Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lunch Week 24: Argentinian Steak & Chicken Salad

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it, unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided.

So my lunch for the week: Argentinian Steak & Chicken Salad
I wanted add more flavor to my steak salad so chimichurri sauce automatically came into my head. That herbaceous and tangy sauce is really tasty and can be used as a salad dressing. So I went ahead and looked up a decent recipe on epicurious.com. I finally found one that I liked (listed at the end of the post). The way I browse recipes is to look through the ingredients first. I want to make sure that I familiar with each and every one and that it's also easy to acquire. Second, I read through the instructions. I also want to make sure that I can do whatever the recipe calls for. For instance, if a recipe calls for a blender or deep fryer, I'm out of luck. But most of all, I like to read other people's comments. I feel that the reviews on epicurious are pretty helpful. Not only are these people who try the recipe but they also give advice on subsequent tries to tweak it.

I started off with the marinade. I took some onions, cilantro, garlic, thyme, oregano, cumin, vinegar, and oil and mixed it together in a glass bowl. I like to use glass for acid based marinades because it doesn't chemically react to the acid.

I separated the marinade into 2 pans: one for the beef, the other for the chicken. I covered it with plastic wrap and let it marinate in the refrigerator for about 4 hours.
While the marinade tenderizes the meat and adds lots of flavors, I worked on the chimichurri sauce. In a food processor, I blended together onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, red bell pepper, oregano, hot pepper flakes, oil, and vinegar. Then it was also wrapped and left to set in the fridge.
Then I prepped my side dish: roast tomatoes. I sliced each tomato in half then added seasoned bread crumbs and grated pecorino cheese on top. A splash of olive oil on top to help it brown. Then into the oven (I used my toaster oven here) at 350oF for about 30 minutes until the tomatoes are completely soft, the cheese melted, and the bread crumbs browned.
This is what they look like when they're done. They would have released a lot of liquid but the leftover tomato is extra sweet with a nice concentration of its natural flavor.
And now the meat. I heated up my cast iron pan until scorching hot and started to smoke. I added the vegetable oil (use a high smoke temp oil here), then the steak. Make sure to clean off any of the marinade ingredients before you cook the steak. It will burn if you leave it on. I left the meat alone to sear and create a nice crust for about 5 minutes. Then I flipped it and did the same thing. Once cooked through, I left it to rest on my cutting board. You can see the juices in the picture below. That lovely tastiness needs to be absorbed back into the meat.
After the steak is cooked, I cooked the chicken. I seared each side for 5 minutes each then lowered the temp to medium so that it would cook through without drying out the outside. Probably another 10 minutes. Then onto the board to rest as well.
Once the meat has cooled down and rested for about 10 minutes, I diced them up into small bite sized cubes. Look at the beautiful pink of that steak.
While the pan is still hot, I took some sliced onion and thew it into the pan. They absorbed all that good meaty flavor.
I also decided to make a very simple corn salad. I chopped up some carrots, celery, red bell pepper, then added cooked corn to the mix. The cooked corn was seasoned with salt and pepper. A nice colorful salad.
And then the assembly. First I laid down some chopped romaine lettuce, then the corn salad, then the meat. A spoonful or 2 of the chimichurri sauce goes on top and 2 tomato halves on the side.
This salad turned out to be really good. The meat had so much flavor and retained so much moisture. Even the chicken breast was juicy. The chimichurri sauce added great kick of freshness and acted as a lubricant for the vegetables. The corn salad and romaine lettuce was light and super fresh. It was really nice on the recent hot day that we have been having in NYC. And lastly, the tomatoes were super sweet but slightly cut the the savory sharpness of the cheese. A great side.

This salad came out better than I thought it would. Even Mr. M&P enjoyed it...well sans the tomatoes.

Epicurious.com recipe for Argentinian-Style Beef with Chimichurri Sauce

Argentinian-Style Beef with Chimichurri Sauce
For Beef:
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

For chimichurri:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
1 fresh bay leaf (optional), finely chopped

Equipment:
5 (12-inch) metal skewers

Stir together all ingredients for beef with 1 1/2 teaspoons each of salt and pepper. Marinate, covered and chilled, 4 hours.

Meanwhile, stir together all chimichurri ingredients with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and let stand at least 2 hours.

Prepare a grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas); see grilling procedure. Remove beef from marinade and rub off excess (discard marinade).

Skewer beef, leaving about 1/2 inch between pieces. Oil grill rack, then grill (covered if using a gas grill), turning occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes for medium-rare. Serve beef with chimichurri sauce.

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