Over Memorial Day weekend I was craving gremolata, a simple Italian condiment traditionally served with the Milanese specialty Osso Buco (braised veal shank).
Neither Tony nor I were in in the mood to cook for hours on end on this beautiful weekend, so we opted for a humble, quick-cooking flank steak instead. Thankfully, gremolata is an excellent complement to many dishes including grilled meats, vegetables, fish and chicken.
Flank steak is a wide, thin cut of meat taken from the belly of the steer, similar in style to skirt and hanger steak. It is lean and full of flavor, and can be difficult to find in our local grocery stores, so last Saturday we stopped in to one of our favorite local butcher shops, Meats by John and Wayne, and we weren’t disappointed.
The shop had a good supply of fresh flank and skirt steaks, and we were torn between the two so we enlisted Wayne’s help.
Wayne informed us that the skirt steak will have more flavor, while the flank will be more tender. He went on to explain that the skirt is at its best when marinated for several hours before cooking, but the flank can be enjoyed either with or without marination. This was the deciding factor for us, as we were looking for a quick and easy dinner solution.
In the good old days before cable television and the internet, flank, skirt and hanger steaks were considered lesser cuts of meat and were typically much cheaper than other cuts of beef. However, in this age of culinary enlightenment, the demand for these cuts is greater than ever, and their price reflects that.
For a good quality flank steak, expect to pay between $7 and $9 per pound, but take comfort in the fact that this cut has very little fat, giving you more bang for your buck. Once home, I prepared the gremolata, a simple mix of citrus zest, garlic and fresh parsley. I used a Microplane grater to zest the lemon, which does an excellent job of zesting just the peel and none of the bitter white pith.
We also had an orange and lime on hand, so I zested them too and added them to the mix. I always scrub the peel of the fruit before zesting, even when using an organic variety.
I like to roughly chop the parsley and garlic separately first, and then mix them together with the citrus zest and continue chopping until finely minced. This helps the flavors combine better and gives the mix a more even texture.
In addition to the gremolata, we also prepared our favorite Sicilian steak sauce for dipping. I used a liquid blender to finely puree a mixture of fresh herbs and spices with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, a simple step that can be done as the meat is cooking.
Tony prepped the flank steak by coating it lightly in olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper and then grilled it over direct, high heat, for about five to six minutes per side, until medium-rare (130 to 135 degrees). He brought the meat inside, sprinkled it with the gremolata and then covered it lightly with aluminum foil and let it rest for 5 minutes before carving it on the bias, against the grain, in long, thin strips.
We enjoyed the flank steak with grilled veggies and leftover pasta salad, and from start to finish, this quick and easy dinner was a winner. Happy June!
“Home With the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their blog is at www.thelostitalian.areavoices.com.
Zest of 1 lemon
3 garlic cloves
¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
If possible, use a Microplane grater to zest the lemon; or, use a sharp paring knife to carefully remove the peel, being careful not to take any of the bitter white pith.
Roughly chop the garlic and fresh parsley separately, at first, then mix both with the zest and continue chopping until finely minced. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
For grilled meat, sprinkle gremolata over the meat when it comes off the grill, so that its flavors infuse the meat as it rests.
Sicilian Steak Sauce
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ cup fresh parsley, leaves only
½ cup fresh cilantro, leaves only
2 garlic cloves, peeled 1 shallot, peeled
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Place all ingredients in a liquid blender and puree until smooth and well combined. Transfer to a serving bowl and use as a dipping sauce for grilled steak, pork and chicken.
Refrigerate for up to 1 week.
To grill the flank steak, lightly coat the entire steak in extra-virgin olive oil (about 1 tablespoon total) and then season each side with ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Grill over direct, high heat until desired temperature is achieved, about 5 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare (130 to 135 degrees). Always use a meat thermometer to ensure accuracy.
Transfer the meat to a cutting board and cover lightly with aluminum foil; let rest for at least 5 minutes before carving. Carve the flank along the bias, going against the grain, into long, thin strips.