The trouble with food writers writing about their favorite things is that one of two things usually happens: Either the product runs out or the prices get jacked up. Sometimes with enough hype, both happen.
It pains me so much that I used to be able to buy skirt steak for $1.99 per pound at the market.
For years, skirt steak was the most underrated and misunderstood cut because if you didn’t know how to cook or slice the sucker, it was tougher than a brand new horse’s saddle in the snow. The skirt steak is actually the diaphragm muscle in a cow. You know the rule about muscles: The more the muscle is used, the tougher the meat.
I mean, have you ever seen a cow hold its breath? I think not.
Back before the secret was out, I could feed 10 friends at a dinner party and spend less than six bucks on meat. I’d marinate the skirt steak overnight in a honey soy sauce and then quickly grill to a perfect medium-rare. Before bringing it to the table, the steak would be thinly sliced across the grain, resulting in ribbons of beefy, tender steak that would always be juicy no matter what.
But then some famous writer had to ruin the party and gush about skirt steak, exposing the secrets we had been closely guarding all these years. All of a sudden, my beloved skirt was not to be found at the market. Then the prices skyrocketed and, holy belching cattle, skirt steak became the “it” steak, going for $11.99 a pound.
Why do I love it so? Skirt steak is thin, so it grills very quickly, often just 3 minutes per side. It also marinates incredibly well, soaking up the seasonings in its loose-fibered surface. And if you accidently overcook the steak past medium, it’s still awesomely flavorful. The biggest secret, though, is to slice the steaks ACROSS the grain, meaning perpendicular to the lines of the fibers. On a skirt steak, it’s really easy to tell which way the fibers are running.
Great. Now that ya’ll are going to run out and buy skirt steak to make this fantastic Honey Soy Skirt Steak with Shitake Mushroom recipe, I’d better run to the market and stock up.
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 1/2 pounds skirt steak, cut into 6-inch pieces
Place all ingredients, including the steak, in a large, zip-top plastic bag.
Squeeze all the air out of the bag and seal. Massage the steak to get it nice and cozy with the marinade. Let marinate at least 30 minutes or overnight in refrigerator.
When ready to cook, drain the skirt steak and pat dry with paper towels. If you are cooking on your barbecue grill, preheat that sucker and on direct, high heat, grill the steaks 3 to 5 minutes each side, depending on the thickness of the steak. Some of the skirt steak may be thinner, so make sure you time accordingly.
If you are grilling the steaks in a frying pan, heat the frying pan over high heat until very hot. Pour in a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil before adding the steaks to the pan. Make sure you give each steak plenty of room. Grill 3 to 5 minutes each side.
Let the steaks sit on the cutting board for 5 minutes to rest. You can tent the steaks with foil. While the steak is resting, make the shitake mushroom recipe below.
Slice the steak ACROSS the grain (perpendicular to the lines of the grain) and serve immediately.
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 stalk green onion, finely chopped
32 ounces shitake mushrooms, stems trimmed
2 tablespoons rum (or vegetable/chicken broth)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat a wok or large frying pan over medium heat until it just starts to get hot. Add the cooking oil and the garlic. Let the garlic slowly sizzle in the oil as it heats up. When the oil is hot (but before the garlic burns) add the green onions and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Add the mushrooms and quickly stir to coat the mushrooms in the garlicky oil.
Turn the heat to high and stir-fry for 15 to 30 seconds more. Pour in the rum and season with salt. Saute until the mushrooms are softened and the rum has evaporated.
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