This week I received a couple of flank steaks from Hearst Ranch for a product review (via the excellent Foodie Blogroll–thank you!), and this is part one of a two-part recipe review of their grass-fed and grass-finished beef. Tonight I used one of the flank steaks to make a dry-rubbed, grilled flank steak sandwich that I dubbed The Snooty Cheesesteak. More on that in a minute. If you have experimented at all with grass-finished beef, you know that it is really lean and sometimes veers toward the tough end of the spectrum. Some of the ways to offset this are through the use of tenderizing methods and/or marinades, and to above all avoid overcooking the beef. This is not the kind of steak you want to cook well done (and I am a firm believer that it is better to not eat steak at all than to eat it cooked well done). Case in point, I bought a grass-finished rib eye several months ago, and even with careful treatment it was a bit like chewing on a tire, so I went in to this test with that experience in mind. For this recipe I started with a dry rub made by mixing a half-teaspoon each of smoked paprika, cinnamon, shallot salt, and a two teaspoons of demerara sugar (brown sugar or any raw sugar will work):
I rubbed that all over the flank steak and let it absorb the flavors at room temperature for a half hour. It is best to grill meat at room temp, rather than right out of the fridge, to allow for even cooking. I love to use smoked paprika when I am using an indoor grill pan (as I did tonight), as it provides a little smoky flavor that is otherwise absent. The sugar that is so typical in dry rubs adds flavor and helps the exterior surface caramelize, which leads to a nice color on the finished product. I grilled the meat on a grill pan over medium-high heat, for about 4 minutes per side for a rare interior:
While the steak had been absorbing the rub, I whipped up some balsamic onions to go on my Snooty Cheesesteak. For this I sliced up a medium yellow onion and sauteed it in a little olive oil until browned, then stirred in some sea salt and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and let that cook out:
To assemble the sandwiches, I cut thick slices of homemade dill bread (we got a gorgeous bunch of fresh dill from the C.S.A. this week, so I had to make bread), toasted the slices and topped them with some melted, extra-sharp cheddar, thin slices of the flank steak, and some of the balsamic onions. Behold, The Snooty Cheesesteak:
Let me just say that this was a mighty tasty sandwich. The Hearst Ranch beef was really tender and tasted, well, like beef should taste. Harrison described the taste as distinct from supermarket CAFO beef in that this grass-finished beef “actually tastes like something!” It has a mineral, meaty flavor that is marked but not game-y, and it was really delicious. At this point you might be wondering how I got commentary on this from my vegetarian husband, and the answer is that in addition to being grass-fed and grass-finished, Hearst Ranch beef is also certified humane. Hearst details the steps of their process and philosophy on their website, and if you are interested in sustainable and humanely-raised beef I would highly recommend their products. I eat less beef because of the multiple issues surrounding how most cattle are raised, fed, and treated, and finding a source that is both ethical and delicious is a lovely thing. As you might imagine, this beef costs quite a bit more than your typical supermarket stuff, but if you like to vote with your dollar this is a great avenue. I will be trying another recipe over the weekend, and I will let you know if it is as successful as this first experiment. The sandwiches were major delicious.
I also needed to use a head of iceberg lettuce from the CSA, and as we don’t typically eat iceberg I decided to go with a classic wedge salad. I made a Cambozola dressing as the topper, using a cup of plain, nonfat yogurt, a sprinkle of salt, a tablespoon of light mayonnaise, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a large chunk of Cambozola, and some chopped fresh dill:
Cambozola is a soft, ripened, cow’s milk cheese and I basically mashed it in (including the rind) to make a chunky dressing. This went over the iceberg wedges along with some C.S.A. Sungold tomatoes and some little cucumbers out of our garden:
Very fresh and tasty, and the iceberg was crunchy and sweet, though it still too bland a lettuce to be a new favorite.
Finally, for those of you who read my last post I wanted to show you the too-cool mini greenhouse that Harrison finished constructing. I have already planted some lettuces, radishes, and cilantro, and in three days there is already a flush of green showing out there–really exciting!
Thanks for reading,