10.16.2009

Cook Adam Never Ceases to Amaze

Hey friends! Adam and I haven't had any new recipes to share for a while (unless you want to know what kind of pizza we've been ordering) so I've asked him to revisit flank steak- a perennial favorite of mine, and a dish that he has perfected from trial and error. And when I say perfected... I do mean perfected. Mmmmm. So, with no more ado: Cook Adam!

The most gorgeous thing ever to grace our table.

"Shock & Awe" and I recently had the rare opportunity to cook for my family. This means dinner for at least 10, which is just too many for me to get everything perfect, and too few to excuse buffet style. I really am a control freak in the kitchen: I want to prep, cook, and plate everything myself. Everyone always seems (or pretends) to enjoy it, but I feel like I have the most colossal screw-ups when cooking for my parents. I want to impress, but I tend to overcomplicated things. This time around I decided to present an elegant three-course meal, but keep it simple with quick slice-and-serve dishes.

I selected Autumn flavors, because that seems to be the season here in Seattle. Multi-colored Heirloom tomatoes caught my eye at the local market and eventually became a Caprese salad. A meat market special translated into perfectly grilled and carved flank steak, served cold with a huckleberry-balsamic reduction and fresh basil. And we made wild rice out of a box (Oh Uncle Ben, you look so trustworthy). As usual, reactions varied from awed (brother-in-law) to interested (Mom) to skeptical (little sister Emmelia). Save for one particular design blogger, I am my own harshest critic: I had some minor quibbles with my seasoning, but nobody complained. My salad and main course came out looking pretty good, and were complemented by Shock the Bourgeois's apple pies, which I pulled out of the oven at the perfect time when her back was turned. (Editor's Note: He lies. They were woefully burned and practically inedible.)

Later that weekend, flank steak was still on sale and S-the-B and I were still hungry, giving me the perfect chance to refine my recipe. This was also our last sit-down dinner before everything to sit down on or eat off of was packed away for California. Quite the occasion, which explains why S-the-B and her table are so outrageously overdressed.

Pink + Halloween. Why not?

S-the-B hearkening back to her restaurant hostess days.

I bought two flank steaks at 2 or 3 pounds each, which cost me around $14.00- so we ended up feasting for about $3.00 per pound. There's something really irresistible about cold flank steak, so I again prepared and cooked the steaks the night before we intended to eat them and let them chill in the fridge overnight. I filled my little Hibachi with coals and burned them to white hotness (which was, coincidentally, a nickname of mine in high school). This grill does not accommodate large pieces of meat well, but with an abundance of coals it can bake/smoke a couple of flank steaks quickly while keeping the middle quite rare, which is what a Basque/Neanderthal prefers. These steaks got 15 minutes per side on the grill. For medium-well, I'd give them 25 minutes per side. If I had a gas grill that could really pump out some heat, I'd say 5 to 8 minutes per side for med-rare and 10 to 12 minutes for med-well. One of my grandmothers will only eat pure charcoal, so I cook her meat one day per side, douse with lighter fluid, and serve flambé.

Sorry vegetarians. You're welcome, meat-itarians.

Instead of huckleberry sauce I opted to make the pomegranate reduction that I've used for lamb dishes and deserts (and seems to be the key to S-the-B's heart). Pomegranate juice is actually quite easy to find right now due to its disgusting popularity amongst yuppie health nuts. With any fruit juice reduction, you want to evaporate away at least half of the volume, especially if you plan on adding balsamic vinegar, mirin, or liquor. I typically reduce 1 pint of juice to 1/3 pint, then while it's bubbling add two teaspoons of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and balsamic vinegar to taste (this will probably be several teaspoons). You want the final product to behave like syrup at low temperature, but become thin when drizzled over hot food.

Drizzling. S-the-B may or may not have forced me to dress to match the table.

Fresh basil is an old standby for me and works well with almost anything. It can also cover up a job poorly done by introducing a memorable aroma and flavor that almost everyone finds pleasant. I usually plate whole or shredded basil in such a way that an individual can avoid eating it if they want to, appreciating the smell but not the taste. I later prepared this dish a third time with oven-dried basil that was a surprising success. I sprinkled on a handful of blue cheese crumbles for a bit of pungency, a few generous pinches of rock salt and cracked black pepper... and this dish was a masterpiece incorporating all 6 fundamental flavors.

Salty, sweet, bitter, sour, spicy, aromatic and... gone.

By the way: Happy Birthday, Mom.