Saturday, May 14, 2011

Skirt Steak with Jasmine Rice, also Apple Onion Wine Chutney

Skirt steak is one of my favorite cuts, It's a working muscle from inside the body cavity, so it gets a lot of use and develops a strong flavor. It has an open grain and takes marinades and rubs well, and it's thin enough to be cooked simply by searing and resting with no extra steps. It's perfect for the kind of cooking I do for Heather, where I need to make something quickly that's still satisfying. A lot of my food is made under time constraints, so I do whatever I can to make it easy to make delicious food quickly. One terrific time saver is pre-soaking rice, so the kernels are swollen and cook in only a few minutes. The soaking time doesn't seem to matter, anything from an hour to eight hours seems to work equally well, so when I think I'm going to be cooking rice later, I'll throw some in a bowl to start soaking. I have experimented with using green tea and V8 juice as the soaking liquid with interesting results, and at some point I want to try making a quart of fresh mixed vegetable juices and soaking the rice in that, but most of the time I just use water. I was using jasmine rice for this pilaf, which has a subtle floral aroma that could easily be overwhelmed, so water was probably best anyway.

I started the rice by sweating some onions and apples in the pot with olive oil. David Yow once called the combination of apples and onions "magical" in rice, and I concur. I know there's a big difference between different apples, but honestly when I want to put apple in something I just use whatever we have, and in this case we had a big crisp Jona Gold apple, so that's what I used. I drained the rice and added it to the pot along with some dry Chinese mustard seeds, vegetable stock and saffron. I only use additional aromatics or seasoning with Jasmine rice when it's going to be served under something with a really strong flavor, and I love the way mustard seeds hide in rice and occasionally rupture between your teeth for extra zotz. With fish or vegetables I think the scent of Jasmine is enough, and it's best served simply.

The apple was giant, and I only needed about a third of it for the rice, so I decided to make an apple chutney instead of a simple pan sauce to serve with the steak. Chutneys typically take a long time to mature, but I've found that using wine instead of vinegar means that with any decently sweet fruit you need much less time for the flavors to mellow, and basically as soon as the fruit is cooked it's ready to eat. It's not a real chutney, but I don't know what else to call it.

This steak was simply seared in olive oil with a rub of salt, black pepper and little bitter cocoa powder. For the last couple of minutes in the pan, I buried the steak in sliced onions and diced apples both to add some aroma to the steak and get them started cooking for the condiment. I removed the steak to a plate to rest and added another lug of olive oil to the skillet, along with diced jalapeno and serrano peppers. When they had all softened and gotten to know each other, I added considerable red wine, a stick of Mexican (canella) cinnamon, some cardamom, coriander seeds and diced ginger. As an aside, I prefer Mexican cinnamon to Indonesian (cassia) cinnamon for savory dishes. Cassia is used for most packaged ground cinnamon, and I associate it with generic apple desserts, so I tend to avoid it. The sauce reduced on a full boil until the rice was ready to plate, maybe another five minutes. I tasted it and the apples and onions themselves had the perfect chutney quality of being sweet and astringent in proportion, but the mediating wine reduction was a little too bitter, so I drizzled in a little honey and tossed it until it was evenly incorporated.

Part of my struggle with wine cooking is that I know basically nothing about wine. I don't drink as a rule, though I have had wine served to me in Italy and enjoyed it and I have been contemplating forcing the issue for health reasons. Unsurprisingly I have no perspective on which wines to use in cooking for which foods, other than the cliche that reds are hearty and go with meat and whites are less assertive and go with fruit and fish. I end up using whatever we have in the building, which can be anything from a beautiful Italian wine given as a gift to a bottle of celebrity-label plonk bought as a joke. No shit, I have used Don Cooper's "Coopernet" and Enie Banks version of the same, though mercifully the Dave Matthews Band wine was drunk by the poker crowd and I didn't need to suffer it in the kitchen. Capsule review: "A little jammy, hits too many notes, doesn't finish quickly." The chutney in question used a $12 bottle of Syrah I bought because the guy standing next to me recommended it. Unless and until I develop a wine palette, I'm going to rely on strangers and until one of them recommends a magnum of Ditka, I'll assume they aren't fucking with me.

Anyway, I sliced the steak into pieces across the grain and plated it on top of the rice, mixed the meat juices into the chutney and spooned it along side the rice. I know chutneys are supposed to be served at room temperature, but fuck me I'm not going to spray it with liquid nitrogen. We'll call it a warm chutney then, shall we? I sprinkled some chopped parsley and tarragon over everything, and with a scattering of sea salt, I'll admit to being pleased with the way the plate looked. Heather ate it with no complaints.

I still think about drinking wine.


  1. Looks pretty damn good! Skirt steak is my favorite cut of steak and if Mr. Yow says apples and onions, then I have to try it.
    Cooking with wine isn't that hard, but I tend to go my own way with that as opposed to the rules. I've been using white wine for my tomato sauce when I make lasagna and it makes it a lot less of a heavy feeling meal than when I used red.
    And you're right, tomato paste is the fucking devil.
    Keep cooking, you've got some great ideas.

  2. i want to cook food with you mr. albini. i just "discovered" this site and i think it's beautiful. it existing and me looking through it in the past few moments of time has made me kind of forget that i have been complicating my life a lot lately and it's going to be difficult to make shit work straight. thanks, doggggggg.

  3. Thanks for all the posts. I'm really enjoying your blog. You've gotten me excited about cooking dinner tonight.

  4. nice looking dishes, you should include the recipes with each post!

  5. hey steve

    on the bbc at the moment there is a show called "two greedy italians".

    hunt it down - it'll tear you a new mouth-hole.

  6. I'd wanted to attempt a rub/marinade with cocoa since I read this post. When I grill flank steak, there is usually a theme for the meal, eg, "Mexican night." No costumes or anything, you know what I mean. Tonight was a simple pasta dish that wasn't specific to any one cuisine, so I gave the cocoa rub/marinade a try.

    I made a paste with four cloves of garlic, some coarse sea salt, and olive oil. To the paste I added the cocoa, some coarse-grain mustard, and a touch of sugar.

    I'm happy to say that the flank steak was a big hit. If anything, I was too ginger with the cocoa. Next time, we're really going to able to taste it.

    Thank you for the inspiration, Mr. Albini.

  7. "...mercifully the Dave Matthews Band wine was drunk by the poker crowd and I didn't need to suffer it in the kitchen. Capsule review: "A little jammy, hits too many notes, doesn't finish quickly."


    I love the butcher cuts of steak as well. Some of the best restaurant steaks I've had were at hole-in-the-wall south american joints. My sister does this hanger steak dry marinated with coarse salt, fresh rosemary and black pepper quickly charred on the grill. slays.


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