Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hanger Steak with Fries

     Don't worry, I'm okay...  I think.  Perhaps I should begin with an explanation.  I know that I should apologize for my absence from this blog, but I do not feel sorry.  The fact is, I have had a lot on my plate.  I was recently hired as the chef of a new business and bought a house all in the same week!  'Busy' is an understatement.  The eighty-hour work weeks on top of moving (and then maintaining a little over an acre during growing season) has consumed my every waking moment.  I am so grateful for the good fortune this year has provided but it truly has not been easy.
     Since my last post, I continued to work at the Ashland Food Co-Operative (in what is the nation's "most productive" food co-op deli.)  We produced large volumes of deli food including ethnic, vegan, organic, wheat-free and even totally raw dietary options.  Amazingly, our weekly sales reached into the seventy-thousand dollar range during the slow months of March and April.  Things were good, but I was dissatisfied with this type of heavy production.  So I searched for, and found, a head-chef position at a small bar in the historic town of Jacksonville, Oregon.  The position was unique, (in many ways) primarily because I was the only kitchen staff.  Oh, and we didn't have a kitchen either; a convection oven, panini press and rice cooker were my appliances.  I will spare you the details, but essentially, I made delicious happen with very little, every day.  I have since moved on to bigger and better things but needed to, at least, explain the cause for such a lapse.
Bud loves our new home, especially the field.

     Summer has arrived and it is hot!  Daily readings of 100°F in the shade make for perfect barbeque weather.  Conveniently, the house we purchased came with a Weber gas grill in good, working condition.  Even more convenient was the hanger steak in my freezer, patiently waiting to be thawed.  (This was not part of the home sale, of course.)  Hanger steak (hanging tender, or onglet in France) is also known as the 'Butcher's Steak' because it often goes home with them at the end of the day.  You see, hanger steak is the best steak of all.  Ha! I can't believe I said it... but it's true.
     Don't get me wrong; I love ribeye and greatly admire filet mignon, but they do not compare to the perfection that is hanger steak.  This cut is highly desired because there is only one hanging tender on a cow.  The nomenclature is derived from its position on the animal "hanging" below the diaphragm.  This location  is dually benevolent because the surrounding organs impart great flavor, and because the muscle is very tender as it is not used for locomotion or steering.  The steaks are small (1 1/2 to 2 pounds, typically) with one steak slightly larger than another, more slender steak.  A large band of ligament and silver-skin runs through the two portions and should be removed creating two uneven steaks or approximately 4, 7-ounce steaks.  The steaks, simply seasoned with salt and pepper and drizzled with olive oil, are best cooked to medium-rare (at most.)  After grilling, allow the steaks to rest before slicing across the grain.
     These steaks were served with a quick, marinated tomato salad and fresh baby arugula dressed lightly in lemon juice and olive oil.  Hand-cut french fries complete the meal with classic virtue.  Albeit unhealthy, there is no substitute for a perfectly fried potato.  Stacked alongside a juicy steak seems to be a common aspiration for the modest yet elegant fry (other than riding in a basket of beer-battered fish, of course.)  They say that if a potato is good and healthy, then it's "fit to be fried."
     For great fries, use russet potatoes (these are more starchy) and rice bran, peanut, sunflower or coconut oil.  First, blanche the potatoes in oil at 275°-250°F for about 10 minutes (or until slightly softened.)  Then, cool on a drained rack in the refrigerator before frying again in the oil heated to 360°-375°F for about 7 minutes (or until golden brown.)  As soon as the fries come out of the oil, season with salt so that it sticks.

Marinated Tomatoes

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half
1/4 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and minced
2 shallots, peeled and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, shaved thin
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tbs sherry vinegar
4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix ingredients and marinate for 15 minutes.

Grilled hanger steak with marinated tomatoes, baby arugula, and hand-cut fries.