Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Brazilian Marinated Seaks with Chile Lime Sauce

Brazilian... really? while I can't vouch for the recipe's authenticity, I can imagine gauchos and vaqueros (link) knowing how to prepare a tasty steak. The idea and title come from Two Hot Tamales, and I'm not going to argue with that spicy duo. 

A 1 1/2-pound beef chuck roast sat on my counter, daring me challenging me to get creative, to move beyond the typical cold-weather pot roast, stew or chili. The calendar said it was officially Spring, the day was sunny and verging on warm; this was not a time for more wintery comfort food. I grabbed a knife and began the attack, moving forward without much of a plan. That small roast sliced neatly into four steaks, but then I had some concerns about the tenderness challenge.

Beef chuck comes from the shoulder of the cow, an area that is well muscled, heavily exercised, and has quite a bit of fat and connective tissue. It is known to be flavorful but tough chewy. One solution was to utilize a marinade. An acidic marinade can help tenderize a tough steak by permeating the meat and breaking down the connective tissues. I turned to this cookbook, an old favorite, for inspiration.

Red wine, lime, garlic and herbs - now that had potential. Flavorful? oh, yes! Chefs Milliken & Feniger recommend their marinade for rib-eye steaks, but a good rib-eye is already tender and I would hate to turn an expensive cut into mush. Chuck, however, seemed a good candidate for marination; chewy yet flavorful, affordable, and it was what I had on hand at the time. Done deal.

Lime juice and red wine are readily available acidic liquids and they did a fine job of tenderizing the chuck roast steaks in three and a half hours. Gauchos may not have time to marinate their meat for hours, but it was worth the wait for this city cook. The herbs and garlic added additional flavor and the resulting cooktop-grilled steaks were a major 4-star mealtime hit. The Chile Lime Sauce? Oh. My. Yes! don't skip the sauce, its bright tangy, citrusy taste was good enough to eat straight up off a spoon. We loved the fresh salsa/sauce on the grilled steaks, on rice, on grilled vegetables... 

I had forgotten my California marinated meat-grilling roots for a while, but I'm back on track now. We'll see this recipe again and again, the Capt. will insist on it. 

Brazilian Marinated Steaks with Chile Lime Sauce
Adapted from Cooking with Too Hot Tamales by Milliken & Feniger

4 rib-eye steaks (1 ½ -inch thick) (I used chuck steaks)
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup dry red wine
1 small white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp dried oregano
1 large bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp ground (white) pepper

Chile Lime Sauce (recipe follows)

1. Place the steaks in a non-metallic pan large enough to hold them in a single layer.

2. Blitz the remaining ingredients in a blender to form a loose paste. Pour over the steaks, turning to coat both sides. Cover and chill for 4 to 6 hours in the fridge, remembering to turn occasionally.

3. Heat a cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat.

4. Remove the steaks from the marinade, shaking to remove the excess, and grill until done to taste, roughly 6-7 minutes per side for rare to medium-rare. Don't overcook the meat or it will become tougher.

5. Transfer to a platter, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes so the juices redistribute. Serve with the Chile Lime Sauce.

Chile Lime Sauce
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 small white onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
juice of 3 limes
½ bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only
tamed jalapeno rings, or maybe Sriracha, to taste (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender; blitz to form a paste. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Yields about ½ cup (also good as a sauce for chicken, pork, lamb or seafood, or slathered on a grilled panini or taco.)  

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