Sometimes, things just work out– you’re inspired by a flavor, an ingredient catches your eye, or you are hit by a burst of inspiration. You can’t count on these things happening and can’t plan them in advance. It’s the spontaneity of the flavors coming together that make them really special. This week, my inspiration came in the form of a piece of steak, some forgotten dill, and a head of nearly-sprouted garlic.
I had agonized for days over what tonight’s post would be about. I was stressed and uninspired and nothing was good enough to share with you, my readers. I guess that I was experiencing whatever chefs get instead of writer’s block. The blog must be posted, however, and so after (grudgingly) settling on a recipe for this week and trotting through the store looking for chickpeas, I stumbled upon a pretty delicious-looking piece of steak. And then found some bright, leafy lettuce that you wish grocery stores like Gristedes would carry, but never do. It only took these two ingredients for the inspiration bug to hit, and, after a bit of poking around in my fridge, the rest of the meal quickly came together. So much for the chickpeas.
This recipe may look daunting at first, but I promise that is perfect for a weeknight dinner, especially if you plan ahead. The good news is that it is also definitely a doable weeknight recipe for those of you who forget to plan things in advance (like me). I do warn you that there is a bit of down time involved, but it let me do other things around the kitchen and around the house. The meat would, of course, be better if it got the chance to marinate for longer, but the strong flavors in the marinade and scoring the steak before soaking help the flavors become absorbed relatively quickly. The flavors were all there, and it, like last weeks’ recipe, helped satisfy my craving for fresh, springtime vegetables. Your leftovers will also be perfect for a picnic lunch the next day! So what are you waiting for? Whip some up and get out there to enjoy the spring.
Quick-Marinated Steak Salad and Caramelized Garlic Dressing
For the marinade:
1 cup Lemon juice
1-2 tbsp Stone-ground mustard
1-2 tbsp dill paste*
2 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground pepper
For the caramelized garlic:
6 medium garlic cloves
3/4 cup good olive oil
Lettuce, washed and ripped/cut down to a manageable size
One cucumber, quartered lengthwise and chopped
First, start with your marinade. Find a container just big enough to fit your steak (or a large sealable plastic bag) and add the marinade ingredients. Stir well to combine and taste– if you find something is missing, now is the time to add it while you can still taste the marinade without worrying about eating raw meat juice. You should be able to taste all of the flavors in the marinade and it should be pleasant to eat– one flavor should not overpower the others.
Score your steak on both sides– this will allow the flavor to penetrate more deeply into the meat in a shorter period of time. For those of you who have never done this before, it basically just means cutting shallow grooves into the meat. With your knife, cut diagonal lines no deeper than about 1/8 of an inch deep into the meat, spacing them out about 3/4 inch apart across the surface of the meat. Then cut diagonal lines across these, following the same depth and spacing as previously. Flip the steak over and do the same.
Once your marinade is ready and your steak is scored, add the meat to the marinade container. Spoon some of the marinade over the meat, making sure to get it into the cuts you have made. Let sit for 35-60 minutes, spooning additional marinade over the steak every 5-10 minutes.
While your steak is doing its thing, heat your olive oil for the garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cut the garlic into small sections– either quarters or eights, depending on the size– and add them to the heated oil. They should sizzle. Cook them over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic turns brown and tastes sweet. If your garlic is browning too quickly, reduce the heat to medium-low. Feel free to let this process take as long as it needs to– when I made mine, I didn’t take the garlic off the heat until I had finished nearly everything else.
Wash and prepare your lettuce and cucumber in a large mixing bowl.
Once your meat has marinated for a while, heat a small amount of oil in a pan and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, pull the meat out of the marinade. It is fine to bring some marinade over to the pan with the steak, but be careful about it as the oil will pop when liquid hits it. Reserve the marinade. Sear the meat on both sides– about three minutes on each. You will know the meat is ready to be flipped when it no longer sticks to the pan. After searing the meat, turn your heat down to medium and cover the pan. Let your steak cook like this for a few minutes on each side for a medium temperature.
Remove the steak from the pan and let it rest, covered, on a cutting board. Be aware that a good amount of juice will be released while it is resting. Pour the leftover marinade into the same skillet you used to cook the steak and heat over a medium flame. Add a little extra lemon, mustard, and dill in equal parts. While the marinade is heating, use it to deglaze the pan, scraping any chunks left from the steak sear. Heat the marinade until boiling and boil for five minutes, again adding more liquid if necessary. Remove from the heat.
If you haven’t already, remove your garlic from the heat. Dress your salad greens with oil from the garlic pan and the boiled marinade sauce, mixing well to combine. Add salt or freshly ground pepper if needed. Top the salad with sliced steak and caramelized garlic. Take a bite, let your taste buds do a happy dance, and repeat.
*A note about the dill paste: The roomies and I bought dill paste a while ago to make pickles, and it turns out that it is also great for use in marinades. We found it at Gristedes, which, for you non-NY-dwellers, is a standard chain grocery store. Fresh dill would also be lovely in this marinade, though I am not sure of the quantity you would need. Feel free to experiment! Though remember to only taste your marinade before you add the steak and after you boil it.
**A note about the steak: Full disclosure– I know very little about cuts of steak. This recipe is pretty versatile, though, and the marinade would do particularly well tenderizing a cheaper cut of meat. Stay away from the shoulder, though, as this is the toughest meat that’s generally reserved for long cooking periods in dishes like stews. You’ll want your steak to be about an inch thick so you can sear it properly, but any thicker than that and it will need to marinate for much longer.