The other day, we were six for lunch — another of my picnic-type meals, no grass involved — and I cooked something I rarely do. Steak! One big piece of meat, tossed on the grill, flipped over and served.
I love a good steak, but whenever there’s the opportunity to serve one, I think I should fuss a bit more. Do something more special, something that my friends will not have cooked on a Monday night. Silly me.
Okay, this time I did fuss just a little, but really a little: I marinated the steak overnight, adding about 10 minutes of extra work and a couple of magnitudes more of extra flavor.
I put together a marinade that tilts toward Asia. Based on soy sauce, it gets its heat from Thai red curry paste and its zip from garlic, ginger and lime. It has enough flavor to stand up to a he-man steak, and, because of the lime juice, it has the added benefit of tenderizing the meat — a good little plus when you choose a chewy cut.
I’ve made this dish using four kinds of steak: hanger, flank, skirt and filet mignon. The last one was a poor choice, but there are some things you do to keep a marriage intact.
My husband and I are like that nursery rhyme: Jack Spratt could eat no fat; his wife could eat no lean; and so between them both, you see, they licked the platter clean. I like steaks that call for a good chew, and Michael likes his soft-as-buttah, which means we’re usually cooking different cuts. Once I came up with this marinade, we could — to mix a bunch of metaphors — have our cake and eat it, too. I marinate and tenderize my more-muscular cut, and then I heat the marinade and use it as a sauce for both of our steaks.
A word about hanger steak, known as “onglet” in France and popularly called “butcher’s steak” here. Some people say it got its name because it was an inexpensive cut that was hard to sell, so the butcher would take it home. Others say the butcher kept it because it was so delicious. I’m happy with story No. 2.
There is just one hanger steak per cow, so the cut is not always available. When you find it, you’ll see that the grain is highly striated, somewhat like a skirt or flank steak, two other sinewy cuts. Any of these would be great with the marinade. And all of them would be good cooked in a grill pan, on an outdoor grill or in a cast-iron skillet.
■ Marinate the meat for one hour at room temperature or at least two hours — and, best yet, overnight — in the refrigerator. I typically put the marinade and meat in a zip-top bag and give it a turn or a shake or a little massage now and then.
■ Pull the meat out of the refrigerator at least a half-hour before you plan to cook it. The closer the meat gets to room temperature, the easier it will be for you to cook it just the way you like it, especially if you like your steak rare. Starting at room temperature is like starting with a clean slate.
■ When you’re ready to cook the steak, scrape off whatever marinade solids are stuck to the meat, then pat the meat dry with paper towels. Dry meat sears more evenly.
■ After the steak is cooked, let it rest on the cutting board for about five minutes before slicing. You want the juices to settle.
■ Reserve the marinade, then bring it to a boil for a few minutes, so you can serve it as a sauce. If you’d like, mix the juices that accumulate on the cutting board with the hot marinade.
Toss a salad, add some corn on the cob and call it supper. Or lunch, like I did.
Greenspan will host her Just Ask Dorie chat from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday: live.washingtonpost.com.
2 to 4 servings (depending on the steak)
The steak can be cooked on an outdoor grill as well as on the stove top.
Serve with arugula that’s tossed in a light lemon juice-olive oil dressing, if you like.
MAKE AHEAD: The meat needs to marinate at room temperature for 1 hour or in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Wrapped well, leftover steak can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
From cookbook author Dorie Greenspan.
1/2 teaspoon Thai red curry paste, or more as needed
4 quarter-size slices fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic (germ removed), minced, or more as needed
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small limes
6 sprigs cilantro (including tender stems), finely chopped
1 hanger steak, 1 flank steak or 2 skirt steaks (about 18 ounces total)
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Put the curry paste in a medium bowl and mash it together with the ginger, garlic and sugar. Add the soy sauce, oil, lime zest and juice and the cilantro, stirring to blend. Taste, and add more curry paste or garlic, as needed.
Place the meat in a dish that will hold it snugly; pour over the marinade, then rub it into both sides of the meat. Cover the dish and either let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate it for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. (If you’re refrigerating the meat, it might be easier to just pack everything into a zip-top bag.) Remove it from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking.
When you’re ready to cook, remove the steak(s) from the marinade, scrape whatever solids may be stuck to the meat back into the bowl and pat the meat dry.
Use cooking oil spray to grease a grill pan or cast-iron skillet; heat over high heat. Add the steak; if you’re cooking 2 steaks, don’t crowd them. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on the meat’s thickness. (A flank steak will cook faster than a skirt or hanger – it may need just 2 to 3 minutes on a side.) Turn the meat over and cook until done just as you like. To see how you’re doing, cut the steak and take a peek, remembering that the meat will continue to cook a bit after it comes off the heat.
Transfer to a cutting board to rest; season with salt and pepper and let the steak sit for a few minutes while you reheat the marinade.
Bring the marinade to a boil in a microwave (HIGH) or in a pan on the stove, over medium-high heat. Cook for a few minutes, then remove from the heat.
Slice the rested steak as thick or thin as you like, against the grain. Spoon the sauce over the meat; serve warm.
Nutrition | Per serving (based on 4, using olive oil and flank steak): 260 calories, 30 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 640 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar
Recipe tested by Mary Pat Flaherty; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org