Given its price, ecological impact, and a perceived difficulty of cooking, steak isn't the most common make-at-home food these days, but author Cree LeFavour thinks she can change at least some of these perceptions with her book The New Steak: Recipes for a Range of Cuts plus Savory Sides (Ten Speed Press). As omnivores, we do eat steak occasionally and Cree's book has become our bible. It has a splendid array of in-depth tips, tricks, and ideas for getting the perfect steak, with encouragement for more responsible beef consumption, and a new set of sides to compliment it all. It's a perfect first book review for Meat/Un-Meat Month here at The Kitchn.
I spent a very warm weekend last summer with Cree and we grilled some steaks. Of course, we weren't following recipes in the book, but when I got home and paged through my copy, I knew Cree had been leading us using the tips she has in the book. I even caught Cree teaching Maxwell to put pats of butter on the steaks as they finish in the oven.
There are many things I love about this book but two stand-out features are that it explains in simple language the difference between different cuts of meat and it has great recipes for side dishes like Corn Griddle Cakes and Mixed Orzo, Beets and Cranberry Beans.
Given current economic doldrums, I appreciate especially the range of cuts the book covers. While Cree is a fan of a rib-eye (what omnivore isn't?) she also loves a good flat-iron steak, a more economical cut from the shoulder of the animal. The book covers just about every cut of steak you will find in a market and explains how to cook them in the best way for their flavor and texture. Many recipes include methods for both outdoor fire and stove grilling.
Flat Iron Steak with Ginger, Asian Pear, and Savoy Cabbage over Spicy Sesame Noodles
This is an unexpectedly delicious combination: marinated steak along with sweet, crisp Asian pear. All of it matches up nicely with the Spicy Sesame Noodles made from soba noodles. These foreign-looking noodles, which show up so often in Korean food, are worth a trip to the Asian grocery or health food store.
2 pounds flat iron steak
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine
1 finger ginger, grated (about
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 Asian pear or just-ripe Anjou or Bosc pear
1/2 lime, juiced (about 1 table-spoon)
2 cups shredded Savoy cabbage or white cabbage
1/4 cup chopped peanuts for garnish
2 scallions, chopped, for garnish
If you've bought a whole flat iron steak you'll need to remove the tendon that goes down the center of the meat and any other tendons that run through the meat (see page 92 for directions). If that's been done for you, you'll be looking at fairly narrow, rectangular steaks. From there, slice the steaks into long, 1-inch-thick strips, working against the grain of the meat.
Combine the soy sauce, rice wine, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, and 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a shallow baking dish. Add the pieces of steak and toss to coat. Let them marinate for 1 hour on the counter or for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
When you're ready to cook the meat, heat the wok over your hottest burner turned on high. Before the wok begins to glow, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of peanut oil and let that start to shimmer and move — the metal and oil should be very hot before you add the meat. Watch out for spatters as you put the sliced meat into the oil, leaving behind any extra marinade. Using a wooden spoon, move the meat around and up the sides of the wok. Avoid steaming the meat by keeping it out of the juices in the bottom of the wok; 3 to 5 minutes in a very hot wok should be plenty. You want the meat a little rare and tender, not overcooked. Transfer the meat to a platter, but don't stack it. Put the platter in a warming oven (170°F) to rest for 5 minutes.
While the meat rests, core and dice the Asian pear and toss the pieces in a small bowl with the lime juice. To serve, layer the various ingredients either in individual bowls or on one large platter. Begin with the noodles, then add some of the steak, the Asian pear, and then some of the chopped cabbage on top of that. Finish with the peanuts and scallions.
Spicy Sesame Noodles
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon raw sugar (see page 29) or brown sugar
2 tablespoons raw tahini
1 tablespoon raw sesame seeds
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound soba noodles (wheat-buckwheat noodles)
5 scallions, ends trimmed, bottom third chopped
To make the sauce for the noodles, combine the rice vinegar, soy sauce, Sriracha sauce, garlic, sugar, and tahini together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat after 1 minute. Toast the sesame seeds in a heavy pan until fragrant and add them to the sauce along with the sesame oil. Stir to combine and set aside.
To cook the noodles, boil a large pot of salted water. When you have a rolling boil, add the noodles and cook according to thickness (the package should guide you; if not, test them after 5 minutes). Drain the noodles into a colander, run cold water over them to rinse, drain again, and then while they're still a little warm, combine them with the sauce. Use it all, working the sauce through the noodles. Top with the scallions.
Reprinted with permission from The New Steak: Recipes for a Range of Cuts plus Savory Sides by Cree LeFavour, copyright ©2008. Published by Ten Speed Press.
• Check out The New Steak: Recipes for a Range of Cuts plus Savory Sides by Cree LeFavour (Amazon, $13.57)
• March is Meat/Un-Meat Month!
• Cree LeFavour's 8 Tips for Grilling Perfect Steak
(Images: Penny De Los Santos)