Category Archives: Beef

Hanger Steak with Corn Relish

with corn relish 3About 10 years ago I noticed a new, well new for me, cut of steak appearing on restaurant menus. Suddenly it seemed that “hanger” steak was on every trendy bistro restaurant menu. Curious,  I ordered it and discovered for myself how delicious it was. It had a full beefy flavour and richness that reminded me of skirt steak, but it was a bit more tender.

I began to do a little research and I discovered that until recently, butchers were hogging this cut all for themselves, hence the steak’s nickname, “Butcher’s Steak.” Now I have nothing against butchers, as a matter of fact, some of my favourite people happen to be butchers, but that seems kind of selfish to me, not sharing this amazing cut with the rest of us!

Upon further investigation, I discovered the geographical location of this cut on the cow. I found this great diagram on the the meat loving website chomposaurus. For all you carnivores out there, you must check it out!location of hanger steak It comes from the plate section of the steer and it “hangs” off of the cow’s diaphragm, hence the name “Hanger” steak. It is a vaguely V-shaped pair of muscles with a long, inedible membrane down the middle. If you have a good butcher (and luckily I do!) who knows how to break this down properly, he or she will remove the connective tissue and silverskin surrounding it and break this down into two separate, well-trimmed steaks. Each one will be about 12 inches long and weigh in at about 8-12 ounces. That’s only 1 – 1 1/2  pounds of hanger steak from each cow! No wonder the butchers were hoarding it. There was hardly enough to share with the whole class.

whole hanger steak 2trimmed hanger steaks 2

It is a tough piece of meat that needs to be marinated and must be cut across the grain. This shortens the long grainy muscled fibers and preventing chewiness. It should be cooked to medium or medium rare (125-130°F). Using an instant read thermometer, guarantees you get it right every time! Anything above medium will result in a rubbery steak and anything less than medium rare, you will be eating a very mushy steak.slicingI marinated mine in a mixture of red wine, olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and thyme. At least 6 hours or up to an overnight soak in the marinade is ideal. Cook it on a medium-high heat. Let rest for about 5 minutes before wine

seasoningsI served it with a yummy grilled corn salad. I was very excited when I saw the first local corn of the season at the market. However, last night, reading the newspaper, I discovered that agency responsible for governing food labelling in Canada, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has greatly expanded its definition of local food. The old definition defined local as food that is produced within 50 kilometres of where it’s sold.local cornHowever, under a new interim policy, they are expanding the definition to mean food produced in the same province in which it’s sold. What that means is that in Ottawa, I could be eating corn that has travelled over 700 kilometers (435 miles) from Lambton Ontario, and it could still be labelled local in Ottawa. Certainly gives new definition to the term local. grillingThe contrast between the rich tender steak and the crunchy, slightly spicy corn relish makes for a perfect bite! I made Mark Bittman’s spicy-sweet green beans to go along with the steak and corn.

Click here to print recipe for Hanger Steak with Corn Relish.with corn relish 2

Grrrowl for Brrrown Food!

with mashed potatoes 2

As  food blogger, I struggle with presenting “brown foods”. They are not exactly the most appetizing to look at, and, to boot, they are a bitch to photograph. However, that being said, a certain food network host has been known to growl, “Brrrrown food tastes grrreat!”

For those not familiar with Anne Burrell, her larger than life personality and growly voice puts some people off. But I am in awe of her wealth of culinary knowledge. I have learned so much from watching her show, “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.” Every recipe I have tried of hers has come out perfectly. She cooks foods that are full of flavour and her concise, easy to master techniques make her a rock star in the kitchen.

The main reason brown food tastes better, is because of a chemical process known as the Maillard Reaction. If your eyes glaze over at the mere mention of the phrase chemical reaction, then John Willoughby, meat guru and former senior editor at Cook’s Illustrated is your go-to guy to explain these things.

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Chile-Coconut Braised Beef Short Ribs

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d hear myself utter. “I’m one blog post away from being considered a stalker.”  When it comes to the blogsphere, I don’t think there is an official definition of when you have crossed the line from fan to stalker, however, this is my third blog post where I gush about Melissa Clark and her genius book, Cook This Now. I think if I give away any more of her recipes or continue to fawn over her, she may have me arrested.

Trouble is, every recipe in her book really does scream to you, “cook this now.!!”, and I just can’t help myself from blabbing to everyone I know about Crisp Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas Lemons and Carrots or Double Coconut Granola.

I actually made these short ribs over three weeks ago, when it was still actually still  winter here in Ottawa, and you wanted to eat hearty beef ribs. I just got a bit distracted and am only getting around to posting about it now. Kind of bad timing for me to post about them when today’s record high temperature reached 28°c (82°F for any non Canucks reading this), and the only kind of coconut you may be wishing for is the scented sunscreen kind! However, just file the recipe away for next week, when no doubt we will be freezing once again.

Click here to print the recipe for Chile-Coconut Braised Beef Short Ribs.

Against the Grain (A Lesson in Slicing Skirt Steak)


I can remember the first time I ever had skirt steak. It was about 15 years ago and I was in Florida. I was out for dinner with my husband, his sister and her husband. I can’t exactly remember how we found this place. It was a Mexican restaurant called Armadillo. It was in a strip mall in Davie (just south of Fort Lauderdale). When we pulled into the parking lot I had my doubts. It looked like a dump, but the parking lot and restaurant were packed, always a good sign.

I just know my husband is shaking his head incredulously as he reads the above paragraph and thinking to himself, “She remembers a restaurant we ate in 15 years ago and she can’t even remember the details of our wedding day?” Sad but true, I am not a romantic, but food, I have a memory for.

I can even remember what my sister-in-law ordered. “Chile Rellenos”. Chile Rellenos literally means “stuffed chile.” It is a roasted fresh Poblano pepper stuffed with melted cheese, usually Queso Fresco (a fresh white cheese), covered in corn flour and deep fried. It is typically served with a spicy tomato based sauce. This I remember, as my sister-in-law still talks about the Chile Rellenos she ate there 15 years ago. She also has an excellent food memory. We are great friends! Sadly,  Armadillo restaurant closed about 5 years ago.

I’m not quite sure what prompted me to order the skirt steak, as I had never heard of this cut of meat. But it was part of the Fajita platter and as I watched them bring a sizzling hot black cast iron plate covered in beef to the next table, I knew this is what I had to have. It was like no cut of beef I have ever had before. Rich and beefy, a little bit chewy and so flavourful. I was an instant fan. As soon as I got home I called my butcher and asked him to get it for me. It’s not always available, but I get it whenever I can.

Skirt steak is a long flat cut of beef. It comes from the plate section of the cow. In order to minimize toughness, it is typically grilled very quickly or braised slowly for a very long time. It has very strong graining and the key to tenderness is in slicing correctly. You must slice against the grain. If you slice with the grain you will end up with tough stringy beef. It wasn’t until years later, after I had eaten and enjoyed countless skirt steaks, that I discovered that the “plate” section of the cow is also known as the diaphragm. Had I been given this tidbit of information 15 years ago, I may never have tried this wonderful cut of beef.

The timing of this anatomical knowledge coincided with my taking up the practice of Yoga about 12 years ago. I had been practicing yoga for about 12 weeks and when we got to class one day, Cathie, out teacher said we were going to do a Pranayama practice that day. Simply speaking, Pranayama is the science of breath control. As we lay on the floor we learned different breathing techniques which focused on utilizing both the lungs and the diaphragm. As I lay there, trying to fill my lungs with oxygen, beginning at the base of the diaphragm, I had a hard time not thinking about skirt steak. To this day, over 12 years later, I still get hungry during Pranayama practice.

This week I marinated the skirt steak in cumin, lime, cilantro, jalapenos, garlic and olive oil. Sometimes I make a red wine marinade.

Cumin seeds are toasted and then tossed into the blender with all the other ingredients. The green cilantro marinade smelled like spring.

Just a note to all you cilantro haters out there. I used to be a member of your tribe. Cilantro smelled like wet running shoes to me. But then, one day, magically, I went over to the dark side and became a cilantro lover.  

After a few hours marinating in the fridge I grilled the skirt steak for 3 minutes per side and then let it rest for about 5 minutes before slicing.

The key to great skirt steak, (as well as to a great life)  is to, in the immortal words of Garth Brooks, “Go Against the Grain!”

To print recipe for Mexican Marinated Skirt Steak, here.