As you read this, we’re scrambling about, dropping off the animals, picking up last-minute compact flash cards, camera batteries and trying to remember where I stashed the international voltage converters. This afternoon we depart en vacances. We’re spending a couple of weeks connecting with old friends, exploring prehistoric cave painting, cycling, drinking, eating and playing Bananagrams on the terrace. I’m still uncertain about whether The Garum Factory will go dark or if I’ll rig some sort of wifi connection for the occasional splash of photos. In the meantime we leave you with a dish guaranteed to make you a back yard fire god, Grilled Skirt Steak with Spicy Green Romesco. Look at the photos: No complicated technique. If you can handle a food processor you’re already past the bouncer at the door. Believe me, you’ll be killer.
Regular readers know we’re big fans of Romesco,* a spicy Catalan condiment of roasted peppers thickened with nuts. At any given moment there’s a 50% chance a bowl of Romesco is sitting inside our refrigerator. Next to homemade mayo and garlic yogurt, it may be the most frequently made sauce in our kitchen. Puréed peppers, olive oil and nuts–how can you go wrong?
Traditional Romesco is made with red peppers. Andrew Hibert, Chef at TRADE (full disclosure: TRADE is one of Jody’s restaurants), thought to take a step I hadn’t seen before: he makes it with green peppers. And he makes it spicy. After tasting it I immediately said to Jody, “This has got to be a blog post!” At TRADE it’s served with briny roasted littleneck clams; we’ve since paired it with skirt steak, then used the leftovers to add some zap to Copper River salmon–both were delicious.
Skirt steak is sometimes called the poor man’s flank steak, but as long as you take care to buy a piece that’s trimmed of sinew and not too fatty it’s pretty near as satisfying, and much much cheaper than flank. It’s great for stir-fry and grilling because it cooks so quickly. Both skirt and flank steak come from adjacent regions on the lower side of a cow, and both have great, meaty flavor, albeit skirt’s a bit chewier. In the flavor versus texture debate, I come down on the flavor side. While I understand why texture-fetishists may prefer filet mignon, to me there’s no comparison in the taste between skirt or flank and filet mignon. It’s so gratifying to actually chew your meat sometimes, as long as you don’t have to chew too long. Evidently I’m not alone. Skirt steak figures as the primary ingredient in many “authentic” Bolognese recipes. Something to keep in mind if you don’t just scarf leftover down cold, with a dab of spicy green Romesco.
The recipe calls for 1-2 serrano peppers; 2 appear in the ingredients photograph. The heat of serranos varies–not as much as jalapenos, but enough to make us suggest you start with one, taste it raw, and then invite another, only if the first is milder than you expected. We unthinkingly threw 2 into our first batch and ended up with VERY spicy Romesco. This isn’t a macho contest–too much heat obscures the other flavors. Use 2 right off the bat at your own risk. Enjoy. See you in a few weeks. Ken
P.S. I doubt if my camera is going to be allowed in the caves, but if it is you’ll see pictures here.
*Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco and Spicy Chickpea Cakes with Romesco Sauce
Grilled Skirt Steak with Spicy Green Romesco
- 2 large green bell peppers
- 2 medium green tomatoes or large tomatillos
- 1-2 serrano chilies
- ¼ cup almonds, toasted
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
- ¼ cup hazelnuts, toasted and papery skin removed
- 1 ancho chili, soaked in hot water, when pliable, seeded, stemmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- Preheat the broiler.
- Broil the peppers (including the serrano chilies) and tomatoes on a sheet pan. Turn as each side gets charred. The serrano will cook faster than the bell peppers. Cool. Peel and seed the peppers. Peel the tomatoes.
- Pulse the nuts in food processor until chopped but still chunky. Set the chopped nuts aside.
- Put the roasted peppers and tomatoes, ancho, garlic, vinegar and olive oil together in the food processor. Season with salt and then process until pureed.
- Add the nuts and herbs and pulse to just combine.
- Season to taste, adding additional vinegar and oil as necessary.
- 1½ pounds skirt steak, trimmed of sinew
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high.
- Season the meat on both sides with salt and pepper. Brush with oil. Cook on each side for about 3 minutes for medium rare.
- Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
- Serve with Romesco sauce.
I first discovered Romesco about 20 years ago in a hard copy newspaper or magazine–I can’t remember which. I fell in love. It brought together my favorite things in a magical flavor-packed combination–roasted red peppers and tomatoes, heat, nuts, garlic, acid, mint, really good olive oil. I’ve used my adaptation of the recipe over and over ever since.
When Andrew Hibert, the chef at TRADE, said he wanted to put a Romesco made with green peppers on the menu, I was skeptical. Why mess with something perfect? But I relented… and he was right.
His recipe calls for regular green tomatoes, but we couldn’t find them so I used tomatillos. I made a few more personal tweaks for my smaller recipe, but the foundation is his. It’s not as sweet as the original recipe, but it’s still awesome.
I put Romesco on everything–steak, salmon, roasted vegetables, even cheese sandwiches. Roxanne uses it as a dipping sauce for shrimp. Think of it as a vegetable pesto, one more perfect condiment for summer.
That looks great – Iove the Romesco, maybe I’ll make that tonight!
Thank you, Poppy. Judging by your blog, it looks as though you have quite a few choices of what to put it on. Ken
This looks wonderful! I hardly ever eat red meat anymore, but this perfectly cooked rare steak looks perfect. The sauce also sounds very good! And thanks for giving green tomatoes as an alternative to tomatillos which I don’t think I can get here in France. I like the idea of green romesco and will probably give this a try over the summer! Bonnes vacances to you two, I hope you will have nice weather in the South. Dordogne is wonderful, you will love it and its food! (One of the first vacations we took when my family moved from NY to France was in a village near Les Eyzies, and I still remember swimming in the river and playing with the local village dog, Bibi).
Thank you, Darya. We’re staying in St. Cirq la Popie–and I intend to get by Les Eyzies. I’ll ask around to see how Bibi is doing. :-) Ken
Oh, how wonderful! That is such a beautiful part of the Lot. Of course you have planned to visit Rocamadour, right? Comme on dit ici, c’est un “must”. :)
I’m trying to talk others into it! (Or I may have to just there myself.) Also considering, despite the attractions of the lovely countryside, whether to spend a day in Toulouse.
I’ve never been in Toulouse, but everybody says it is a beautiful city. Are you travelling to Paris this year? I know an excellent Gascon restaurant there if you decide not to go as far south as Toulouse! :)
We’re spending a week in St. Cirq, then on to Meursault to visit a friend, concluding the trip with a couple of days in Paris. I’d be delighted to hear your recommendation. Thanks.
I’ll write you an email. Meursault! I am jealous!
Merci! The friend in Meursault has bought an old mill, and is almost finished renovating it into a hotel and perhaps a cycling/cooking center. We’ll see. I’ll post pictures.
Rocamadour–were you talking about the cave or the village?
Looks great–must try! :-)
Thanks, Andy. Go for it! Ken
I rarely get super excited about a recipe, but this romesco sauce sounds absolutely spectacular!!! I have green tomatoes in the garden, but I love tomatillos, so I’ll stick with the recipe as written. It does sound incredibly versatile, too. Fabulous, and thank you!!!
Thanks, Mimi. Given your fondness for regular Romesco, I think you’ll like this as much as we do. I’ll think of you while we’re in France.
Thank you. I meant to add bon voyage. I love France.
wonderful post! good weekend!
Thank you, Simi. We’re having a wonderful time! Ken
Just yesterday I was eyeing a dry aged rib eye at the market and thinking how I would love to grill steak for dinner. I guess the sticker shock killed my enthusiasm and I glanced over at the skirt and thought “if only I knew how”. So, thank you for this post! Miss you while you’re gone! :)
Thanks. I’d hoped to post some real time photos of our trip, but we seem to have entered a wifi disaster zone – poor cell phone service and no hope of posting pics via wifi. Ken
I first tried Romanesco when it appeared in Sunset with chicken kebob a few years back. I was sold. I love your version; a green pepper version! The spicy peppers, fresh, bright herbs and and trio of nuts/seeds sounds uniquely flavorful and fun. Oddly, we picked up an elk skirt steak last night… it might be the perfect pair, provided I don’t overcook the elk! Oh, and I’ll start with one serrano. I threw one, completely seeded and roasted, on a large salad the other day and was shocked at the heat. I was swishing milk around to numb the pain for about ten minutes!
Thanks, Shanna. I suspect in you get considerably more potent serranos than we do. I’ve been there with the milk. A friend of ours from Trinidad once brought some Scotch bonnets back from her home. She gave them to me, saying, “We love to eat them”–I immediately popped one in my mouth before she could finish–“in A LOT of sauce.” For about a minute I was seriously concerned my throat was going to close. About a quart of milk later, I was beginning to stop cryng… and resolved never to do THAT again. Ken
Oh my gosh – your story made me laugh out loud. My daughter heard me and asked that I relay your story! Another reason sauce is such a wonderful thing. :-)
Have a great vacation folks. We can all just go back and find previous posts that got away! Enjoy!
Sorry we’re not posting pics as we go – poor wifi. Oh well, plenty of time after we get back. Hey, you’ll always lasagna with simple tomato sauce. Ken
This is such a visual feast – sometimes I don’t really find the words and all I can say is meat, nuts, oil, obliterated peppers and skirt! I believe skirt is used in the traditional Cornish pasty; it would make sense as it’s a relatively cheap part of the animal. Have a lovely vacation/holiday. Sophie
Thank you, Sophie. We are. Who knew fois gras could be “raw.” (I’m still not sure that’s right, despite everyone’s insistence that it was indeed “cru”.) Beautiful part of the world, with lots of good things to appreciate, and shake one out of the rut of one’s own perceptions and expectations. And that’s what a vacation is supposed to do, right–empty oneself of oneself? Ken
I love romesco and this is surely one to try – looks delicious. We’re growing tomatillos for the first time this year – they’re not very common this side of the pond. Have a fabulous holiday. You deserve it.
Wow! Tomatillos in England! We are having a fabulous holiday, with plenty to eat and do. I could so live in rural France… until I couldn’t. Nice place to restore oneself. Tomorrow Rocamador and the Gouffre de Padirac. Ken
*shuffles bashfully* we try to extend our boundaries….
France sounds fabulous – hope you’re taking loads of pix as well as wining and dining your way around the countryside!
I am crazy Hungry!!
The sauce on the side is really Attractive
Thanks! Dependable and easy. Ken
So envious! We’ve spent a good bit of time in the Midi Pyrénées—definitely one of my favorite regions of France. St. Cirq la Popie is such a beautiful village. I haven’t been to Pech Merle but spent my 50th (ouch) birthday at Font de Gaume and Les Combarelles and it was magical. If you haven’t read it, Gregory Curtis’ The Cave Painters is quite good. http://amzn.to/1qq8AEI Oh, and I really like Toulouse. The red brick buildings are different and interesting. It’s a nice small city. Bonnes vacances!
Oh, yeah, the steak looks great too. Not as great as a couple of airline tickets would look to me right now. But great nevertheless.
Ha! Michelle, somehow I know you’d make a great travelling companion. We saw Pech Merle today, after I returned with a friend to Toulouse so she could pick up a replacement rental car for the one whose transmission tanked on a narrow ruelle in St. Cirq (story to follow). Truly remarkable. I’m still not quite sure how to process it – it’s humanity at the other end of the historical telescope. Really wild. Ken
I have been enjoying your posts since a friend in Montreal recommended your site. Just want to thank-you for your inspiring ideas, honesty and humor. Bon voyage and it looks like I have a new French destination!
Hi, Elaine–Thanks, and we ARE having a good time (intermittent wifi notwithstanding). Midi-Pyrenees definitely worth a visit, although a bit sad, seeing how many villages are empty the rest of the year. Ken
Oh my god that is food porn right there. I just want to eat that steak, so so good.
A good piece of meat once in awhile is a godsend. Not all the time. But once in awhile, it’s great. Thanks. Ken
Can’t wait to try this. I must say, however, that the wilted lettuce potato salad, which I brought to our neighborhood cookout last night, was rather blah. Next time I’ll bring the roasted tomatoes that you had on this blog awhile back. They were a smash hit.
Have a swell time away.
Blah??!! Surely you jest. Oh, well, I’d say a bit more sharp mustard, but each to his own. I’m glad you liked the other potatoes. Good luck with the skirt steak. Ken
Wow. The photos on this post are so vivid. The romesco is a must make for me. I’d love to look into your fridge and ser all of your special sauces, but thank you for this recipe. I will be making it soon. Have a wonderful vacation. Bike hard, drink and eat well! Take lots of good pics. Im actually in Florida right now. It’s lovely to have some relaxation time in warm weather. Tomorrow I’m going deep sea fishing.
Thanks, Amanda. We saw the caves at Pech Merle yesterday – one of my all-time great paleo-historical experiences. Eerie, mysterious. Good luck fishing. No luck with wifi pics. Ken
Not sure which one I’m more envious of- that grilled skirt steak or you guys on a holiday. lovely pics, as always! Have a great break!
It’s a wonderful part of the world, but a bit sad in some ways because the village has no life outside of the tourist season. A waitress told me last night that there are many villages in the area that are like that as young people migrate and farming becomes more industrialized. Ken
Ha! I’m trying to limit the amount of gear I’m carrying around, but I’ve gotten a few. Really love the fois gras with each meal approach to life. Ken
Do they get enough to get by from the tourist season? This urban migration problem is faced by many developed/developing countries and is a sad reality. It’s all economics isn’t it? Which village are you at? Enjoy the rest of your trip and soak up some new inspiration!
Ask to friend me on FB and you can see the village, St. Cirq Lapopie, in the Midi-Pyrennees.
Have you tried it with chimichanga sauce? Parsley, coriander. Vinegar, oil, chilli?
Yes! (and love it…) Ken
I really enjoyed your story and food. Thanks for sharing. I like the part of beef you used and very carefully crafted romesco. I like to make romesco with eggplant often.
Thanks. You mean you’re serving eggplant with Romesco, or you make an eggplant version of Romesco? The latter sounds wild. Ken
Wow! I love skirt steak and this looks like a keeper. Have a great vacation!
Thank you, Karen. We’re definitely trying to pack as much site-seeing, eating and drinking into our time here as possible. Ken