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Food: Hanger Steak with Salsa Verde and Mint Zucchini Pancakes

October 11, 2010

sb the butcher

There is something very satisfying about preparing a really excellent steak for someone. Before last night, I had never realized that kind of satisfaction- my command of the cow has never been that great. But, with the help of a partner (also responsible for the photography in this piece) and his cookbook “The New Steak” by Cree LeFavour, I not only made a really nice steak, I started all the way at the beginning: with a bit of butchering.

When you buy a whole hanger steak (also known as bistro, onglet, or skirt), there is a tendon running down the middle that needs to be removed. Normally this is the kind of thing I would ask my friendly grocery store butcher to do for me, but not this time. This time I got out the knife.

I have to say, it was surprisingly satisfying to concentrate on trying to butcher something correctly (not that I’m sure that I did) and I have a new appreciation for what I already knew was a tough profession.  I did have to consult the cookbook a few times for some guidance- how much of this was I supposed to remove? (All of it.) Were the resulting pieces supposed to look sort of mangled and irregular? (Yes!)

After butchering, it was on to trying not to ruin my now beloved hanger steak.  I seasoned it with salt and rubbed a little bit of olive oil on it just before cooking. Then, to pan fry, I put a few tablespoons of safflower oil (you could use peanut or any other high heat oil- not olive oil) in a pan and brought it to a very high temperature, then seared the meat for 3 minutes on both sides. Once seared, I turned the heat to medium and let the meat cook for another 10-12 minutes, turning periodically. I have a meat thermometer, so I could check for a temp of 120-130 for medium rare, but you could just cut into a piece to check.

While the meat finished cooking, I made one of the easiest and quickest steak accompaniments that exists: salsa verde.  I ripped up some parsley, chives, and mint, and put them into a food processor with a clove of garlic and a few anchovies. Once this mixture was chopped, I put in the juice of one lemon and about 1/4th cup of olive oil and pulsed for a few more seconds. All of this took about 2 minutes (I didn’t do any precise measuring) and added a really fresh taste to the whole meal.

Once the meat was done, I wrapped it in tinfoil and set it to rest on a plate while I finished the Mint Zucchini Pancakes I’d started earlier. The pancakes, also from Ms. LeFavour’s book, were not complicated, but they did take some work. You have to shred about 4 cups of zucchini, let them sit for 20 minutes with some salt, and then make a serious effort to drain out as much water as possible. I don’t have a box grater because I don’t like them, but when you need to shred a lot of zucchini you should have something heftier than a microplane.

Add to the shredded zucchini a leek, some salt, milk, matzo meal, mint, two eggs, and some pepper, and then drop by spoonfuls into a hot buttered pan. Like most pancakes, the first batch is not that good. But by the third run, you’re getting some really nice, well-formed patties.

The last addition to this meal (save for the dessert crepes made by my partner) was some lovely Valbreso feta. The recipe suggested crumbling it over everything, but instead I sliced it so it could be layered with the pancakes, dipped in the salsa verde, or just eaten as is. The cheese adds a good layer of salt to everything, but on the whole I wish there had been a better texture balance in the meal. If I was writing the recipe I would have included slices of firm tomatoes somewhere on the plate, for a little contrast. But, if I do say so myself, the steak was delicious, my butchering was not a disaster, and even though I’m not a baker, I could definitely make those zucchini pancakes again.

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