A rich and summery dish to a full stomach full of bright Italian flavors. As always, notes at the end of the post.
1 ½ - 2 lbs Skirt steak
½ cup Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
salt & pepper to taste
olive oil & extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
10 oz cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup corn grits or polenta (admittedly, I use corn meal)
2 tblsp butter
4 oz goat cheese log
¼ to ⅓ cup of Parmesan cheese
2 scallions, white and greens separated and chopped into inch-long segments
fresh basil garnish
Prep all food mise en place. Quarter your tomatoes (feel free to salt and lightly oil these), crush and chop garlic, and chop your green onions. Measure your polenta and cheese in separate bowls. This recipe moves quickly to present one hot dish.
Clean and remove the fat from the skirt steak. I find skirt steak is particularly easy to cut away the fat that exists. Don't aim for perfection here, just get the large and easy bits out. If your steak is too large to fit in your cast iron in one piece, cut it into 2-3 comparably sized pieces you can fit together or separately.
Pound the steak with a meat mallet. This cannot be overstated: this step reduces the amount of chewing needed to break it down when you eat it. It transforms the meat. I like to go for an even thickness just under 1/2 an inch.
Salt and pepper your steak. For enriched flavor, I like to use my fingers to really press the 3 cloves of garlic into the grain of the meat. Lightly coat with some olive oil. Use a large plastic bag or glass dish to marinate the steak with the balsamic and rosemary. You can marinate for as little as 15 minutes or covered in the fridge for an entire day.
In a large sauce pan over medium-high heat start 3 cups of water to boil.
Over medium-high heat on a large burner, warm a large cast iron skillet. You should see the oil of the pan glistening. If not, add 1-2 teaspoons of a high-burning point cooking oil and let it seep into the pan. We want the pan to be hot when we get the steak on it for beautiful searing and browning.
Add the steak to the hot pan, letting the excess marinade drip off before adding it. Cook for 2-5 minutes per side, depending on how well you like it cooked. Transfer immediately to a cutting board to rest.
Turn down the heat on the cast-iron to medium-low. Toss in the oiled tomatoes, or add a little bit of extra virgin olive oil before throwing the tomatoes into the pan. Add the white scallion segments to the pan. There should be lots of sizzling. If you like extra garlic, feel free to add it 2-3 minutes after the tomatoes.
At this stage, while the steak is resting (which needs at least 5 minutes), my water is usually boiling. Slowly pour in the polenta while whisking to prevent clumping. Once all smooth, turn the heat on the sauce pan down and add in the butter.
Once butter is combined, turn off the heat and add the goat and Parmesan cheese and salt. While smooth and hot, transfer to warm serving dish.
Pour the remaining marinade into the cast iron with 2 tablespoons of butter. If you prefer to use fresh marinade, add up to a 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar. Reduce heat once bubbling to let the tomatoes and vinegar cook down. Add the green segments of scallion.
While the tomatoes, balsamic, and green onion are reducing, cut the steak against the grain. This leads to that rich looking finish and easy-to-cut-and-chew texture. Transfer to the top of the polenta on the serving dish.
Turn off heat on the tomatoes and balsamic. Carefully pour straight out of the pan in a diagonal or perpendicular motion on top of the steak.
Top with fresh chopped basil and serve.
I struggled with years on cooking my steaks right—I either wound up entirely too rare or very gray. This recipe was one of the first that I felt I could successfully and easily replicate multiple times over. The sugars in the balsamic help create that dark and crispy sear! The thinness of the steak also helps produce a fool-proof method for decent meat texture. No leather (unless you like it like that?), no chewiness.
Yet another meal in which I lean on the colors of the Italian flag to produce rich flavors. You can tell that these are home grown scallions I had not yet washed by the color of them... As I've discussed previously, green onions are SO easy to keep on hand fresh basically year-round. Once you buy them, feel free to give them hydroponic encouragement by sticking them in a cup of water. They'll root quickly and then you just drop them into soil.
I also always keep a basil plant or two. In the summer, they really take off. Once you start seeing woody stalks and flowers grow, you know you've got a maturity the pests will be looking to eat right up. Prolong the lifespan of your basil by pinching or pruning off the flowers.
That's it! That's the post. I really love this dish. It is one I've made a handful of times and each time it gets better and better. It's been my gateway to comfortably cooking steak. It's so easy because of how rich the creamy polenta is, the brightness of the balsamic, and the sweetness of the tomatoes. The onions and basil really temper all of those contenders creating a really flavorful singular bite when eaten all together.