Friday, July 31, 2009

London Broil and "Pommes Patricia"

My grocer had London broil on sale, 2 for 1, which worked out to $2.65 a pound for a cut of beef that has virtually no visible fat and is boneless. It isn't the world's most tender cut of beef, but it's pretty versatile, and quite flavorful. The important thing, no matter how you cook it, is to slice it across the grain when it's done, and as thinly as possible. If you slice it with the grain or in big chunks, your teeth and jaw have to deal with the long muscle fibers. If you cut it across the grain, the knife has done the work and it "feels" as tender as, oh, filet mignon!

Each package was about 1-3/4 pounds. I wrapped one in foil and labeled it and stuck it in the freezer. If you calculate it at about 4 ounces a person, one of these pieces would serve 4. Or 1 meal and three magnificent sandwiches to take to work.

Most recipes I've seen for London broil call for marinating it, at least 4 hours and up to 24. While marinating might not really do much to tenderize it, it might help a little and it definitely adds flavor. What flavor depends on the marinade, but the basics are garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, and two kinds of liquid: something sweetish and fruity, and something acidic, such as vinegar. I had a little peach-white grape juice sitting around, so I used it for the sweetish fruity part. Other options include wine, ale or even tequila. For the vinegar, balsamic is nice, but anything you have on hand will work. Some recipes add Worcestershire sauce or Dijon mustard. Or honey or cherry preserves. I would avoid using more than 4-5 ingredients other than salt and pepper, just because it might get, well, weird. So if I used tequila, I wouldn't also use mustard and cherry jam.

So here's what I did.
For the marinade
In my biggest Pyrex measuring cup, stir up:
--6 cloves of roughly chopped garlic
--1 shallot (because it was leftover and I might as well)
--six inches worth of fresh rosemary (strip the needles or leave the stems on, because this will get tossed out anyway, so no worries)
--about 1/4 cup of peach-grape juice
--about 1/4 cup of wine vinegar
-- salt and pepper

Some recipes call for mixing up the marinade in a food processor or blender. If you like washing yours, fine, use it. I used a fork.

Put the meat in a non-reactive container -- either a zip-top plastic bag or a Pyrex or ceramic dish that has a tight fitting cover. Add the marinade. If using a plastic bag, squeeze out as much air as you can before sealing. And put it in a dish or pan before you put it in the fridge, just in case. Marinate for up to 24 hours, turning at least once or twice. Do not be dismayed as the outside of the meat turns brownish in the marinade. It is supposed to do that.

I marinated mine for 5 hours and only turned it once.

Now, very important: Before cooking, dry the meat off very thoroughly. Otherwise, the outside will not brown, it will steam. Ick. This is one of the few things I use paper towels for. You could be even more eco-friendly and use clean dish towels, but then they wouldn't be clean any more, would they? I do compost the paper towels. Also be sure to wipe away the garlic, etc., which will burn. Do not be afraid to press down firmly on the meat. I have not heard of actually using a meat pounder, but I have heard of putting weights on while grilling. I think a good firm press down, in conjunction with thorough drying off, is effective enough.

You could slap this on a grill, or heed the wisdom of Alton Brown, who points out that an outdoor gas grill is just an upside down gas broiler, or vice versa. I used my indoor gas broiler and STILL got two mosquito bites. No way I was going outside. Six inches from the heat source is a good guide, but you are the only one who knows your grill or broiler.

I like mine brown on the outside but red in the middle, so 4 minutes on one side, 4-5 on the other. As always, let it rest for 10 minutes or so before slicing. As I mentioned above, slice it thinly across the grain. It will probably be a rectangle, so across the grain means the short way.

This is unbelievably tender for such an inexpensive cut of beef. And no, there was no obvious peachy-grape juice flavor from the marinade. It just helped keep things juicy and flavorful.

Could you do more? Sure, make a mushroom sauce or a wine sauce or ... but I didn't feel the need. But maybe that's because I had home-grown vine-ripened itsy bitsy "Sweet Million" tomatoes. And fresh basil. And Pommes Patricia, which is the associated recipe.

"Pommes Patricia"

Pommes Patricia

I love "Pommes Anna." Julia Child's recipe calls for 2 sticks (one-half pound) of butter for 3 pounds of potatoes. Well, of course that is delicious. And there are many recipes that try to pare down the butter. And they are still good. But they still use a lot of butter. And I love butter, but ...

I also love any combination of potatoes and cheese, including, and I'm not kidding, Tater Tots and brie. You bake the Tots first until they are golden brown and crispy, then add some brie (or whatever cheese you have) until gooey. But that's not going to help our national health care crisis. Scalloped potatoes, potatoes au gratin -- all in the family. Can we make them easy and (relatively) guilt-free?

I wanted to try a combination that has the essential goodness without too, too much fat. You can cut some or all of the salt and use other seasonings.

--2 pounds of potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch. I love getting out my mandolin for this, but a knife and cutting board would work. This was four largish, but not mutantly gigantic, russet potatoes. If you use a mandolin, cut the spuds in half to make it easier to use the finger guard. Do not not use the finger guard!
--1-2 T Canola oil
-- 2-3 ounces of cheddar cheese, or whatever meltable cheese you have. Parmesan doesn't melt. Remember, as the cheese melts, some of its fat goes into the potatoes, which is why this is delicious without all that butter. And the cheese has calcium and protein, as well as cheesey goodness. So even if it is adding fat, it has redeeming qualities. And it still isn't 2 sticks of butter!
-- salt, cayenne pepper and Spanish smoked paprika. You don't have to use cayenne, but that's just the way I roll
--2 cloves of shallots, chopped (optional for you onion-haters, and you know who you are)

In a shallow oven proof vessel -- I used a small au gratin dish -- put about a tablespoon of canola or other healthy but high-temp-tolerant oil. Arrange one layer of the potato slices. Salt. Add about an ounce of crumbled, grated or chopped up cheese. Add another layer of potato, more salt, sprinkles of cayenne and paprika. More potato. Salt. More cheese, but only an ounce or two.

Cover with foil and bake for about an hour at 400. If the taters on top are fork tender and the cheese is bubbly, you are done. If not, cook longer. If fork tender but not bubbly, take off the foil and broil for a minute.

To serve: Well, the traditional way is to invert the whole thing on a plate or platter. Or you could slice off a portion and flip it onto the plate. Unless you have stuck it under a broiler, the "bottom" should be the top, for presentation.

This makes four generous portions, and remember that the "generous" adjective comes from a person who could possibly live on potatoes and cheese. You might be able to serve six.

Of course you could be decadent and add more cheese, but, really, these tasted fantastic. Of course you could add (already cooked) bacon or ham or sausage and make a meal of it. Of course you could add -- well, be careful about anything that would add water, like frozen peas, because the potatoes wouldn't get as crispy. But if you dried them off ...


About Me

My photo
This is me enjoying a limoncello in Rome on the last night of our trip to Italy. Funny thing is, I don't really like limoncello that much, but thought it would be great in a dessert. And wouldn't you know, The Barefoot Contessa just did a great fruit salad with limoncello. So now I can't. Oh, well.