet mignon, porterhouse, or the even the NY Strip for that matter, all of which I prefer simply seasoned generously with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. For marinated meat, I've always favored flank or skirt steak. Skirt has more marbling & flavor; it's richer tasting. Flank is leaner and can be a little tough; nothing like a good marinade with some acidity and salt to tenderize these cuts. One more thing: skirt and flank steak are so versatile! They work as a main course, on top of a salad, stuffed in a taco, sliced in a sandwich or rolled up as a tasty appetizer.
It's worth mentioning that the price of beef has gone up considerably over the last 7 or 8 years due to a confluence of factors, which means many Americans are consuming less red meat. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Even in well educated and health conscious demographic pockets, including communities like Scarsdale, I observe that meat still dominates the dinner plate.
If you're looking for a guide for how to build a healthier meal, check out My Plate from the U.S.D.A. (www.choosemyplate.gov) Protein is about one-quarter of a suggested dinner plate; the rest is roughly equal parts fruit, vegetable and whole grain, plus a nod to milk. Personally, I prefer Harvard's Healthy Eating Plate, which ditches the milk and highlights drinking water and consuming healthy oils. (www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource.)
That being said, let's not throw out the baby with the bath water. High quality choices of lean beef (and by lean, I mean 10% or less fat content) deliver some of the essential nutrients that our bodies need to function: B vitamins (2,3,6 and 12) as well as important minerals like iron, zinc and selenium. High quality in my book also means hormone and antibiotic free, organic when possible. Portion control is the key here. I recommend a serving size of about 4 ounces. Now, I'm not going to lie. A 4-ounce portion size takes some getting used to; it's the size of a medium plum. If you're interested in getting a better sense of portion sizes, get yourself a kitchen food scale.
Finally, a few quick notes about about the chimichurri, which is a pesto-like mixture that hails from Argentina. The prominent herb used in a chimichurri is oregano, blended with lots of garlic, parsley, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. My chimichurri also incorporates a handful of other leafy herbs, which adds a touch of complexity to the flavors. You can use basil, cilantro and/or mint; whatever you might have in your fridge or growing in your garden. I recently prepared this dish with grilled scallions and a slice of crusty grilled bread for guests at a local food and wine tasting event. The only complaint: there were no seconds.
I hope you are newly inspired by today's article featuring skirt steak with chimichurri sauce. Parting words from my kitchen to yours: learn, practice, taste and enjoy!
By Jennifer Rossano
Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh leafy herbs of choice: basil, cilantro and/or mint (optional)
3 TB fresh oregano, rough chopped (or 3 tsp dried)
4 TB minced garlic
2 TB minced shallots
¾ tsp freshly ground pepper
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp kosher salt
More salt and freshly ground pepper to season steak before grilling
2 pounds skirt steak
Place all of the ingredients (except the steak!) in a bowl of a food processor or a blender. Pulse until well combined, but do not puree. The sauce should be course and assertive in flavor. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference.
Cut the skirt steak into smaller pieces, about 4 inches in length, making note to cut thinner pieces from thicker ones, as the thicker pieces may need more cooking time. Place the steak in a shallow bowl or dish and pour the sauce over, making sure to coat the meat well. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.
30 minutes before you are ready to grill, take the steak out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Brush the excess chimichurri sauce off the steak and season lightly with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
Pre-heat the grill to medium-high (between 400-500 degrees). When the grill is hot, cook the steak, about 3 minutes per side for medium/medium rare. For more well done temperature, leave on the grill for an additional minute or two per side.
Place cooked steak on a cutting board or plate, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing thinly against the grain.
Serve with grilled veggies and a hearty slice of grilled bread to soak up the sauce and juices.
Makes eight 4-ounce portions.
Jennifer Rossano - Chef & Culinary Instructor