Monday, October 25, 2010

Flank Steak with Tomatillo Salsa & Green Tomato Au Gratin

While I was home this summer, my mom suggested we take a cooking class together. Naturally, I was thrilled by the idea. We couldn't find any good hands-on lessons, so we had to settle for a demonstration. In the end, we decided on a class based on tomatoes, called "You Say Tomayto, I Say Tomato" with chef Justin Keith of Food 101, an Atlanta restaurant specializing in American classics with a twist.

I love Food 101 (in fact, it is the restaurant where my sister Mary Lang claims to have had "the best Caesar salad of her life," but that's another story) and I love tomatoes, so I was excited to see what dishes Justin had in store for us. On the menu: Justin's take on the Caprese salad using cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls and white balsamic vinegar, tomato & cucumber gazpacho, green tomato au gratin and flank steak with tomatillo salsa verde.

Justin was great and I enjoyed every dish we learned how to make during the class. My mom and I were so obsessed with a couple of the dishes that we decided to recreate them for a family dinner the next week.

To prepare for our meal, I made a trip to the Forest Park Farmers Market, which is the largest farmers market in Georgia. It was my first visit and I was amazed. It was the biggest farmers market I've seen, by far. There are about 25 giant aisles filled with stalls on both sides and the aisles are wide enough to fit cars going in each direction. I picked up the tomatillos and green tomatoes I needed, as well as some zipper peas to go along with the meal (per my dad's request).

Next I went to Fresh Market to pick up the flank steak along with other ingredients. Flank steak is one of my favorite cuts of beef. It's a very lean, tough piece of meat, so it's important to give it plenty of time to marinate (I marinated mine overnight to really let the flavors sink in). Also, when you're picking out your flank steak, ask the butcher to trim the fat for you. When cutting the flank steak, make sure to slice against the grain. If you look closely at your flank steak you will see thin lines running in a certain direction. Those lines are fibers in the meat, which are tough and difficult to chew. If you slice your meat in the same direction as these lines, you will have to chew through the tough fibers, so instead, you want to slice across the lines. If you need a visual, this is a great how-to video from Epicurious.

The tomatillo salsa turned out incredibly well. The recipe is relatively painless and produces a huge amount of salsa that can be easily refrigerated and stored for later use. The salsa complemented the steak perfectly, but I can also imagine it would be great with chicken, salmon, tuna, mahi mahi, and even eggs. Note: The salsa has a substantial kick, so if spicy isn't your thing, be sure and remove the seeds from the jalapeño before adding it into the mixture.

My favorite part of the meal, by far, was the green tomato gratin. The combination of two of my favorite cheeses, breadcrumbs and lots of butter...what's not to love? Although I thought the original recipe using Panko breadcrumbs was awesome, my mom remade it a couple of weeks later using homemade breads crumbs soaked in butter and I have to say, it was even better. I would definitely recommend substituting homemade breadcrumbs for the Panko breadcrumbs. Just break several slices of white bread into small chunks and soak them in melted butter before adding to the top of each layer of the casserole. Using this method, you might not even need the extra butter.

Bon appetit!

Flank Steak with Tomatillo Salsa Verde
Serves 4
Flank Steak:
16-24 oz flank steak
1 yellow onion, quartered
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup chili sauce
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 cup olive oil
1 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp coriander seed

To prepare the flank steak mix all of the ingredients except the steak together in a large bowl. Transfer the mixture to a plastic Ziploc bag and add the steak. Marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.

Remove steak from the marinade and grill on medium/high heat for 4-6 minutes per side (for medium rare). Allow the meat to sit for 5-7 minutes after removing from the grill to allow the juices to settle. Top with tomatillo salsa before serving.

Tomatillo Salsa Verde
1 lb. fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered
1 fresh jalapeño chile, chopped
1/2 large white onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp ground cumin

Coarsely puree tomatillos, chile, onion, garlic, water, salt and lime juice in a blender until relatively smooth (mixture will still be a little chunky). Transfer mixture to a small saucepot and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes. This allows the moisture released from the tomatillos to cook down. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool to room temperature or refrigerate to chill. Stir in cilantro, cumin and lime juice and salt to taste.

Note: this recipe makes 2 cups of salsa, so you will have plenty left over.

Green Tomato Au Gratin
Serves 4

1 yellow onion, julienned
4-5 green tomatoes, sliced 1/4"-1/2" thick
2 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped

Preheat oven to 350° F. Oil the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish. Saute the onions in a saucepan with olive oil until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Arrange a layer of tomatoes in the casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange half of the onions on top of the tomatoes. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan and half of the cheddar on top. Cover with a thin layer of breadcrumbs.

Repeat the process. Sprinkle the casserole with the rest of the breadcrumbs and the herbs and finish by pouring the melted better over the top.

Bake at 350° F covered with aluminum foil for 30 minutes and then uncovered for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned. Serve warm.

Source: Justin Keith of Food 101 in Atlanta, GA

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