By Amy Zarichnak
I grew up with an alpha male father whose idea of success was a good steak. He also enjoyed taking us out to eat, which he didn’t get to do growing up as the son of parents who grew up during the depression. On both sides, my grandparents were old Pittsburgh steel mill workers with strong work ethic and a sense of discipline that allowed them to forgo basic luxuries such as meat. If they ever sat in front of a steak, well, that was as good as life got.
Red meat was so popular in my family that when I got out on my own in my 20’s, I almost never ate it. Then one day, I went out for dinner with a beautiful carnivorous female friend. She was fun, she was loud, and she was daring, and she ate red meat like a ravenous steel worker. Her family owned a prominent Italian restaurant in Penn Hills. I wanted to be like her. Sick of chicken, I ordered the portobello strip at Pittsburgh Steak Company, an institution that’s stood the test of time in the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh. With strips of portobello mushrooms and roasted red peppers draped over a medium rare steak and a good glass of cabernet, I went back to my family’s red meat junkie ways.
I find balance by eating healthy during the week, and then I indulge on the weekends. One of my favorite red meat weekend meals is almost exactly as served by my mother during my formative years, when my father would demand red meat for yet again another meal. This recipe came into my mother’s repertoire from one of her best friends, in 1963, the year before my mom married my dad. The flavors are surprising and satiating. Inevitably, this dish makes its way into my repertoire when I am dating someone, as it still delicious, satisfying, and always a surprise with it’s big flavors. The recipe is actually simple and to the point, but it packs a bold, pungent flavor punch. It pairs well with a variety of vegetable side dishes depending upon the season. Please note that I have, however, updated certain things about the recipe, including lowering the amount of oil and eliminating the MSG.
Flank steak has been an overlooked cut of meat that has been gaining in popularity along with hangar and skirt steak. This marinade can be used on the aforementioned three cuts, or any cut of red meat. However, flank steak is the only cut my family has ever used, so in my mind, it’s the correct way to prepare the dish, along with twice-baked potatoes, which I provide a recipe for below, as well. This recipe is my mom’s, modified. I added cheese, because why wouldn’t I? In the summer, a variety of fresh vegetables can be chosen to accompany the meat and potatoes, but the best is anything that can be grilled, as well. For example, simply toss some washed and trimmed asparagus in some olive oil and salt and pepper, then grill to desired doneness. Squirt with lemon juice and use a microplane to grate some parmesan cheese directly over top.
This flank steak meal is still one of my family’s favorites, and we use it to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. What I love about the flank steak recipe is that it’s not tied to a cuisine or an ethnicity, so you can customize it to your family’s traditions.
Yield: 4 Servings
- 1 – 2-3lb Flank steak
- ¼ cup of canola, vegetable, or olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 TB instant minced onion (or 3 TB fresh)
- ½ tsp dry mustard
- ½ tsp powdered rosemary( or 2 tsp fresh, chopped)
- ¼ tsp ground ginger (or 1 tsp fresh, grated)
- 1 TB whole peppercorns
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- Place the flank steak in a gallon-size re-sealable baggie.
- Add oil and lemon juice to a two cup glass measure, then add remaining ingredients and whisk together. Add the mixture to the flank steak and seal, getting as much air out of the bag as possible so the marinade has contact with the meat as much as possible. Marinate for two hours.
- Preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Place the steak on the grill and grill over medium flame to desired doneness, approximately 6 minutes on each side for rare, or 120 -125 degrees. When done, remove to a plate, loosely tent with foil, and rest for at least five minutes. Slice thinly on the bias against the grain, and serve with potatoes.
Twice Baked Potatoes
Yield: 8 Potatoes heaped high!
- 6 large Idaho potatoes
- ½ cup butter, separated into ¼ cup portions
- ½ small onion, chopped (can substitute four green onions)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1 cup plus 1/4 cup cheddar cheese
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- Preheat your oven to 400. Wash and dry potatoes. Prick all over with a fork. Coat potatoes in butter and roll in flaked sea salt (optional). Bake until skins crisp up and potatoes feel soft inside when pricked with a fork, approximately one hour.
- While potatoes are cooking, saute onions in the butter over medium heat until they begin to get soft. Turn flame to medium-low, then add garlic and cook, stirring often so garlic doesn’t not burn. When the garlic is softened but still fragrant, place in a medium-sized bowl.
- Add the sour cream, 1 cup of cheddar cheese, and salt to the bowl.
- When the potatoes are done, turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Let the potatoes cool just slightly, and cut them in half longwise into two halves . Scoop out the potatoes, adding the hot potatoes to the butter, onions, garlic, sour cream, cheese, and salt mixture. The hot potatoes will melt the cheese so it be evenly distributed throughout potato mixture. Do not overmix or potatoes will become gluey. Adjust salt and sour cream flavors to taste.
- Distribute potato filling evenly among potato shells. Sprinkle with the last ¼ cup of cheese.
- Bake at 350 until hot, approximately 20 minutes. Potatoes should be lightly browned on top when done.