Cook's Country (June/July 2012)
Questioning what you're doing in the kitchen, and why you're doing it, can be a powerful thing.
We're not talking about doubting yourself. You shouldn't. We believe in having confidence in the kitchen, and storming ahead in the face of recipe adversity -- be it overflowing pots, less-than-ideal ingredients or equipment that just won't cooperate.
Instead of a lack of confidence, we're talking about having awareness in the kitchen: looking at what you're doing and why you're doing it, and being able to see the effect it will have on your finished dish.
In our experience, this comes with time and practice. When we first started getting serious about cooking, we were very "safe" cooks. We almost exclusively made things that we grew up eating, or that seemed like easy meals for young twenty-somethings to make. But once we moved in together and had the space to entertain friends, we got more ambitious. The recipes got progressively more complicated, the ingredients a bit more elaborate. And then we started The Bitten Word, and things escalated from there. Suddenly we were often cooking things far outside our comfort zones, and we were delving into dishes that previously would have made us cringe.
Looking back over the course of these last five years, we can see many changes to our cooking styles and methods, but we can also see that when we're cooking on our own -- meaning not using a recipe from a magazine or cookbook -- we're playing it less safe. We're a bit more aware of how each decision in a dish can elevate or diminish the finished product.
But we still have a long way to go in this culinary journey. We want to be cooks who are not only aware of every move we're making in the kitchen, but who also question the methods we use, those habits we've picked up as we've learned to cook. America's Test Kitchen -- the publishers of Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country -- does this better than anyone else. The cooks there will reexamine methods that everyone takes for granted, subjecting them to testing that either reinforces or disproves those methods. Often, they end up with a recipe that's a big improvement on the traditional method.
This recipe for Marinated Grilled Skirt Steak is a perfect example.
Everybody knows how to marinate a steak, right? You soak the meat in a marinade for a few hours, grill it, let it rest, slice and serve. That's certainly how we've always done it.
So we were taken aback when we read Jeremy Sauer's piece in Cook's Country. In it, he writes about his frustrations with grilling marinated steaks: All that moisture and juiciness you want from the marinade actually keeps the steaks from char-grilled perfection. They don't sear -- they steam.
So Sauer flipped the process. He came up with a method in which the steaks are seasoned, grilled, and then allowed to rest inside a room temperature marinade for five minutes.
It's a simple method and a small tweak, but our minds were blown. We had to try it ourselves. So we did -- and it was amazing. As Cook's Country notes, this process is best-suited for a skirt steak. Its loose grain and tender meat make it ideal for quickly sopping up the marinade while it rests. Ours ended up perfectly charred and full of outstanding flavor. We're not sure we'll ever grill skirt steak the "old way" ever again.
(And we're sure more than a few of you are thinking: "Clay and Zach, this is all fine and good, but that steak in these photos is not a skirt steak." True story! It's actually a flat iron steak. We've made this recipe twice now, the first time with a skirt steak, the second time with the steak you see here. We just didn't get around to photographing the skirt steak.)
So what's our takeaway here? Let's all take the time to question our approach to cooking more often. Who knows? You may come up with a new method that blows you away.
Grilled Marinated Skirt Steak
Recipe from Jeremy Sauer at Cook's Country (June/July 2012)
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Serves 4 to 6
Tip: Keep the marinade at room temperature or it will cool down the steaks.
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 scallions, sliced thin
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 (12-ounce) skirt steaks, cut crosswise into 4-inch pieces and trimmed
1. Combine soy sauce, Worcestershire, scallions, 2 tablespoons sugar, garlic, mustard, vinegar, and 1½ teaspoons pepper in bowl. Slowly whisk in oil until incorporated and sugar has dissolved. Pat steaks dry with paper towels and sprinkle all over with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.
2A. For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter mounded with charcoal briquettes (7 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
2B. For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high.
3. Clean and oil cooking grate. Grill steaks (uncovered and directly over coals if using charcoal; covered if using gas) until well browned and meat registers 125 degrees for medium-rare, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer steaks to 13 by 9-inch pan and poke all over with fork. Pour marinade over steaks, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Transfer meat to carving board and slice thinly against grain. Pour marinade into serving vessel. Serve, passing marinade at table.