Back in the day, my mom would sometimes buy prepackaged lamb chops from Costco. They came a dozen to the package and there was a recipe for a marinade printed on the back of the box. The marinade’s main ingredients were olive oil, white wine, garlic, and some herbs and spices. The directions indicated that I should “beat ingredients together”, which I did. Flogging a measuring cup of would-be-marinade was very cathartic to my middle-school self. The problem was, no matter how viciously I beat the marinade, the oil would inevitably separate from the rest of the ingredients, taking the lighter herbs and spices with it. The chops would still taste pretty good, but I knew they would taste better if I could find a way to keep all the marinade ingredients together in a unified state for a more even and thorough marination.
Decades later, I learned about emulsifiers.
I briefly mentioned emulsifiers in the previous Cooking Class post about Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad. For the parsley salad, I whisked together olive oil and lemon juice for a classic dressing, but I also added a dab of Dijon mustard as an emulsifier. The little dab of mustard kept the dressing ingredients from separating, allowing me to evenly flavor the parsley and other salad elements.
|If you didn’t have soap, you couldn’t use water to rinse off grease (not easily, anyway). Water and grease naturally repel one another. When you introduce soap, it breaks down the surface tension and lets water and grease mingle in one big happy cocktail party.|
|Emulsifiers act a lot like soap. When you add an emulsifier to a separated solution (say, oil and water), then beat the solution into little droplets, the emulsifers wrap the oil droplets in little happy jackets and now they are free to roam about the watery cabin, without having to be all segregated and clingy.|
|There are a few foods that serve as emulsifiers. Among them are mustard, egg whites/yolks, gelatin, skim milk, and honey.|
|Egg yolks contain the emulsifier lecithin. If there were no eggs in mayonnaise, all you would have is separate layers of oil and vinegar. You’ll see soy lecithin used quite often as an ingredient in packaged food to keep things from separating (also known as keeping things “stable”). Mustard seeds contain protein and the seed coats have a sticky substance. Both the protein and the sticky substance act as emulsifiers by wrapping around molecules of a separated solution.|
|As for the T-1000, if they had only thought to emulsify that bastard (I dunno, squirt some French’s mustard on him, maybe?), he wouldn’t have been able to recongeal back into crazed-killer form. Ah, science.|
The other day, a reader said to me regarding the blog, “What’s with all the food stuff? C’mon! Less food, more pool!” The crux of the matter is that I have literally lived the “less food” life in order to play “more pool”. That low-calorie lifestyle was not as rewarding as it should be, hence the rebound of “more food, less pool” for the time being.
My austerity measures are still in place even though I am playing at a fraction of my previous
insanity intensity. I do like a nice steak here and there, but I don’t want to pay premium prices for ribeyes or strip steaks. Enter the unappreciated chuck blade steak.
• For another way to cook chuck steak, check out my recipe for Black Pepper Steak with Creamy Mushroom Sauce.
The chuck blade steak is on the leaner side, but is still very flavorful. In the photograph above, the thin translucent line down the center of each steak is gristle. Because of this gristle, the suggested method for beef chuck is to braise it, in order to fully tenderize the connective tissue. I don’t mind gristle and I certainly like the price point of these chuck steaks (less than $5.00 for both steaks, total weight was about 1-1/4 pounds). I cook the steak gristle and all and just chew thoroughly, using the extra chewing time to ponder the meaning of life and devise practical jokes. You can also buy chuck steak cut away from the center gristle line, at which point they are marketed as “flat-iron” steak.
The tougher texture and good flavor of a chuck steak lends itself especially well to today’s marinade. The marinade contains some acid that tenderizes the meat a bit while the rosemary and garlic complement the steak’s flavor.
1-up the back of the box
This marinade is a tweakified version of the back-of-the-box recipe that graced the packaging of those lamb chops from my childhood. I use it for steak, but it would also work well on lamb chops. It will not work on chicken (aww) and I have not yet tried it on pork, but that is planned for the future.
This recipe will make 2/3 of a cup of marinade which is admittedly very little, but it was enough for both my steaks marinated in a resealable plastic bag. The recipe is easily increased as the ratios of ingredients are not complicated, so if you need more marinade, just wave your magic whisk and make more.
|The liquids you will need for this marinade are: 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (you can use lemon juice as a substitute), 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and 2 tablespoons soy sauce.|
|I put the oil and the vinegars into a measuring cup. As you can see, the oil and vinegars are refusing to be friendly and mingle.|
|Enter 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, otherwise known as the party hostess who will get people to mix.|
If I whisk the oil and vinegar together without the mustard, the two substances will eventually separate.
…whisk everything, and you’ll have the beginnings of a creamy marinade/dressing.
|You’ll need 4 tablespoons of minced fresh rosemary. If you’re wary of adding so much rosemary, add less.|
|A 6-inch sprig of rosemary yielded about 1 tablespoon minced. I conveniently have friends who own an out-of-control rosemary shrub that will soon take over their backyard unless defensive measures are taken.|
|You can use dried rosemary. The ratio is 1 teaspoon dried = 1 tablespoon fresh. Crush the dried rosemary to get as much flavor as possible.|
|Add the soy sauce, rosemary, and 2 teaspoons ground black pepper into the oil-and-vinegars mix.|
|If you like, you can add a pinch or two of ground red pepper (I like to use ground chipotle) for an additional spicy kick.|
|Whisk it all together.|
|Thinly slice 2 large garlic cloves (I use one per steak — you can use more or less as you prefer).|
|If I am pressed for time (or I have to make a lot of steaks), I will toss the cloves in the mini chopper for a quick mince and then mash to a paste with a teeny bit of salt.|
I lay the garlic slices on the top and bottom of the steaks, pressing lightly to get them to stick. If I made the garlic paste instead, I divide the paste and apply it as evenly as I can. Place the steaks into a resealable plastic bag.
The reason I put the garlic slices on the steaks separately instead of mixing them into the marinade is because I find they are more evenly distributed this way.
I whisk the marinade to get all the elements going and then carefully pour it into the bag with the steaks. You’ll notice I have dried rosemary in there along with the fresh rosemary. I ran out of fresh rosemary and made up the difference with some good quality dried cracked rosemary.
I press out as much air from the bag as possible before letting it marinate in the refrigerator overnight, turning it over at least once.
When you are ready to cook, bring the steaks to room temperature. I pan-fry all my steaks since I don’t have a grill. Remove the steaks from the marinade and shake off the excess. I melt 1 teaspoon of butter per steak in the pan over high heat and when it is sizzling, I put the steaks in.
Cook to whatever doneness you like (medium-rare for me, of course).
Allow the steak to rest for at least five minutes before cutting into it. This is important so you don’t lose all the juices in the meat, doubly important if you are using a lean cut of steak. Here is the cooked steak resting in a glass storage container because…
…I took my steak down to the beach.
And that’s how to have a delicious steak dinner (for two, if you have a friend) with an ocean view at sunset for less than five dollars. (We forgot to take pictures of the scenery because we were too busy eating. Sorry. It was beautiful. The scenery, too.)
This recipe is enough for two 1/2- to 3/4-pound steaks marinated in resealable plastic bags. Always make too much, rather than too little, marinade.
omgwtf’s garlic, rosemary, and balsamic marinade
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (or to taste)
- 4 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (or 4 teaspoons dried)
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
- 2 large cloves garlic, sliced thin