Something Warm: Spicy Steak with Peppers

Oregon’s Willamette Valley is known for mild, gray, and drizzly weather. It rains, yes, but it rarely snows. Perhaps once or twice every few years there will be a storm, sometimes with some dangerous freezing rain, but all is usually melted by noon. I didn’t own a real winter jacket until I moved east in 2000.

This is my parents’ patio. Don’t think we’ll be dining outside this visit.

Luckily, we stocked up on groceries on Saturday. The unsalted roads have been treacherous since then. So it’s a homebound week for reading and drinking tea, wrapping presents, and giving Matt the opportunity to win handily at Scrabble. I’d be embarrassed at how often I lose, but he’s really quite skilled at it. We’ve been taking long walks through the snowdrifts, monitoring the progress of each potential route out of the neighborhood. Tomorrow we hike to the store if there isn’t a way to drive, though I bet we could survive another week on the contents of my parents’ voluminous freezer.

We had planned some dinners out which we have had to cancel. Sad as I am to miss my glimpse of Portland’s dining scene this week, my mother always has something good to cook. Like this recipe she found in the New York Times last year was a winner: thin steak rubbed in smoky paprika and cumin, grilled rare and piled with slightly caramelized onions, jalapeno, and sweet peppers. It’s a bit like a spicy cheesesteak without the cheese. The perfect warm, filling bite after a long walk through the snow. Though I could also imagine whipping this one up in the summer and serving with an icy margarita, if that’s your thing.

My mom served it on grilled bread as an open faced sandwich. The steaks were a bit thick, even after the butcher butterflied them, so she flipped the steak to cook the second side slightly. (The New York Times suggests cooking only one side, but they’re working with a truly thin steak.)

Grilling required shoveling a path through the snow to the outdoor barbecue, which was a bit ridiculous, but you could make a credible version of this in a cast iron pan. Though you may want to disconnect your fire alarm first. If you happen to have a little cheese around, you could try turning this into a full-on Spicy Pepper Cheesesteak. I bet it would be awesome.

Happy holidays from the Wild West. I hope you are all warm and cozy wherever you are.

Spicy Steak with Wilted Peppers
Adapted from The New York Times

1 large skirt steak, about 2 pounds (we used New York Strip instead)
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, slivered
1 medium-size red onion, sliced thin
2 jalapeño chilies, cored, seeded and slivered
3 red bell peppers, (or a mix of red, yellow, and orange if available), cored and slivered
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon slivered fresh basil leaves.

1. Use a large, sharp knife to butterfly skirt steak (or have butcher do it) and cut into 4 portions. Combine paprika, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper and rub onto outer side (not cut side) of steak. Place spiced-side down on a platter. Set aside.

2. Preheat grill or grill pan to very hot. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet. Add garlic, onion, jalapeños and a dusting of salt and sauté over medium-low heat until soft. Add bell peppers, increase heat to medium-high and sauté until bell peppers just begin to wilt but are still slightly crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

3. Grill bread until just barely toasted and place on platter.

4. Place steak spiced-side down on grill or in pan and sear, close to source of heat, 2 to 3 minutes, until just starting to brown around edges but still nearly raw on top. (If your steak is not super thin, flip steak and cook one minute on other side.) Transfer to a serving platter, seared-side down. Briefly reheat peppers, add vinegar and basil, stir, then pour over steak, spreading to cover meat. Serve over toasted bread.

Yield: 4-5 servings.

In grilling, meat

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