The flank, skirt, and hanger “steaks” are getting a lot of attention these days. These used to be really cheap cuts of meat, mostly coming from the belly of the cow, that wound up getting thrown into the bin destined for the hamburger grinder. That is unless the butchers rescued them. Commonly called “butcher cuts” in days of old, these cuts now command prices that are greater than ribeye or New York strip. This has to be one of the greatest marketing coups in recent memory — take a tough, chewy cut and make it trendy.
The Tri-Tip, lucky for us, has escaped some of the notoriety and maintained prices in the $5/lb range. Oddly, even this is on par with ribeye. This cut, too, used to be ground into burgers. Not any more.
You may wonder why I quoted the word steak. In their entirety, these cuts are actually roasts. For the most part, steaks are cut across the grain. In short, those slices in the picture are now steaks that were cut from the larger roast. Think of a whole tenderloin. That is actually a roast and the grain runs lengthwise along it. Once you cut it into tournedos, those are the steaks we sometimes call Fillet Mignon.
So what the heck are these hanger, flank, skirt, and tri-tip things anyway?
I am so very glad you asked. Take a look at this picture:
That fuchsia colored area is the bottom sirloin. At the south end of that is the tri-tip cut. Note the proximity to the Flank. The Flank is where flank steak comes from. Farther up the belly is the Plate. The skirt and hanger steaks come from the Plate (and no, they are not the same cut). Skirts and hangers are also called fajita meat. Flank is also called London broil. Tri-tip is also called Santa Maria Steak especially in Central California from where the popularity of this cut originates. Are you confused yet? Damn those marketing people!
Anyway, the things all these cuts have in common (even the Brisket) is that the flesh has a lot of connective tissue, a pronounced “grain” that runs through the entire cut, and the meat tastes, well, beefy. The latter is why there is such an increase in popularity.
Back to the tri-tip. At Costco, you can get it in packages like this:
This $17.27 pair of tri-tip roasts totals just about 3.5 lbs. Since there are only the two of us, even one is going to be a little much for two dinner-sized portions. But then that leaves enough for a steak and egg breakfast. Cool.
Out of the package, you might be able to see how the grain runs through the cut.
That white thing is my Jaccard, the world’s best tool to turn a tough piece of meat into something tender. It has 48 razor-sharp stainless-steel blades that can turn this thing into hamburger in minutes (should you ever feel the need).
Here is the same piece of meat after some aggressive Jaccard-ization. Note that tenderized is just a little different than pulverized. I got a little carried away on the section to the left (this tenderizing thing is a good way to relieve the stresses of a tough week at work). If you don’t have a Jaccard, use a fork and go apeshit. The music from Psycho might help to get you into the mood.
Now, just assemble your marinade fixins (shown left). Here is the list of ingredients:
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup safflower oil
3 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
4 drops of Sambal
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
tiny pinch of piquin powder
Mix all of this stuff together and apply it as a poultice to your face (just kidding).
Seriously now, add the thyme, Sambal, lemon juice, soy sauce, and shallots to the oil and, using a whisk, beat it into an emulsion, then apply it liberally to the tri-tip.
The Jaccard pokes about a million holes in the roast so all the marinade actually penetrates into it within about an hour. If you don’t have a Jaccard, allow for several more hours (or overnight) for the marinading. Anyway, I wrapped this baby in plastic and put it in my wine cellar to soak a while.
While the meat was doing it’s thing in the wine cellar, I grabbed a couple of medium-sized Russet potatoes, washed them, oiled them and put them in the toaster oven at 375 and set the timer for 40 minutes. I also put my cast iron grill on the burners at low heat.
After the appropriate marinade, the roast looks like this:
It’s just a little brownish looking from the soy sauce. Don’t add any additional salt! The soy sauce is plenty salty for this application.
Now, apply to your hot grill!
After about two minutes, shift it a bit so you get some pretty grill marks. Leave it there for another couple of minutes, then flip.
See what I mean about those grill marks? Just do the same thing on this side of the meat, allowing it to cook for another four minutes. Then pull it off the grill and allow it to rest for at least 5 minutes.
Slice into appropriate portions and plate it. That’s it, except for the wine.
I have learned a lot about wines from the Rhône lately, so going for a Syrah blend sounded good. We chose a $14 2005 Perrin & Fils Vinsobres (Côtes du Rhône-Villages) Les Cornuds. That Villages thing is pronounced vee-laaj’. I am only saying that so you don’t sound too dopey when you go into to your wine store and ask for a “Coat due Rhone Villages.” This is a great food wine, especially with this kind of meat dish. Incredibly dry with the characteristic white pepper, this 65% Syrah, 35% Grenache blend is earthy with abundant black fruit.
This recipe, and the wine, will work for any of the skirts, hangers, or flanks you might want to try out.