grilled flank steak with tomato herb mop sauce
Last summer, my friends went out to dinner at a much hyped restaurant that features mostly only local ingredients. It had gotten great reviews and the chef had crafted a menu with a seemingly innovative use of local ingredients including cheeses, produce and grass-fed beef from local farms. My one friend (being the meat-enthusiast that he is) was happy to see the grilled steak on the menu. Afterwards, I asked him how the meal was. After all, I was excited to try the restaurant out myself. His review? Let’s just say the meal did not convert him from the Costco-buying, grain-fed-burger-grilling camp to out and out smug locavore. I think he said something like his steak “tasted like an old dairy cow.” I almost peed I laughed so hard because that is exactly what grass-fed beef tastes like if you don’t know the tricks to making it taste good. I hoped he would give it another try.
I know I say this every time I do a grass-fed beef post, but it deserves to be repeated: Grass-fed beef is a lot lower in fat than “conventional” beef. [Cringe, I don’t like using that expression “conventional.” What is even close to conventional about feeding a ruminant corn? Sheesh!] As a result it can tend to dry out if it is cooked too long. So you have to watch it, and when in doubt, turn it. Another thing about the fat: Grass-fed fat is healthier fat too.
Okay enough about the fat, back to the coking tips. The biggest challenge is balance of flavor. If you do nothing but just season the heck out of it, you are already off to a much better start than just slapping the meat on the grill. Grass-fed beef loves strong flavors like any allium relative (I’m talking about garlic, onion or shallot.) It also is really nice when it is paired with woody herbs such as thyme, rosemary and my fave marjoram. And for the love of all things good, don’t forget the salt. If anyone sees an apron that says “needs salt” buy it for me, I’ll pay you back.
Another tip, if you have the time, marinate it. Something with a good deal of acid like vinegar or citrus really works its way into the meat. I’m not sure if I buy into the whole thing about marinating making meat more tender. As far as I can tell marinating only really tenderizes the outer layer of the cut of meat. If at all. But marinating does help with the whole dairy cow thing my friend was talking about. In other words, grass-fed beef can be a little gamey, akin to lamb or even venison. But if you marinate it in a boldly-flavored marinade you balance those flavors. And if you are blessed with enough time, marinating a cut like flank steak for a full 24 hours is worth the wait.
This recipe I did for EatingWell Magazine in ‘09 is proof of that. I tested it a bunch of times while I was developing it. I can assure you the difference of marinating it for only four hours and the full twenty-four hours is huge. In this particular recipe, some of the marinade is set aside before you add the meat to be used as a mop sauce. Basting the mop over the meat as it’s grilling gives you even juicier flavor. I’m not sure that this recipe will keep my friend out of the Costco meat department alltogether, but it may be enough to open him up to giving grass-fed beef another try.
Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 24 hours
Makes: 4 servings
Serving Size: 3 1/2 ounces each
- 1 medium slicing tomato, such as beefsteak, cored and chopped
- 1 shallot peeled and quartered
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chopped marjoram
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 ½ pounds flank steak, preferably grass-fed, fat trimmed
- Puree tomato, shallot, vinegar, marjoram, rosemary, salt and pepper in blender until smooth. Reserve ½ cup for mop. Scrape the remaining tomato mixture into a re-sealable plastic bag. Add steak and turn to coat. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
- Prepare grill to medium high heat. Remove steak from marinade and discard any left-over marinade. Oil grill rack. (see how to do that in this post.) Grill steak about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare, 6 to 7 minutes per side for medium and 8 minutes per side for medium-well; after turning meat brush first cooked side with mop. Brush mop over second cooked side and remove to a platter to rest 5 minutes. Slice against the grain and serve with any remaining mop spooned over sliced meat.