Beef Week: Rum and orange juice-infused skirt steak with pineapple salsa

to me, but hey, it's not my party.


Also, she wanted everything to be finger foods. No fussing with forks and sit down place settings; just small plates that guests could walk around and mingle with. It didn't take me long to draw up a rudimentary plan. The proteins were easy enough: shrimp, scallop, chicken, vegetarian, beef. I could use skewers, lettuce cups and bread as the vessels for these.


As I thought of lime and rum and seafood, I was feeling a bit better. Things were coming together. Still, the absence of cilantro seemed problematic, so I made a trip to the grocery store for a few ingredients to see what I could come up with. Eight courses plus a dessert later and I was all set. 1000 individual pieces. I'm pretty sure this will be a hit, but I won't be able to report back until after the party hits at the end of August.


In particular, I'm especially proud of the skirt steak skewers. Marinated in rum and orange juice, then grilled, they'll be served in a bibb lettuce cup with a pineapple serrano salsa. I decided to make a version of this for Lisa., by far the pickiest adult eater I know. Difficult to take out to most restaurants much less cook for, she is a terrific critic. When she likes something I make, I am beyond thrilled.


For me the key to salsas (or relishes, if you prefer that term) are flavor combinations and texture. While there is often a star in the condiment, no one flavor should be too overpowering. The tastes should marry and, in fact, be allowed some time in the refrigerator to meld. Getting the right texture comes from the size of the ingredients -- a small dice is best. A good dose of lime juice and a splash of dark rum rounds out the salsa. I almost forgot about the cilantro.


With the pineapple concoction doing its magic in the fridge, it was time to turn my attention to the steak. When deciding on which cut to use, I tried four different varieties: sirloin, filet, strip and skirt all went into the marinade. After an overnight bath, my beef and I went to the grill. The sirloin dried out -- beefy-tasting but too little fat. The filet felt out of place because, while it still had that beautiful buttery flavor, the salsa on it seemed distracting. Same with the NY strip. The skirt steak, though, was magnificent.


Perfectly seared and exquisitely moist, the sweetness of the salsa contributed to humble nirvana. Skirt steak comes from the belly of the cow. It's often considered a tougher cut of meat but I find it very easy to get around this by marinating. Because of its texture, it's the cut of choice for fajitas. Personally, I think it stands up beautifully on its own with very little effort and it's well suited for the grill. Skirt steak also has just the perfect amount of fat to it -- not at all gristly, wonderfully moist and tender at medium rare. This should do well. Experimenting over. Let's eat.


I skipped the skewers and lettuce cups for Lisa's home rendition. Instead, I just removed the meat from the marinade and went straight to the grill. A few minutes on each side over the hot coals and I had a perfect medium-rare steak. After an appropriate resting time of about 10 minutes, I sliced it (against the grain completely eliminates toughness) and topped it with the pineapple salsa.


On the side, I put some potato rounds roasted with garlic and bacon drippings, and a salad. The verdict? Lisa ate every bite. She loved it. The heat of the serrano chilies with the sweetness of the pineapple that topped the citrus and rum-infused beef was enough to transport us to a far off island where Jimmy Buffet was holding a personal concert for me. The only thing missing was a coconut with a straw hanging out of it.


I'm really excited about sharing this with you because, honestly, this is one of the best original recipes I've created in a while. Even though the marinade and salsa require some forethought, the entire kitchen time is less than 30 minutes, maybe 40 if you count clean-up. Give this a try and feel free to report back with any twists of your own.


Island skirt steak with pineapple and serrano chili salsa


2 pounds skirt steak


Marinade


1 cup orange juice


1 cup Meyer's (or other dark) rum


2 teaspoon grated ginger


3 cloves garlic, chopped or grated


Salt and pepper to taste


Salsa


1 cup fresh pineapple, diced into ¼ inch cubes.


½ cup diced red bell pepper


1 serrano chili, very thinly sliced


2 large green onions, very thinly sliced


Juice of 2 limes


Dash of orange juice


Dash of Meyer's (or other dark) rum


Salt and pepper to taste


1. Lay the skirt steak on a cutting board and pierce throughout meat with a fork. This allows the marinade deeper penetration. Combine all of the marinade ingredients and place in a resealable plastic bag along with the steak. Take as much air out of the bag as possible and place in the refrigerator for 4 to 8 hours.


2. For the salsa, combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.


3. Grill the steak over high heat (depending on your grill), 4-6 minutes per side for medium rare. Remove from grill and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Slice the meat against the grain and top with the pineapple salsa.


Serves 4


As always, you can email me at [email protected], or find me on Facebook (louislovesfood).

(Ed. note: Make it to the end for the recipe. It'll pay off.)

Like most people, I love a challenge. I especially like them when they're related to food. That's why I had so much fun when I was asked to cater a party for about 100 people.

OK, I can handle that. It's in Canada. I can handle that too. The theme is Caribbean. So far so good. The idea of fresh, clean island flavors begin swirling in my mind: citrus, seafood, sweet, spicy. Of course there has to be a twist: The folks hosting the party and the guest of honor do not like cilantro.

This is a constraint that is difficult to overcome. When I think of the Caribbean, I think of rum drinks and foods with heavy doses of cilantro. Good salsa almost always has cilantro. The flavor is unmistakably bright and unique and screams of steel drum bands and sand in your toes. Leaving it out seems wrong on many levels

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