Flank Steak: Friend or Foe?

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Let it be known that steak has always been my foe.

I am too impatient, too volatile, too wild. To me, life cannot be contained by meat thermometers and timers! It’s oppressive!

Honestly, I’m just a whiny baby who overcooks or under-cooks expensive cuts of meat. I never learned to tame my internal chaos and it’s reflected in my mastery (or lack thereof) of meat.

BUT. I have found the answer. Talk to your butcher. Listen to his sage advice. His hands may be calloused from handling heavy carcasses but he has a gentle soul and even gentler touch. He knows how to tend to meat.

My wonderful, amazing, kind, happy butcher told me a few key things:

  • Get your pan hot. As hot as your cheeks get when a beautiful man (or woman) breathes on your neck. (Aka: medium-high heat)
  • For a two pound piece of meat, like I bought, it’s a hot sear for 6-7 minutes on each side for medium, medium-rare.  And, listen, I’m not a judgmental person but if you prefer your steak cooked more than medium, I need you to understand what utter blasphemy you are committing. RESPECT THE MEAT.
  • Oil the meat well. Not the pan. Heating a pan full of oil to such a temperature is just begging for a visit from the fire department. Trust me, I have set many a smoke alarms off.
  • Always cut against the grain. There are lines of muscle and sinew that run along the length of the meat that, if you cut along it, will make it impossible to chew and completely unpleasant to eat. You want it to cut and chew like Paula Deen’s favorite ingredient, BUTTER.
  • Something else that the butcher did not impart to me but I found to be pivotal in cooking a steak: do not skimp on the salt. Crust that beast with salt and pepper. Massage it as you would a lover. Don’t be a prude.

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Why is it, when discussing meat, that the conversation always feels semi-inappropriate? Maybe it’s just me and I’m a twelve-year-old about it. 

Just A Man

Let’s talk about a man. Just an ordinary man.

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This man, the one with whom I spent countless hours watching cooking shows and kung-fu movies – my father.

Funny enough, he didn’t actually teach me much about cooking. I absorbed via osmosis.

He was a professional cook for as long as I can remember and professional couch-potato, cooking-show-watcher for even longer.  He cooked constantly. He made apple pies, ramen, steak, pasta – literally anything and everything edible. He conquered them all.

With a deft flick of his burn-scar-ridden wrist, he makes the most magical of omelettes.  He picks up searing hot pieces of meat straight from the skillet with his bare, calloused hands. He peels and de-veins shrimp with Olympic-like speed.

If there was ever a question about my culinary aspirations, one would just have to look at my father, taste his food, marvel as he worked in concentration and silence.  That’s him. That is who I want to be.

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My father is of the humble breed. Fresh off the boat, back in ’97 when we first moved to the U.S. He biked to work in the harsh Jersey winters. He’s worked in hotel restaurants, country clubs, nursing homes, his own restaurant (briefly) and is a bona fide work horse to the bone.

He is also the same man who hovers over me when I cook at home. He let’s me have it when I’ve over-peppered the asparagus. He isn’t afraid to yell and I’ve learned to yell back. Kitchen staff never lose that fire, even with their family members.

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He is the same man who made an entire buffet of food for my 18th birthday. That picture doesn’t even show the sushi he made, the two desserts, and the fruit plate. It certainly doesn’t display my father’s worn but accomplished face after waking up and hauling ass at 4am to cook for this party that started at 3pm.

To this day – home is when my father takes out packets of ramen, works some voodoo magic over it, and makes enough for the family. Complete with eggs, ham and sometimes the occasional fish cake.  My father is world-class and can make anything but his ramen…incomparable and nostalgic.

Kimchi Fried Rice

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Guys. I’m Asian.

I’m Asian and I don’t do fried rice. Hilarious? I think so.  I just have never gotten the hang of not burning the bottom of the rice and never understood how to achieve that signature dry-ish rice grain that your neighborhood takeout place seems to mass-produce on a daily basis.

With this dish, I still haven’t achieved that. What I have achieved is a crimson bowl of good eats that is fast and oh-so-satisfying it will make your bottom lip quiver with anticipation.

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If you haven’t had kimchi before, it’s basically a spicy, Korean version of sauerkraut.  BUT. Sauerkraut ain’t got nothing on this sassy sister.

It’s okay. You’re ready for it. You are absolutely ready for this cabbage experience. Don’t be a baby.

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 cups cooked (preferably leftover from the day before) rice  (I used sticky rice)
  • 1/2 a medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup of kimchi (You can find it at any Asian grocery store. I’ve seen it at Whole Foods and other health-food groceries as well.)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tblsp maple syrup (or plain sugar)
  • 2 tblsp oyster sauce
  • 1 glorious egg per person (or two, if you want to get crazy)
  • Leftover steak (or whatever meat or no meat!)
  • Cilantro, chopped, for sprinkling
  • Sriracha – for dousing to one’s pleasure afterwards

Prep Time: 10 minutes

1.) Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a big skillet at medium heat. Saute onions until they begin to brown – about 3-4 minutes. Put minced garlic in and cook together for a minute, watching it carefully so as to not burn the garlic.

2.) Add the cooked rice to the onions and garlic and cook for rice for 2-3 minutes. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, and maple syrup and cook until the rice soaks up the liquid and begins to brown a little. About 5 minutes.  Stir constantly so as to not have the rice burn on the bottom.

3.) Add the kimchi and cook together, stirring constantly for 5-7 minutes until rice and kimchi is warmed through and beginning to brown. Transfer to a bowl.

4.) In another pan, heat a tablespoon of oil and half a tablespoon of butter. Crack that one glorious egg in and cook to desired doneness. I prefer over-easy so that when you break the yolk over the rice, the yolk dribbles gleefully onto the rice and creates a sauce.

5.) Warm whatever meat you’ve chosen to accompany your rice with (or not) in the same skillet to save on dishes.

6.) Get fancy, chop up some cilantro and sprinkle over. SERIOUSLY. The cilantro makes it. Squirt copious amounts of sriracha because it just ain’t spicy enough.

The rice serves 2. Oh, alright! It serves closer to 4 not-so-hungry, not-that-excited-about-this-food weirdos. 

Happy Eating!