Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Today’s Insanity
What’s cooking? Grilled Korean-style Steaks with Cilantro Sauce

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” A Google search reveals that saying to be attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Rita Mae Brown, Albert Einstein, handbooks for Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, and an old Chinese proverb. I don’t care who said it – it’s obviously true. And it doesn’t apply just to humans.

We have a crazy cardinal at our house. He shows up every morning that’s even moderately bright, pecking away at various windows, starting around 7am. He moves from one pane to another, banging away, apparently trying to scare off the cardinal he sees reflected in the glass. Then he flies off, but returns after a suitable interval and goes back to his task. He’s been repeating this behavior for at least the past year.

I watch him – and hear him – and think how nutty he must be, and I wonder if his mate appreciates his efforts, or if she just rolls her eyes and says, “Whatever.” But I also recognize aspects of my own behavior in his actions. Back when my children were living at home, for instance, it was the clean-up-your-room battle. Also, the pick-up-your-shoes battle (which apparently my daughter-in-law still faces, though she recently gave up and allowed the dog to eat a pair of my son’s favorite flip-flops – a tactic I never thought of). These days, it’s more about getting my husband to put his dishes into the dishwasher.

For my own part, I love to have a dinner party, but I usually make myself so crazy getting ready that I’m exhausted for at least a couple of days afterward. The dinner party I wanted to have this week was for friends visiting from New Jersey, and they’d be staying for several days – I could hardly afford to spend the whole next day in my jammies.

So I had to find recipes that would allow me to actually participate in the party. Something to be grilled – that much was clear. Marinated, too. And the sauce had to be easy and do-ahead.

From the grease stains and notes to self on this recipe, I recognized the following as one of the all-time greats. From the June 2001 issue of Gourmet:

Grilled Korean-style Steaks with Cilantro Sauce (serves 6)

The steaks:
4-5 boneless beef top loin (strip) or rib-eye steaks, about an inch thick and ½ - ¾ lb each

The marinade:
¾ c soy sauce
¼ c Madeira
3 Tbl sugar
1 ½ Tbl minced garlic
1 Tbl Asian sesame oil
1 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes

The sauce:
A medium-sized bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped (including roots and stems) – at least 1 cup
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1½ teaspoons minced garlic
½ teaspoon Asian sesame oil
Optional: ½ teaspoon minced, seeded fresh habanero or serrano chile [Kitchen Goddess note #1: Despite my Texas upbringing, I’m a bit of a wimp in the hot chile category, so I opt to omit the chile. It’s still a winner.]

Stir together the marinade ingredients until the sugar is dissolved. Place the steaks in a 13x9 baking dish, and pour the marinade over them. [Kitchen Goddess note #2: My preference – for any marinating – is to pour the marinade into a gallon zip-lock bag with the steaks. They fit better in the frig, and you can turn them without splashing marinade all over yourself.] In either case, marinate the steaks 1-2 hours, turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by putting all ingredients into a food processor and pulsing several times until well chopped but not pureed.

Grill the steaks on a medium-hot grill, 3-4 min per side for medium-rare. Let steaks stand on a cutting board – without cutting – for 5 mins. [Kitchen goddess note #3: I know you want to just take a little peek and see if the steaks are really done, but resist that urge. The five-minute rest allows the heat to equalize across the whole piece of meat, producing a more evenly cooked, steak that actually retains the juices better. You can still put it back on the grill if it needs more cooking.] Cut the steaks lengthwise into ½-inch thick slices and drizzle the sauce over them. Serve remaining sauce on the side.

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