Sundays are my days to cook a nice dinner that might take a little more love and time than usual. But I usually keep in mind that it’s OK to make plenty and have a repeat meal during the week.
I have searched a few markets for the increasingly popular cut of beef, hanger steak, which has shown up on many higher end restaurants menus. When slow cooked to a pink tenderness it can be a very buttery and flavorful cut. Aptly nick-named the butcher’s cut since there is only one per animal, the butcher is known to take it home for himself. It’s texture resembles that of a skirt steak but is not as tough and is thicker allowing for slow roasting. It is also known as onglet in French.
It’s a relatively inexpensive cut of meat which seems to be more and more the trend these days that restaurants like Hatfield’s in Los Angeles and Tartine in SF would serve it at an entree price point of $30 and upwards. There’s no doubt that it is delicious but the price of the entree seems a bit exorbitant, when you can find it at the butcher for about $5 per lb. Neither Whole Foods nor Gelson’s seemed to have it. I was able to find it at a Ranch 99 location in Monterey Park after having dimsum. I hadn’t been in one of these Chinese chain grocery stores in awhile. This one on Atlantic Blvd. seemed to be quite exceptional. The seafood and butcher had such a huge, fresh selection and offered full service. Most Asian dishes cook a fish whole. Most Westerners are not used to being reminded of where their food came from. Ranch 99 provide the cleaning, and filleting, of fresh whole fish at no extra charge. I was also able to find pork belly here with or without the bone, another ingredient increasing in popularity at the fancy restaurant. But that’s another entry- Asian markets.
Back to my dinner idea. I basically had found some great items at the store and wanted to put them to use. The fresh pasta looked so good that I thought it a waste to not cook it immediately. I was inspired by the Peruvian take-out we got on Friday night. It came with this green dipping sauce for the bread that was kinda spicy and creamy. It resembles some kind of blended avocado or that much feared salad bar dressing, green goddess. I hunted online to find some information on it.
Apparently, it’s called Aji Sauce, and aji is the word for pepper. The version we have in the states is a new creation since the exact same ingredients are not available here. This aji sauce usually calls for iceberg lettuce. I didn’t have any on hand and substituted arugula. I actually can’t recall the last time I had bought iceberg lettuce. I also substituted the mayo with creme fraiche since i had it on hand, but sour cream would work fine in this case. The heat of the serrano peppers complemented the marinade for the steak that also had serrano peppers.
GRILLED STEAK MARINADE:
best for hanger steak and skirt steak
2lbs of steak
2 fresh serrano peppers, washed and sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
juice of 2 limes
1/4 c olive oil
1 tbs worcestershire sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 bottle of beer
1 tspn kosher salt + more for finishing after grilling
additional spice ideas:
herbes de provence
Combine all ingredients except the beer in a bowl large enough to turn the meat. Be careful not to touch anything after cutting the serrano peppers. The ones I got were so fresh that the smell starting making me cough as soon as I cut them open. Some people cut these with gloves on. Another trick is to dilute a tiny amount of bleach in a gallon of water and wash your hands. I try to be very careful not to rub my eyes or anything as the spicy oils are transferred so easily. I learned this the hard way when I was a kid.
The steak was marinated the night before in the beer induced marinade. This can be done a couple hours ahead as well since the beer and lime juice help speed up the marinating process. I think I made this marinade up, but it’s very similar to a carne asada with the Asian flair, of course. Make sure to take the meat out of the fridge to give it ample time (about 30 minutes) to temper. This is the process of bringing meat to room temperature before adding heat.
Heat up the grill. In this case I am using a gas grill and am able to control and read the temperature. I am a grill mark fanatic to the point that my BF let’s me do the grilling most of the time now. I read in the book Heat, that restaurant grillers will place the meat at the same angle and will turn it and flip it a certain way in order to keep track of what meat is almost done cooking. I don’t do that since i am not cooking in large quantities but I do like to make the meat with pretty seared grilled marks. Once the grill is thoroughly heated (about 500˚ is good), throw the steak on. After a couple minutes, turn the steak about 45˚. This will create the nice angled grill marks. After a couple minutes on this side, flip and repeat on the other side. I like to slow cook the meat to a nice medium rare after the perfect grill marks have been achieved. Turn the grill down to about 350˚ and continue to cook with the cover down for about 4-6 minutes.
There’s nothing worse than overcooked meat. I will not eat it. Always remember to check the meat as you are going. You can always add heat but you can’t undo a well done piece of meat. After some practice, you will be able to tell by touch and how the meat bounces back when it is near the cooking doneness you desire. Don’t forget that residual heat will continue to cook the meat for 5 minutes when you remove it from the heat. Allow it to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing it up. This will allow the juices to cling to the meat and create a more flavorful experience. The thinner ends of this cut will be more cooked for those who like it more medium.
EASY ROASTED POTATOES
10-12 small potatoes in this case i used purple ones for added color
Wash the potatoes and place in a microwave safe bowl. Cover the potatoes with a moist paper towel and cook on high for about 4-5 minutes. Allow to cool down. You want the potatoes to be slightly undercooked so you can quarter or halve them once they are cool.
Toss the quartered potatoes into a boil with salt and generously drizzle olive oil on them. Layout a piece of aluminum foil. Place the potatoes single layer on the foil and curl up the edges of the foil so the oil does not drip out. Place this open- face pouch on the grill. This can be cooked while grilling the steak or other items on the grill. I like giving the potatoes a head start in the microwave, but crisping them up on the grill adds a nice roasted flavor and texture.
AJI INSPIRED ARUGULA PESTO SAUCE
makes enough for 10 servings of pasta
will last about 1 week in an airtight container in the fridge
This sauce can be used as a dipping sauce or like a traditional sauce for pasta.
4 oz. arugula, washed and patted dry
2-3 serrano peppers, seeds and veins removed.
1/2 bunch of cilantro leaves, washed and patted dry
3 green onions
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1/2 tspn salt or to taste
1 tpsn black pepper or to taste
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 c creme fraiche or sour cream
In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients except the creme fraiche and the olive oil. Pulse the mixture and drizzle in the olive oil. Continue to chop till rest of the oil has been drizzled in and mixture is a smooth paste like consistency. Salt and pepper to taste and stir in the cream. Once the pasta is cooked according to package instructions, you can pour some of this thick sauce on it and toss it together. This pasta can be served hot or cold. Like all recipes, please adjust the amounts according to your own personal taste. This is merely a suggestion of combining unexpected flavors together.