The Simple Art of Cooking: Fourth of July Steaks Are for Grilling

It’s July 4 in the Hamptons, so we’ve have had ample time now to clean up the grill and to test our mettle for (hopefully) many wonderful days of barbecue in the months ahead.

If I were to choose a steak to put on the grill this Fourth of July it would probably be skirt steak. It has a slight chew yet I crave its rich beefy flavor and enjoy serving it with one of the following sauces.

I remember tasting chimichurri, the national steak sauce of Argentina, in an Argentinean restaurant in Miami many years ago. The taste haunts me to this day. Since then I’ve learned there are many variations of this piquant sauce, which basically consists of garlic, spices, vinegar and lots of parsley.

Another great sauce for grilled meats is ajada. Ajada with origins in Spain is in its simplest form nothing more than a fine extra-virgin olive oil with minced garlic and paprika. A relative introduced me to ajada many years ago when he brought a jar to a family barbecue. In its translation the thick white garlicky sauce took on the texture of skordalia, a familiar sauce from Greece. Ajada as I know it is thickened with moistened bread rather than potatoes typically used for skordalia.

To cook the steak I take my cue from Steven Raichlin and his beef-grilling chart in The Barbecue Bible, Workman Publishing. Skirt steak is a long narrow strip of meat cut from the diaphragm muscle of the cow and is of uneven thickness. Some areas may be as thin as 1/2-inch thick while other parts could be about 3/4 inch thick. The cooking time is quick, 2 to 4 minutes per side depending on thickness.

Top your July Fourth festivities with a red, white and blueberry shortcake. If a star-shaped cookie cutter is among your kitchen treasures make it a star-filled fourth.

 

SKIRT STEAK ON THE GRILL

Skirt steak, shaped like a belt is a long narrow cut from the diaphragm muscle. Although a bit chewy the chew adds texture to this juicy and flavorful cut.

Serves 4 to 6

3 pounds skirt steak, trimmed of excess fat

Sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil to coat

1. Build a fire in your clean grill until coals are ashen hot or heat a gas grill to medium high. Brush the grill grate with vegetable oil.

2. Rub the steaks with salt and pepper then coat lightly with olive oil. Put the steaks on the grill and cook about 2 to 4 minutes a side depending on thickness to achieve medium-rare. Skirt steak does not respond well to overcooking.

3. Allow meat to rest for at least 5 minutes or longer then slice the length of meat into 3 to 4-inch sections. Serve with sauce on the side such as chimichurri or ajada.

 

CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

Chimichurri, the national steak sauce of Argentina with its vinegary tang, is served as a condiment with grilled skirt steak.

Yield about 1/2 cup

2 large cloves garlic, chopped coarsely

1 tightly packed cup flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves

1 teaspoon paprika

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Dash or two cayenne

2 to 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Place garlic in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with steel knife and process until finely chopped. Add parsley, paprika, cumin, salt, cayenne and vinegar. Pulse work bowl a couple of times to mix ingredients. Gradually pour oil through feed tube until mixture is homogenous. Taste to adjust seasonings as necessary. Pour into a screw top jar, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Will keep a week or more.

 

AJADA

Ajada is a garlicky spread similar to the Greek skordalia. It can be used as a dip for vegetables or a spread on crackers. A relative once brought a jar of ajada to our home many years ago for a family barbecue. The creamy, pungent sauce accompanying the grilled steak was memorable.

Yield: 2 cups

1 10-ounce loaf Italian bread

6 to 8 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt and freshly ground pepper

1 egg

3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Cut bread into 3 to 4 sections with a serrated bread knife and carefully remove crusts.

Tear the soft white bread into small pieces, yielding about 4 cups, and place in a mixing bowl. Pour over enough cold water to moisten, and then tip the bowl into the sink to pour off excess water. Press down gently on the bread to extract and pour out excess liquid.

2. Place chopped garlic in a mixing bowl or chop finely in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel knife. If using a food processor, scrape down sides of work bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary to mince garlic finely. Add bread, then salt, pepper, egg and lemon juice. Stir or process to mix. Add oil to bowl in a slow, steady stream or through feed tube of processor and mix or process until thick and smooth. Pour into a serving bowl and serve with grilled meats or crudité and crackers.

Note: Can be prepared up to one week ahead. Refrigerate, covered in a suitable container.

 

RED, WHITE AND BLUEBERRY SHORTCAKE

Celebrate the Fourth with pride and prepare this do-ahead tasty star-shaped dessert.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

For the shortcake

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled

1/2 cup half and half

1 tablespoon butter, melted

For the sauce

1 (12-ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 pint fresh blueberries, rinsed

1/2 pint fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled

Egg wash (1 yolk with 1 tablespoon water)

Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

1. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarser crumbs. Add milk and incorporate just until blended. Be careful not to over beat the mixture.

2. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently just enough to gather the dough into a ball. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough to a 1/2-inch thickness. The soft dough should go into the refrigerator to chill until firm enough to roll out, about 1 hour. Cut star-shaped or round shapes with a cookie cutter and arrange on a lightly greased sheet pan. Re-roll any leftover dough and continue cutting shapes until the dough is all used. Beat the yolk and water with a fork and lightly brush the tops of the shortcakes. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until golden and firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Can be prepared up to two days ahead and stored in a cookie tin.

3. Place thawed raspberries in a strainer over a bowl and reserve the liquid. Pour reserved liquid into a saucepan with the sugar and cornstarch and place over low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved and mixture thickens. Cool and blend in the raspberries. Can be prepared up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated in a suitable container.

4. When ready to serve, spoon a puddle of raspberry sauce on 6 to 8 dessert plates. Place shortcakes on the sauce and top with a mixture of berries and a dollop of whipped cream.

What’s your favorite Fourth of July food?

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