Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I have to start out by explaining a bit about the agony and the ecstacy of shopping for meat in a foreign country, in a foreign language, written in a non-roman alphabet.

You're probably aware that the names of various beef cuts are by no means standardized, even within the USA. There's lots of regional variation. There are whole glossaries explaining what parts of the various primals certain names actually refer to. And when some of the entries are accompanied by the legend, "tell your butcher this if he doesn't know", we obviously need them.

Now transplant that to a whole different country with a whole different dietary tradition - a whole variety of them, in fact - and a language that doesn't even use the Roman alphabet. And you might be completely out of luck. What the hell is שפונדרה? Or סינטה? And even if you can sound that out to "shpundrah" and "sinta", does that actually help?

I won't keep you in suspense. No. It's no help at all. Fortunately, what IS helpful is that in Israel there's a universal numeric indexing of the cow. Similar to this, there's this, and descriptions of the various cuts available and their best applications, like this. So instead of numbly pawing through the various frozen chunks of cryoseal, contorted from shipping, freezing your fingertips and hoping for the best, you can numbly paw through them with a purpose, looking for the number of the cut you want. And, since this is Israel, not finding it and having to settle for something else.

And that's how I went looking for some #3, skirt steak, and ended up instead with some #5, more or less a London Broil. And nevertheless determined to make some carne asada with it.

I sliced the meat into long, flat strips, with the grain of the meat. I did my best to remove the silverskin; unfortunately my best wasn't very good. That stuff is devilish tough.

Carne Asada Marinade

6 large garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 large jalapeño chile, seeded and minced
large handful cilantro leaves, chopped fine
juice and zest of 2 limes
1/2 c olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Combine all ingredients. Go easy on the salt, because the meat will be salted again before cooking. Put meat and marinade in a large ziploc. Squeeze out all the air, moosh enthusiastically to distribute the marinade. Refrigerate overnight.

I cooked indoors over a rocket-hot cast iron skillet, but this can just as easily be grilled. Remove the meat from the bag, shake off excess marinade, and lay out on a cutting board. Sprinkle with kosher salt on both sides and allow to rest for a few minutes.

Cook 3-4 minutes a side. If using a skillet cook in small batches to keep the temperature high, and to get a better crust, don't move the meat around in the pan. Allow to cool before cutting.

Slice against the grain into small pieces. Cutting against the grain will make this very tough cut, not designed for high-temperature treatment, just about chewable.

Pico De Gallo

24-32 largish grape tomatoes, chopped
1/2 large red onion, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and diced
large handful cilantro leaves, chopped fine
4-6 large garlic cloves, smashed and minced
juice of 1 lime
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
1 t kosher salt

Combine all ingredients, toss thoroughly. Let sit for an hour at room temp or overnight in the fridge for the flavors to marry.

Serve meat and pico on flour tortillas with your choice of garnishes and sides. I had mine with sliced avocado, sour cream, shredded lettuce, and some canned (picked) chiles. The tortillas can be quickly and easily warmed by 10 seconds in the microwave.

The marinade and pico recipes are modified from Tyler Florence.

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