Steak. It’s what’s for dinner, or so the marketing department of The Beef Council says. But not in the W-T household. Alas…
A little background: My Dad owned a small grocery store in Chester, PA, and the family owned a gourmet food market in South Beach. I grew up on good meat—mostly beef and lamb—we were, until I was 11 a strictly Kosher household, so pork wasn’t part of my childhood, until…well, that’s another story for another time.
The family also owned a meat-processing and packing business in the area of shallow North Philly—near Girard Avenue, for those in the know—known as the “meat-packing district” (some day I might relate the story of beef kidneys and my senior prom, or the story about the time my Dad passed on the opportunity to become the sole distributor of hamburger to McDonald’s, but those are yet other stories for another time). My Dad and his brothers operated this business for the distribution of meat products to seven small grocery stores in Philadelphia, Chester, and Ardmore. But they kept all the best products they could get their hands on for themselves—mostly because the best products were priced out of the range of the neighborhoods where their stores were located.
So, great steaks, chops, and roasts were on the dinner plates several times a week. I had no idea what a privilege that was until I got older and had to buy my own groceries. But still…
But from a very young age—maybe six or seven—I was interested in investigating food and how to make it better. My mom was an awful cook—boiling spaghetti was a challenge—but thought she was a great one. I ended up adding spices and flavorings to her recipes when she wasn’t looking, and developed skills of using herbs and spices, and of being able to remember and repeat recipes. Mom always thought it was her cooking that tasted so great. In reality she didn’t know where in the kitchen the salt shaker lived.
Very early on I began experimenting with steak sauce; it turns out my Dad LOVED spicy foods (Mom didn’t), and the steaks he brought home were the very best that could be had. So I started messing with sauces, to find one that both he and I loved, and that packed not just flavor, but heat; I have since learned, from my chef/mentor, that it takes no talent to make food suicide-hot. Any fool with a bottle of hot sauce and a loose wrist can do that. The real skill is making spicy/hot food TASTE GREAT (this has become my kitchen mantra).
Eventually I settled on one sauce blend that struck just the right note for both of us. I’ve been both fooling with it and making it ever since, and I’ve pretty much got it down to a science now. And I no longer mess with the recipe. I believe it’s pretty much perfect.
You might try making it yourself, and let me know what you think. And the quantities of peppers—there are six different kinds in the sauce—are to your liking, but I’ve got to tell you, this one is pretty darn spot on.
Try it for yourself:
Cheffzilla’s Six-Pepper Steak Sauce
1 cup chili sauce (I like Heinz)
1/2 cup Heinz A-1 sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon red pepper sauce (Tabasco or Frank’s?)
1 teaspoon Asian chili-sesame oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons finely ground white pepper
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper (or more? This is where the heat comes from; the rest of the peppers are flavor)
Four to eight hours before you need the finished sauce, combine the first five ingredients—the liquids—in a medium bowl with the red pepper flakes, mix well, cover with plastic wrap for 1/2 – 1 hour and set aside.
Add the remaining ingredients, mix well, cover, and place in the fridge until ready to use. The sauce will keep in the fridge for up to three months, but use it up and make more.
I wrote once in my column about Ellen’s little tin box. It’s magical. Chock full of recipes from so many years of collecting. She got the box at Hershey Chocolate World when she was in high school (not really that long ago), and in the ensuing years collected recipes from magazines and newspapers and various other sources, including many of her mother’s recipes, which she wrote down on 3×5 cards. It features recipes like “porcupine meatballs,” and “shake-and-bake chicken,” and “Mrs. Fuller’s soup,” and “Chowning Tavern’s Brunswick stew,” and corn pudding, and…and…and…on and on and on. As I said, it’s magic! Many of the recipes have become part of our current dinner rotation, and I fell in love with her over the meat loaf recipe (romantic, huh?). The meat loaf is so good that I have abandoned my mother’s recipe and my own recipe, and even the Epicure Market’s recipe, because the one in the tin box is perfect.
That said, I’m going to give you a simple one, a favorite around here, one that gets requested over and over again, and now that I’ve discovered the Char-Broil infrared grill, it’s a 10-minute breeze and a serious winner. I tend to want my beef done simply–salt and pepper and a little garlic and butter–but this one, a large steak grilled and sliced to serve, just wants a wonderful marinade. This one is it. Simple and elegant, tasty and memorable. If you crave a beef supper with a little zing, try this one. Serve it with a simple cold salad and some oven roasted sweet-potato fries. Fantastic!
Grilled Teriyaki Flank Steak (or London Broil)
2- to 3-pound flank steak or London Broil
1/2 cup Teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
1 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons freshly ground ginger
Combine all the ingredients in a pan large and deep enough to allow the steak to lie flat and to hold the marinade and the steak.
Deeply pierce both sides of the steak with a fork, at 1-inch intervals. Place the steak in the marinade, allow to rest for 1/2 hour, then turn. Turn the steak every hour, marinating for at least four hours, but no more than eight.
Prepare a charcoal grill, allowing the charcoal to turn white, and resting under half the cooking grate; or preheat one burner of a gas grill for 10 minutes.
Allow the steak to come to room temperature before grilling. Place the steak directly over the hot coals or the burner for five minutes, turn and repeat on the other side. Then move the steak off the direct heat and continue cooking another five to seven minutes for medium-rare steak–or minutes longer if you prefer your steak more done–until the steak reaches 140 degrees internal temperature measured with an instant-read thermometer. Remove the steak from the grill, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and allow to rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.
Slice the steak across the grain and serve with small bowls of Teriyaki sauce for dipping.
Perfect Oven-roasted Sweet Potato Fries
1-2 large sweet potatoes
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Cut the ends off the potatoes, then slice them into 1/2-inch slices. Turn the potatoes to stack the slices, then slice them into 1/2-inch slices again, to make half-inch by half-inch potato sticks. Place them in a mixing bowl, add the salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil and toss to coat well.
Lay the fries in a single layer on foil-lined baking sheets (use more than one baking sheet if necessary. Don’t stack the potato fries.
Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven, turn over, and bake for 10 – 15 minutes more. They are done when they begin to brown and crisp. Serve with the steak, and a dipping sauce of your choice or ketchup or ranch dressing.