• Pan Seared Flank Steak With Herb Butter

    Pan Seared Flank Steak With Herb Butter.

    Pan Seared Flank Steak With Herb Butter.

    Sometimes you just need some steak and potatoes. And here at the farm, after a few weeks of experimenting with kale recipes and creative Mixology Monday cocktails (think of it as a simultaneous mix of indulging and cleansing), a good back-to-basics dinner is always welcome. And this is where simple recipes really shine, a few good ingredients, a touch of extra time, a little technique and you have a very lovely meal. And there are few simpler, and few better, dishes than pan seared flank steak with herb butter (potato recipe coming soon).

    flank15flank14flank12Flank steak, even with its recent surge in popularity, is a relatively affordable cut of meat with deep, beefy flavor. The key to flank steak is to choose the right cooking method and to serve it thinly sliced against the grain. We can’t stress this enough. But unlike some cuts, the grain on a flank steak is very easy to see, just cut across it. And while it will look prettier if you cut diagonally (or “on the bias”), thin vertical cuts will give you the most tender meat.

    flank11flank10flank8As for the cooking method, we are all for outdoor high-heat grilling (or even a long, slow sous-vide cook, followed by grilling or pan-searing), but the quick, easy way to cook a flank steak is to pan fry it briefly in a very, very hot pan. Just be sure it is a heavy pan (cast iron is very good here), your kitchen is well-ventilated and you use a high-heat cooking fat like bacon fat or peanut oil. Then you cook the flank steak for 5-7 minutes (for medium-rare) on each side, until well-browned, then let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. The meat will finish its cooking during the rest, and the juices will also settle and not run all over your cutting board when you slice. Again, a little extra time makes a difference.

    flank7flank6There are a few other steps that will help take this dish over the top. Pre-salting the meat at least 4 hours, and preferably 6-12 hours, before you cook will amplify the already excellent flavor of the steak. Wiping the steak dry with a paper towel, right before cooking, will remove excess moisture and help brown the outside of the steak and form a beautiful and flavorful crust. And if you want to be a bit fussy (and sometimes we do), take the steak out of the pan when you flip and wait 1-2 minutes before you cook the other side of the steak. The pan cools while you cook, so letting it reheat will help you evenly brown both sides. A few little things, but you will notice the difference. Continue reading

  • Sharing (and Sometimes Stealing) Food With Family and Friends

    Wild Flour Bread. Good stuff.Writing, cooking and gardening are often thought of as a mostly solitary pursuits, but we find that the opposite is true. Fresh fruit on the tree, new recipes and a well-earned drink seem to always supply a path to more time with family and friends and easy opportunities to engage with our community. In a time where so many voices express outright fear of food and drink, it is worth noting that few things unify us more than the simple act of breaking bread together. And if that bread happens to be tasty, then so much the better.

    And this week we literally got to break bread and share with many family and friends. Carolyn’s Dad, Bill, was generous enough to bring us bread from Wild Flour Bread in Freestone, California, a few hours north of us. Wild Flour bread is a truly artisan baker that bakes all of their bread on-site in wood-fired brick ovens. They feature a few dozen varieties of bread and pastry each day. They do not sell anywhere but the bakery and when they are out of bread for the day, you are out of luck. Happily, Bill brought us four loaves; olive, super seed, garlic rose and a sweet cardamom bread. The bread was terrific, and the kids loved it (and since they have no “filter” their praise is noteworthy). We enjoyed the cardamom bread toasted with butter at breakfast and made simple, tasty grilled cheeses for the kids with the other loaves.

    Good bread = good grilled cheese sandwiches.

    What makes the bread so special was not just the taste, but that Bill was so willing to go out of his way to share the bread with us. His simple logic was, “it’s really good bread and I thought you might want to write about it”. The same thing happened a few months back when Carolyn’s Aunt and Uncle, Ann & Russel, started trying our cocktails and sent us Bernard DeVoto’s marvelous book “The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto“. My sister sends photos of an endless wall of bitters, and our buddy Chad sends us envy-inducing photos of fresh bay scallops. Our friend Scott has a recipe for a new variety of Manhattan and we just have to try it out….

    The Hour. A good case for including the occasional cocktail in your life.

    Later in the week, our friend (and true gourmand) Phelps came by to pick up some beef. This spring, we bought 1/4 of a grass-fed cow from Stemple Creek Ranch and the steer was recently harvested. Phelps bought half of the beef and needed to pick it up (a 1/4 cow is a lot of beef, if you are curious, it fills two large coolers). We got to catch up with Phelps, walk through the garden, share (and show-off) some of our berries and even pluck a few more of the early cherries. We are just a few days away from a full cherry harvest. It was a brief visit, but a good one, and we look forward to cooking with Phelps this summer.

    Ribeye steak from Stemple Creek Ranch.

    And finally, when we aren’t sharing with friends we resort to stealing their produce. Well, not quite stealing, but certainly being “opportunistic”. Recently our friends Roger and Greta rented a house in a nearby town. The house was built by an old Italian family years ago and they literally covered their property with citrus trees. Lemons, limes and oranges, and the trees are huge and very productive. Our friends haven’t really moved in yet, but Carolyn was in the neighborhood and stopped by the house to check it out. It’s late in the year for citrus but there were still limes and lemons on the trees and Carolyn decided to “help herself”. She did get permission after the fact, so the stealing became sharing (ex-post-facto). In any event, we did mix Roger a drink using his lime juice, so we hope they will forgive our transgressions and let us “liberate” more of their citrus in the future. It will certainly give us a good excuse to stop by. Continue reading