Monday, February 18, 2013

Steak Sauce Marinade for Beef

Both inexpensive and leaner cuts of beef need a little tough love in the form of a bold marinade to help them come to the table in a tender state.  That and a light touch at the grill or stove timed to rare or medium rare will keep the meat juicy and far off the tough end of the scale.  And don’t forget to let the steak rest a few minutes once off the heat.  This final step seals the deal and you will slice into evenly cooked, tender and juicy steak. 

Leftover liquids like wine and tomato juice make great marinades if you know some basics about which items in your refrigerator and pantry can help break down muscle fiber and add complimentary flavor to the cooked meat.  For lean cuts, acids are your best friend. They include vinegars, wine, citrus, vinegar-based mustards, like Dijon, and even dairy (yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream).  You can encourage meat to caramelize and boost flavor with sugars, but keep this element in the background providing a little mystery.  A little fat, like olive oil, will protect leaner cuts from drying out as they cook.

Herbs, spices and other flavors should be added with the flavors of the whole meal in mind.  For a steak that will be accompanied by green beans and baked potato, a little parsley and tarragon might be nice. A southwest or Tex-Mex dinner might call for dried chilies and cilantro.  Garlic, oregano or perhaps some curry powder can find their way into a Greek or Middle Eastern kebab meal. 

Tonight, some leftover pinot noir and prunes were the inspiration for a steak marinade.  This is a subtly sweet-tart marinade that relaxed a lean top round steak into medium rare submission.  I was happy to find there is a New Zealand steak recipe using the light red wine, Merlot, and prune jam. I was not far into undiscovered territory when I put this together.  When the steak came off the stove, it had a subtle yet distinct flavor of some well known steak sauces. 

Speaking of putting your own marinades together, as long as there is no uncooked meat mixed in yet, you can taste your marinade as you create it.  You are going for a fairly sharp taste but palatable to you.  The top note sharpness will cook away and you will be left with a tender steak redolent of the marinade's dominant flavors.  While developing this marinade, I found the red wine was not adding enough tartness and added a little red wine vinegar to bring that characteristic up.  Lemon juice would have also been appropriate. 

Steak Sauce Marinade for Beef
Ingredients (enough for 2-3 pounds of meat)
½ cup red wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
4 prunes, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt and black pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

  1. In a 2-cup measuring cup or deep bowl, combine all ingredients except parsley.  Use the back of a fork or an immersion blender to pulverize the prunes.   The mixture will be somewhat thick (like steak sauce)  Add parsley to mixture.  
  2. With a sharp knife, lightly score a 2-3 pound lean steak (like top round) and place it in a sturdy re-sealable plastic bag or a deep vessel that can be covered.  Turn the steak over several times so that the marinade makes contact with all areas.  Try to marinate steak at least 5 hours, turning a few times in the bag or covered vessel.  
  3. Wipe the steaks before cooking.  Cook steak on a grill or in a cast iron pan on the stove on medium-high heat about 2-3 minutes per side for a thick  steak, 1-2 minutes per side for a steak less than 1 inch thick.  
  4. Use a thermometer to check for that your steak is properly done..  A medium-rare steak should be removed from the heat when it reaches 130˚F and covered so that it will come to 135˚F once it has rested 5-7 minutes.  A thicker steak will need to rest 8-10 minutes before slicing. 
This recipe makes a good quantity of steak.  You can halve the recipe but since you are taking the time to marinate, consider making the full recipe.  Leftovers, sliced extra thin, make wonderful roast beef sandwiches and fajitas.