Well, so much for clean eating! After two days of leftover pot roast and not posting much, I decided a little something special was in order. So tonight’s dinner is Marinated Flank Steak with Bourbon Truffle Risotto. It came to me while nodding off for a nap yesterday. Staci and I had to grab some sleep where we could since she had a semi-nasty call weekend.Some of my best ideas come in that pre-sleep stage. Some of my craziest thoughts occur then too so it’s kind of a sleepy crapshoot!
Staci was sweet enough to grab me a 2lb flank steak last night on her way home from a call. I scored it diagonally and then in the other direction on the way back, creating a diamond shape. And the repeated on the other side. Flank steak is a fibrous and tough cut of meat. Scoring it will allow the forthcoming marinade to really work those tissues.
When working with cheaper and tougher cuts of meat, a good acidic marinade is in order. Acid from citrus fruits or vinegar will work. I prefer lemon, lime or orange but many recipes will call for white or red wine vinegar which works as well. Mustard and Worcestershire always adds great flavor to beef. And of course I add wine to everything. Normally I will use shallots in a marinade but the grocery store was out so I used a small bunch of green onion chopped end to end. Add a little salt and some chopped garlic and you have yourself a marinade. You can get the recipe here. I put it in the fridge overnight. It should come to room temp prior to cooking so the cooking time will yield expected results .
Let’s talk a bit about risotto. I had no idea what risotto was before Gordon Ramsay. Once Hell’s Kitchen first aired, I noticed it was a staple appetizer. And one he was very particular about as far as cooking process. Do I smell a challenge? I believe so! The first time I cooked it, I was so over-meticulous that it took forever! I have made it many times since and it still is a labor of love but easier each time. And the more you cook risotto, the more you’ll be able to spot rice masquerading as a risotto charlatan in restaurants. Rice is not risotto. ARBORIO rice is risotto. And more importantly risotto is a process, not a rice.
True risotto uses a special kind of rice called arborio. It’s easy to find in most grocery stores and is generally located with other rices. They are starch-packed little translucent pearls. When cooked properly, it will taste like you loaded it in cream and butter! The key to perfect risotto is low and slow. The process is the same for the first 90% of the cook. How you choose to flavor it is up to you and takes place the last 10% of the cook. The possibilities are endless. Spices, herbs, seasonings, peas, mushrooms, etc. They key is not to overload it but to enhance it. It is heavy and already full of flavor so you don’t want to weigh it down.
The best advice I can give you when undertaking risotto is: have all of your ingredients ready before starting and put your patient pants on.
Risotto starts with sauteing some chopped onion and garlic. You can do this in butter or olive oil. I like using both at the same time. Butter has a higher burn temp than olive oil. Using both at the same time keeps the olive oil from burning too easily but risotto should not be cooked over high heat anyway. Once the onions are transparent, add the risotto to the pan over medium heat. Stir frequently. Once the risotto is in the pan, you should plan on not budging for a good while. Meanwhile, you’ll need to have about 6-8c of some kind of broth at almost a simmer on another burner on the stove. You can use chicken, beef or vegetable. I almost always use chicken but since I’m working with beef, I’m using beef broth tonight, which will yield a brown risotto.
Keep stirring the risotto in the pan until it changes color. It will become much more transparent (it’s reminiscent of making rice a roni if you’ve ever done that). Keep the heat low enough so the risotto doesn’t brown but high enough that you can hear it sizzling a bit. Before you start incorporating the broth, throw a cup of room temperature white wine in there. The sizzle and the smell will hit you like no other! You are now underway and the key here is stir, stir, stir. Not frantically. But constantly.
You have to be very diligent with risotto. You have to commit. Trust me, it will be worth it. I have a gloriously perfect wooden spoon that I have actually named the risotto spoon, though I do use it for other things. But it’s the only thing I use to make risotto.
So once you add the wine, stir. Not super fast, not in any particular direction, just continuously. Lovingly. You’ll notice that, quite suddenly, the risotto sucks up all the wine and the pan will dry again. Add one ladle of stock. Stir and stir. The risotto will suck that up as well. Repeat. Don’t get impatient. Add the stock only one ladle at a time. Stir. Send that arborio all the love you can muster. Add stock. Stir. Love. Repeat. If you treat the risotto gingerly, in return, it will release beautiful and creamy starches. See? It loves you too!
Everything you read will tell you risotto should not take longer than 15-20 minutes but honestly, I’ve never been able to make it in that short amount of time. I think heat is key here. Too hot and the liquid absorbs too quickly, causing the rice to actually take longer to cook. Too low and the time stretches out because it takes longer to absorb. You’ll find your groove. It generally takes me about 30 minutes of hypervigilance. But I never get lonely because I always have my sous chefs keeping me company!
You’ll want to start tasting for texture after about 15 minutes. Once you’re at an al dente state, add one more ladle of broth until absorbed. At this point you can lower the heat a bit and add your goodies. I always add salt and butter and ½-1c freshly grated parmesan cheese. After that, anything else you want. Risotto is the proverbial “everything but the kitchen sink” as far as versatility. I personally prefer to keep ingredients minimum because the delicate rich decadence is beautiful all on it’s own. For tonight, I will add the truffle salt and the bourbon truffle butter along with some chopped parsley and rosemary because rosemary goes very well with beef. You can throw in a little cream if you’d like to. Cream never hurt anyone. Take it off the heat and cover.
If I am cooking chicken or something lengthy, I let that course finish before starting the risotto so I can concentrate. However, this flank steak is going to only need a quick sear on either side and a bit of resting to be perfectly medium rare so I’m making the risotto first and setting it aside.
Remove the flank steak from its marinade and dry with paper towels. Generously salt and pepper (salt is important for sear, not flavor). Put a dry cast iron skillet on the stove on medium high while you dry and season the meat. Send a little water across the skillet. If it sizzles and evaporates, it’s not ready yet. The water should retain its shape and dance across the skillet before disappearing. Once your pan is hot, add a bit of vegetable or olive oil. It should become watery but not smoking. Lay the flank steak into the pan. Don’t peek. Don’t panic. Just listen to the beautiful song of searing and stay put for 3 minutes. Flip. Isn’t that beautiful? Repeat. 3 minutes, no peeking, no panicking. Remove to a plate and let rest while you give the risotto a final stir and adjust any seasonings as necessary. My flank steak was way too long for the cast iron skillet so I had to do the sear x 3 after cutting the flank steak into 3 pieces. The steak should rest about 10 minutes. It may seem a little rare and will probably bleed a bit but it continues to cook once you remove it and resting helps the meat reabsorb all of its juices.
When ready to serve, ladle risotto onto the plate or into a shallow bowl. Slice the flank steak into ¼” wide strips on the diagonal and serve next to or on the risotto. Garnish with a little parsley. Or a little squirt of lime juice. Or both. If you don’t top with anything acidic, then serve something acidic or pickled as a side to help cut the richness of the beef and risotto. A fennel salad with orange and olive oil would be perfect. A salad with balsamic vinaigrette would also work. As long as you cook with love, you won’t go wrong!
Happy reading, joyful cooking and spread the love!