Category Archives: Beef

A Tale of Two Flank Steaks

Apologies to Dickens. There’s not much in the way of interesting narrative or characterization here, just a single post on the way I treat flank steak to make it edible—unless you need it to re-sole a shoe. Before getting the new charcoal grill this summer, I hadn’t fooled with a flank steak for a long, long time. Mostly—and I mean decades ago—I stuffed and rolled them, as that was the only recipe for them in my old Betty Crocker. But even back in the 60s, it was recommended to score the flank steak first, partly to make it easier to roll around stuffing, but also to make it more tender. The meat roll was braised in the oven for 2 hours and the result was okay, but I’d just as soon make a bracciole with pounded round steak. Yes, many people pound a flank steak for bracciole, but it’s a huge job pounding a flank steak; in fact, I think my shoulder still aches from trying that.

But, I digress. this post is not about braising a meat roll.

My point is that scoring a flank steak in a cross-grain diamond pattern seems to have been forgotten by a lot of cooks. Mostly, we do it to the fat on a holiday ham, maybe studding the diamonds with cloves. For grilling a flank steak, it’s a necessity. I’ve done it twice now in a couple of weeks, the first time using a dry rub, and this time with a wet marinade, but both eaten in tortillas with a variety of good toppings. I probably can’t convince you of the necessity of scoring unless you grill one as is, marinated or not, and then try it again after scoring. You will be amazed and delighted. After marinating, you grill the flank steak for about 5 minutes per side for medium rare, although the thinner ends might be more done—it won’t matter, though, because even the medium or well-done ends will be tender and delicious.

Scoring should be at about a 1/8″ depth and definitely not more than 1/4″. Sharpen your knife to be able to make easy cuts without a lot of downward force—you don’t want to cut through to the bottom, but you do want to score both sides and still have a middle.

It was really cold and windy out yesterday, and I didn’t get pics of the wet rub steak on the grill; I just threw it on and ran into the house.

My wet rub used lime juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt, and ground chipotle. I think we liked this wet rub better than the dry rubs I often use. It had a nice kick from the lime and chipotle, and a better charred surface. I let the steak marinate for about 6 hours before grilling over direct heat at about 400°.

Just Another Bacon Sandwich

I didn’t feel like having one of the burgers for dinner, so I mushed the 3 into 2 for my husband (and hoped he wouldn’t notice eating too much meat), and just focused my attention on the bacon. Is it just me or do you think the bacon often gets lost on the burger?

I dragged out the cast iron griddle that doesn’t sit right on my stove, and it just fits in the kettle grill with no room to spare. I put the bacon on the cold griddle and then set it on the hot grill. Closing the lid for a few minutes let the griddle heat up and I could hear the sizzling beginning. After that, I kept the lid over, tending to the bacon as I would on the stovetop. As you can see in one image, that griddle had a hot spot in the middle where my charcoal was piled, so I just moved pieces around and took some off as needed. That’s when I had to figure out how to get the griddle off to grill the burgers and onions.

The griddle fit in so tightly, I had to tip it a little to set it on the grate and get my gloved fingers out, and with the grease reservoir filled with bacon grease, I didn’t want to cause a grease flare up on the coals that would jump up to my arms. It seemed like the only way to be able to lift the griddle would be to remove the grease first, so I got my turkey baster and started sucking up the grease and putting it in a cup. There was a ton of grease and it seemed to be going okay until I noticed that I was melting the plastic baster by touching the cast iron with the tip. Oh, well. It worked up until the tip melted itself shut and now it’s off to the gadget store for another baster. Do they make one in metal or glass? We’ll see.

Grilling casualty
Grilling casualty

I learned a few things about the griddle, about using plastic on a grill, and about cooking bacon on a grill, but in the end, it was all about the sandwich:

  • grilled ciabatta roll
  • guacamole
  • lots of chewy bacon
  • grilled onions
  • roasted tomatoes
bacon_sandwich
One of the best sandwiches in a long time

 

Roasted Tomato Stuffed Zucchini

I’m roasting some of the garden tomatoes today while I’m housebound with the roofers who are stomping and banging all over the rooftop. Oh, wait, one of them just turned on way-too-loud radio, so I won’t be reading that half-finished novel. I didn’t think I’d be using the tomatoes today, until I looked in the vegetable bin and saw those two big zucchinis I picked up a few days ago. Pair that with the pound of ground beef I mindlessly took out of the freezer and some cheese in the fridge, and all of a sudden dinner puts itself together, sort of.

I’m keeping out a couple of fresh tomatoes to add to the filling so there is a combination of tomato flavors, fresh and roasted. No, my husband does not like tomatoes, but he tolerates me, because if we never ate some of the things he says he hates, cooking and eating would be no fun. After 20 years of eating mushrooms, for example, he declared last year that he can’t stand them anymore. I don’t think we had a mushroom all summer, but they will be coming back in the fall and winter, and he can just pick them out. But today, the tomatoes are in.

I could have made the entire meal on the grill, but the roofers are also doing the patio roof above the grill and making some mess, so it’s all indoors today. A few things make this meal easy to prepare:

  • Yes, it takes time to roast tomatoes, but your time is free while they sit in the oven. I like the one-hour roasting, but you could turn down the temperature and make it go all morning.
  • The tomatoes are seasoned for roasting, so you don’t need to add anything more than salt and pepper to the filling when putting it together.
  • When you scoop out the zucchini seeds (I forgot to take that picture), put the shells in the microwave for a few minutes to precook them, ensuring that they will be done when the topping is browned.

Roasted Tomato Stuffed Zucchini

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Roasting Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 375°; line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

6-12 tomatoes (keep two out for the filling without roasting)

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons dried or fresh thyme

2 teaspoons sea salt

olive oil

  • Core tomatoes and cut in half, crosswise. Seed tomatoes if needed. Many of my San Marzano tomatoes were so meaty that seeding would have been a waste of time. I did seed the few round tomatoes.
    • Place tomato halves on sheet pan.
    • Sprinkle minced garlic over all.
    • Drizzle with olive oil.
    • Sprinkle fresh or dried thyme and sea salt over all.
  • Roast for about an hour or until the tomatoes are to your liking. I do like mine a little charred on the edges and concentrated, so I left mine in longer in a 300° oven.
  • Remove tomatoes to cooling rack over paper towels or parchment paper.
  • Tomatoes can be stored at this point in the refrigerator or freezer for later use.

Stuffed Zucchini

Preheat oven to 375°-400°; drizzle olive oil on bottom of large baking dish.

2 large zucchini

1 lb ground beef

2 fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced

6-8 roasted tomato halves, roughly chopped

1/2 cup grated  Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, divided

1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

2 tablespoons butter, melted

  1. Halve the zucchini lengthwise and trim off the stems. Scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. I leave in most of the flesh, but some people scoop down to the shell and diced the flesh to use in the filling. I did not use the scooped out seeds.
  2. Place the zucchini shells on a plate and microwave for about 2 minutes or longer to precook them.
  3. Combine 1/4 cup of the cheese with the bread crumbs and melted butter. Set aside.
  4. Brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat, cooking down any liquid and removing any fat, if necessary. Salt and pepper the meat.
  5. Add diced fresh tomatoes and any leftover minced garlic from the tomato roasting. Mash the tomatoes into the pan and they will disappear into the meat mixture. Continue cooking until most of the liquid is cooked away.
  6. Stir in the roasted tomatoes, stirring until heated through.
  7. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the grated cheese.
  8. Fill the shells carefully using two teaspoons, but don’t agonize over spilt filling.
  9. Top the filling with the breadcrumb mixture, using your fingers. It’s a kind of balancing act.
  10. Bake the filled shells for 30 minutes. You could cover the dish with foil for part of the time, if you think the zucchini needs more concentrated cooking or if you did not precook them in the microwave.

This was a great dinner without a heavy starch like pasta, and my husband didn’t even notice the tomatoes, until I told him later.

Grilled Stuffed Poblanos, Theoretically

What are the chances that my roasted poblano peppers will behave and let me both peel and seed them and still remain in one piece to be stuffed? I know from experience that the chances are slim, which is why I showed you once how to fake it by laying the flattened pepper in a tortilla and rolling it around the stuffing. I’m going to stay optimistic this time, hoping they stay intact, but I’ll show the results, whether gorgeous or homely. The pepper concoction will still taste good, even if they aren’t pretty.

I really wanted to show off my new Lodge 12″ Cast Iron Skillet, which will allow me to cook the filling on the grill, too. In fact, I expect to make the entire dish on the grill, from first roasting the peppers to the last step of melting the cheese in them after stuffing.

Behold, the glorious stuffed poblanos. Note: the two Anaheim peppers are for other dishes.

Grilled Stuffed Poblanos

  • Servings: enough filling for 8-10 peppers
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Set up grill for direct and indirect heat; I used charcoal baskets in the center, with plenty of indirect space around it. I used a high heat of 400°.

  • up to 10 poblano peppers
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 cup diced, seeded tomatoes
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 tablespoons roasted garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 8-12 ounces Monterrey Jack cheese, cut in 3 inch strips about 1/2 inch square

Peppers

  • Char peppers over direct heat for about 5-7 minutes per side with the lid closed, turning as necessary until skin cracks.
  • Remove to bowl covered with plastic wrap until cool enough to handle.
  • Make the filling while the peppers cool.

Filling

  • Heat cast iron skillet over direct heat with lid closed for about 5 minutes.
  • Brown 1 lb ground beef.
  • Add 1 cup diced, seeded tomatoes, 1 cup diced onion, and seasonings:
    • 2 tablespoons roasted garlic
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • Cook, stirring until vegetables are softened and juices evaporate.
  • Remove skillet and set aside while you prepare the peppers.

Prepare Peppers

  • Peel peppers carefully, trying not to split the pepper or pull off the stem.
  • Slit one side of each pepper from bottom to stem. Carefully pinch off seed ball at base of stem and rinse out seeds under light stream of water.
  • Variations, especially if your peppers seem to be falling apart, include cutting each pepper in half to stuff or laying flat if the stem falls off.

Stuff Peppers

  • Place one pepper on a square of foil (about 12 inches square).
  • Fill the pepper with the beef filling, a spoonful at a time, because you are still trying to keep the peppers intact.
  • Take about 3 strips of cheese and push into and on top of filling.
  • Loosely pull up the sides of the foil, pinching the ends so the juices don’t run out, but keeping the tops loosely closed, so you can easily peek in to check on doneness.
  • Repeat until all your peppers are in pouches.
  • Set pouches over indirect heat and close grill lid. Check at 5 minutes to see if the cheese is melted and the filling is bubbling. When they’re done, they’re done.
  • Remove pouches from grill, open, and lift out each pepper with a spatula.

I served the peppers with a drizzle of sour cream/lime juice mixture and brown rice.