Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pappardelle with caramelized onions, skirt steak and fresh tomatoes

Despite my talk about avoiding the kitchen as soon as I restocked my supplies I found myself leaping straight from "I'm hungry" to throwing together something worth writing about. (There are no prep pictures this time as I didn't know it would be post-worthy until after I tasted it.)

Specifically this came about because had purchased more skirt steak than I needed for a fajita recipe you'll see later this week. I don't eat a lot of beef so I haven't tried a lot of different cuts. This is the first time I've tried skirt steak and I'm pretty impressed with it. It's nicely flavorful, has an unusual loose texture that grabs on to rubs and marinades, and it gives tender results when cooked up quickly. It's not a traditional steak but it seems like a good choice for dishes that call for small pieces of beef which are far more common in my repertoire. So, anyway, I was cutting a large skirt steak up into serving-sized pieces for freezing and decided to give it a try. Here's what I came up with:

Pappardelle with caramelized onions, skirt steak and fresh tomatoes

3 nests pappardelle or two generous servings of another pasta
1/4 lb skirt steak, sliced into thin strips against the grain
1 medium onion, sliced thin
3 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
4 large cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped (or 1 medium full-sized tomato)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons steak spice rub (I used Spice House's Milwaukee Avenue polish-style steak seasoning, but anything smokey and peppery will do)
2 Tablespoons parsley, roughly chopped

1. Heat cast iron pan over high heat. Add oil and butter. When butter stops foaming add onion and garlic, stirring so they're well coated in oil, and immediately turn heat down to medium-low. The vegetables will get a head start on browning from the residual heat. This works best with cast iron on an electric stove. Stir onions frequently. Lower the heat if they look like they're starting to get crisp.

2. Put water for pasta on heat.

3. Coat steak in spice rub. Set aside.

4.When water is at a rolling boil add pasta (with generous amounts of salt). Cook to al dente, for pappardelle six minutes.

5. When pasta is almost ready, remove onions to serving bowl draining the oil back into the pan. Add tomatoes and vinegar to bowl along with salt and pepper to taste. Stir briefly. Turn pan up to high heat.

6. When pasta is ready, drain but don't rinse and add to serving bowl. Toss with onions and tomatoes. (You'll be tossing again later, but don't neglect this one or your pasta will stick to itself instead of to the sauce.)

7.Add steak to pan, making sure the slices are well scattered over the surface. Let sit for 20 to 30 seconds to get a good browning on one side and then stir fry until finished. This should only take around another 20 seconds. Remove to serving bowl, add parsley and toss again.

If you used a non-stick pan, you might want to deglaze it, but that generally doesn't work so well on cast iron unless it's enamelled or very well seasoned.

8. Serve immediately.

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