The Primal Ingredient- Grilling

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

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“Ideally you grill steak over a wood fire that has burned down to glowing red hot coals, the smoke perfuming the meat. Sizzling beef fat dripping on wood coals is a primal ingredient that has stayed with humans since we first discovered grilling.” Ben

Line cooks like to talk. It is easy to understand why. For a large part of the day you stand in a kitchen and prep food. Conversation can run the gamut from absurd to philosophical. Sometimes, the same questions will show up in different restaurants. One of my favorite questions is “If you could have any piece of equipment for the kitchen what would you want?” My answer is always the same, a wood grill. There is nothing, nothing that can compare to the flavor that wood and charcoal add to a dish. It is a game changer. I often dream of selling everything and running away to Patagonia to join Francis Mallmann’s pack of culinary gypsies, learning to cook the techniques of “seven fires”. Considering this fact, unsurprisingly, I love chimichurri. Chimichurri is a sauce said to have originated in Argentina and has an acidic punch that cuts through the fat of a good steak. It is arguably a perfect summer sauce to use because it requires no cooking.

Alas, I do not yet have a wood grill in my professional kitchen, but I have one parked outside the kitchen door, close enough that I use it on a regular basis. This recipe is easy and satisfying. If you want to cook it indoors on a cast iron, go for it. But there is something about getting outside and simply cooking over an open fire that reveals what good food is all about.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

Yields 2 Servings

For the Seasoning Blend
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground cumin

For the Chimichurri
Yields 1½ cups
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cloves garlic
1 shallot
1 poblano pepper or 1 small red bell pepper*, seeds removed, finely diced
¼ cup cilantro, minced
¼ cup parsley, minced
2 tablespoons oregano, minced
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

Wood Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri
12 oz skirt steak
seasoning blend
olive oil
coarse sea salt

For the Seasoning Blend:
Mix all of the ingredients together. Seat aside. Yields enough for one 12 oz skirt steak.

For the Chimichurri:
The trick to making a good chimichurri is to take your time with your knife work and use a nice olive oil. In a bowl mix red wine vinegar and salt. Finely mince the garlic and shallot. Add the minced garlic, shallot, and finely diced pepper to the vinegar mix. Use poblano pepper for a little more heat, sub out red bell if you want the chimichurri to be mild. Add in cilantro, parsley, oregano, and olive oil. Mix together and set aside. Best used the day you make it, but will hold in the refrigerator for 3 days.

For the Grilled Steak:
Prepare your grill to an even high heat, this will give the steak a nice crust while keeping all the juice and moisture trapped inside. If you are using a gas grill, you know what to do. If you are using charcoal or wood and need help, see below. While the grill is heating up rub the steak with about a tablespoon of olive oil and season both sides with the entire amount of seasoning blend. Set aside for 10 minuets, giving time for the salt and spices to absorb into the meat.

When the grill is ready, lightly oil the grates with olive oil. Place steak on grill and allow both sides to get a good sear, about 2 minutes per side.

Skirt steak cooks quickly because of how thin it is. Each piece of steak will be different so there is no set cooking time, you will have to rely on your culinary intuition. Skirt steak is best when served med-rare to medium, but if you prefer it well done go for it, this is your steak after all.

When you remove your steak let it rest for 5 minutes. Your steak will only take a few minutes to grill and you will have all of these beautiful coals still hot so I recommend grilling some vegetables to go with it.

To finish, slice steak against the grain. Top with 2 tablespoons of chimichurri and a pinch of coarse sea salt. Have a little extra chimichurri on the side as needed. Enjoy!

*If using charcoal, I recommend using a chimney starter filled with natural lump hardwood charcoal. Crumble up some newspaper in the bottom and light on fire. It will probably take about 15 minutes until the charcoal is fully burning, at this point dump contents into grill and allow the grill grates to heat over the coals before grilling. If you are using a wood grill, you probably already know how to build a fire, if not email me and I will walk you through it. Just make sure if you are using charcoal or wood that the fire is cooked down to coals, this will give a more even heat and will give off a more clean and pure tasting flavor.