Monday, September 10, 2012

Bloody Good

Um, hello! I realize I have been AWOL since July, but I thought I might pretend I was European and take the entire month of August off. Too bad that only applied to blogging. . . . 

Anywho......I have missed you! I was busy cooking and eating up a storm so have lots to fill you in on. Let's get things started with a fabulous dish I made this weekend. We're holding onto an Indian Summer (yay!) so I invited some friends over for an outdoor dinner. It was so nice to be in tank tops and flip flops as the sun set. I can't get enough of those "golden moments" as the sun tucks itself in for the night. 

So back to the actual dish: Flank Steak with Bloody Mary Tomato Salad. I know you're thinking I chose that dish to make because I like to drink booze so I probably like to "eat" booze too. I'd say you're right (because I do enjoy my adult beverages) and wrong (because there is actually no alcohol in this dish—but you can drink some while you make it!). But the real motivation was that it's finally football season again! And for me that equates to two things: the SEC conference and tailgating. Bloody Marys are a common sighting because tailgating usually starts in the morning and it may be frowned upon to start doing shots of whiskey in the wee hours (but please don't judge me if you see me doing that). BBQing in some way, shape or form is also popular, but I prefer dishes you can make ahead of arrival so you can spend your time doing important things like trash talking about the opponent instead of yelling to see if anyone has seen the grill tongs. 

I'm happy to report that I've gotten a little more comfortable in front of the grill since this post, but I'm by no means a grill master. That's probably why I like to cook cuts like flank steak. It's thin so quick to cook, and I don't really have to worry about contending with direct and indirect heat during preparation which still kind of frightens me. Get a nice sear on it and it will be juicy and flavorful. It's also a pretty economical cut, so great if feeding a crowd. The key is to let it rest once you take it off the grill and before you slice it. But I do think some of the credit should go to the yummy steak seasoning: brown sugar, paprika and cayenne pepper. 

In truth, the salad gave me pause. There were all sorts of wacky ingredients I don't usually associate with a salad. A Bloody Mary, yes, but a salad no. In fact, Bon Appetit (where I found the recipe) claimed it "tastes exactly like a Bloody Mary," which in my book is something you drink. Celery seeds, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish....on a salad? Really? But they also promised it would not offend the Bloody Mary wary folks, which includes me. I love to make them but not drink them. It's the tomato juice that I don't like in case that's keeping you up at night. But I'd had a few bourbon shots and was in good spirits because the University of Alabama was trouncing on Western Kentucky so thought, "What the heck? Let's give it a try!" 

And I'm glad I did! The steak came out perfectly and people, me included, pretty much couldn't get enough of the salad. It made for a beautiful presentation which makes no difference if it only tastes ho-hum. But people, kids included, came back for seconds and thirds. I'd say that's a compelling endorsement. And it gets my endorsement because it can be made ahead of time, takes about 30 minutes to pull together, looks impressive, and leaves me plenty of time to enjoy the company and adult beverages.  

Flank Steak with Bloody Mary Tomato Salad
from Bon Appetit
Serves 8-10 

2 1/2 lbs flank steak
Kosher salt
2 tsp (packed) light brown sugar
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil (for brushing)

1 cup finely chopped red onion
3 Tbsp Sherry vinegar, divided
2 lbs cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup chopped celery hearts (inner stalks and leaves)
1/3 cup chopped brined green olives plus 2 Tbsp olive brine
2 Tbsp horseradish
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
1/2 tsp celery seeds
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Place steaks on  a large rimmed baking sheet; season with salt. Mix sugar and next 3 ingredient in a small bowl; rub all over steaks. Cover and refrigerate for 1-3 hours.
2. Let steaks stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Heat gas grill to medium-high and brush grates with oil. Grill to desired doneness, about 5-7 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest for 10 minutes and then slice against the grain. 
Note: Can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool, cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before slicing. 

1. Mix onion with 1 Tbsp vinegar in a large bowl to quick pickle the onions. Let macerate for 10 minutes, tossing often. Add tomatoes, celery and olives. 
2. Whisk remaining 2 Tbsp vinegar, olive brine, horseradish and next 3 ingredients in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in oil. Add to bowl with tomato mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. 
Note: Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.