10 January 2009

Braised Skirt Steak "Maki"

Skirt steak is my new all-time favorite beef. I used to be intimidated by its tough appearance, but once it has been properly cooked, it is as tender as a filet, and possibly tastier. The other thing I love about it is that it doesn't really take that much prep time to get it started, and I can cook the meat and some of the vegetables at the same time. So while I am doing other things around the house, my dinner is happily cooking away in the oven.

Skirt steak doesn't seem to be widely available. Here in Southern California I have to go to Gelson's to get it. The butchers at some of the bigger supermarkets give me a strange look when I ask for it, making me feel skeptical about their butchering abilities.

This week I made a version that looked a little bit like a strange sushi roll while prepping it. The great thing about this recipe is that there are many, many variations. You can swap out what vegetables/starches to include inside the meat and in the pan. One variation is to stuff the inside of the skirt steak with wild rice, or a combo of wild rice, quinoa, and celery, and mushrooms. Sweet potatoes, yams, or parsnips all work well as the root vegetable surrounding the "maki".

There are basically three parts to this recipe. One is the meat and veg prep stage, one is preparing the braising liquid, and the third takes place in the oven. Keep in mind that the skirt steak shrinks quite a bit during this recipe, so when thinking about portions you might want to overestimate a bit.

Braised Skirt Steak Maki for two


For the Pan:
1 Skirt Steak (usually around 18-20 inches long)
2 cups of quartered or sliced potatoes (red potatoes work well, as do sweet potatoes)
2-3 leeks
1 small yellow onion
1 large carrot, cut into 3 inch sticks (or 6 baby carrots)
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
salt and pepper
butcher's string (for tying the strips into rolls)

Braising Liquid:
1/2 bottle of red wine
1 quart of beef broth
2 tsp. peppercorns
1 tsp. salt

Mix the red wine, broth, salt, and peppercorns in a saucepan. Stir the mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let the mixture simmer until the liquid is reduced to about half the original amount. Once this is done, let it cool a bit before using. This is a place where you can play a little too. Any flavor you put in here will permeate the rest of the dish.

While your braising liquid is reducing, cut the skirt steak into two kind of equal pieces. There will be some irregularity in the pieces. Don't worry about it. Salt and pepper both sides of the skirt steak and lightly brown both sides of each piece in a skillet. Set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wash and chop your vegetables. I like to cut my potatoes into slices or quarters, depending on the size of the potato. I like to cut the leeks into 2 inch thick rounds, leaving a little part of the dark green top of the leek for the inside of the beef roll. 

Now it is time to assemble! Get a big pyrex or other baking dish or roasting pan. It should be big enough that everything has space, but not so big that your braising liquid gets lost. You want your braising liquid to come up at least 1/2 height of your beef rounds.

Place the carrots, a slice of onion, and the leek top inside of each strip of steak. Salt and pepper or add other spices at this point (a sprig of rosemary in each works well.) Roll the strips up around the vegetables and secure with butcher's string. Place these in the pan. Arrange the vegetables around them. Add the bay leaf and the rosemary sprig. Lightly pepper the potatoes.

Add the braising liquid to the dish. Try to mostly cover the vegetables with the liquid. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Put in the oven and bake for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Let rest for about 5 minutes.

Plate the dish by putting the "maki" on a place and surrounding with vegetables, taking care to remove the butcher's string after plating. This could also be served in a shallow bowl with some of the braising liquid (which is extra yummy by this point.)

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