Amidst the chaos of eighth block last semester, you might have seen me soliciting the lines of Rastall or Benji’s, eager to get a swipe from some generous soul. Times have changed. This year you can find me behind the kitchen counter at Kappa Sigma—dicing, slicing, and chopping away. After another summer of cooking every day, it’s time to submit my recipe book. My first recipe is an end-of-the-summer special for all you meat-lovers, a scorched and seasoned dish that takes cooking red meat a step above slapping a steak on the grill.
My friend Thomas showcased this recipe to a group of friends two summers ago. I had been working up a sweat on the farm all summer and he invited me to visit him in Santa Fe to take a bath and indulge in his cooking expertise. Our mutual friend, a recent convert from veganism, opened her kitchen doors for a night of gourmet cooking. Our entrée: seared pesto hanger steak.
Relatively inexpensive compared to other cuts, the hanger steak is part of the plate cut. Wedged in the diaphragm of the steer, the hanger steak hugs the cow’s internal organs, right beside the spleen and kidneys. The steak’s flavor and texture are often attributed to this location, which is flushed with blood and surrounded by tougher muscles including the skirt steak cut. Hanger steaks’ muscles resemble consecutive V-shapes, with a fatty strip that bisects the Vs. Historically, hanger steaks are a staple in Mexican cuisine and can be found on many fajita plates. If you can’t find a hanger steak, the next best bet is a skirt steak, which is also part of the plate cut.
After snagging a hanger steak from the closest store—I’ve had the best luck buying meat from Whole Foods or Trader Joes in regards to grocery settings—it’s time to get down to the pesto marinade.
Pesto, a word which comes from the Italian word for ‘to crush,’ includes much more than your average basil, garlic, olive oil, and pine nut chop. Tomatoes, mushrooms, almonds, and even mint have all been included to create a unique pesto depending on how it is being used in the cooking process. For this recipe, I prefer to incorporate lemons, specifically preserved lemons, into the marinade. Lemons are an important ingredient for a meat marinade because their acidity tenderizes the cut. I like to marinade this steak over a longer period of time, and because fresh lemons have the propensity to toughen the meat if left too long, I take to the preserved lemons, which are remarkably ‘lemony’ and have a mouth-watering peel. You will need:
A hanger steak, or two. Hanger steaks usually clock in at about 1 lb., so it might be worth the investment to buy two.
2 cups basil. Check with the CC Farm to see if they have any end-of-summer basil stashes; otherwise, it’s time to hit your neighborhood grocery store
3 cloves of Early garlic. If Early is not available, any garlic will suffice.
1/3 cup pine nuts. Toss these in the oven on a baking sheet at 375 degrees and wait 10 minutes.
1 cup of olive oil.
1/3 cup parmesan cheese or any sharp cheese you desire.
2 pickled lemons.
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes.
The pesto marinade starts with your basil, garlic, and pine nuts in the food processor. I’ve experimented with blenders and coffee grinders, and they both work as substitutes as long as you keep an eye on the blending speed. Empty half a cup of olive oil into the green puree while it’s still grinding away. Once the marinade starts to affect the consistency you desire, cut the power to the processer and sprinkle in the cheese and then finish off the olive oil.
Next, mince those sundried tomatoes and shred the preserved lemons with a cheese grater. Ideally, target only the lemon peel, and then mix these two new ingredients into your bowl of pesto. Once you have completed these steps, it’s time to rub down your hanger steak. Make sure to rub the marinade and any large chunks of garlic, lemon, or tomato into the muscles. Cover the steak for an hour, lest you are feeling giddy and want to toss it on the pan sooner. From my experience, pan searing offers the crispy top and bottom that I prefer. Heat up your stove on high, grab the cast iron skillet, and let the temperatures rise.
At this point, it’s up to you, the chef, to decide your steak’s fate. Let the rest of marinade drip off the steak before slapping it on the hot plate. Once your steak is on the pan, cover it with a glass top and wait. Do not mess with the steak for at least a minute—that includes lifting up the glass to check things out, prodding the steak, or moving the pan around! It’s crucial to look for a toasted brown coloring, but depending on how you like your steak, you might be looking towards a charcoal color. When the steak is done, slice the meat against the grain, and cut out the fatty strip in the middle. Bon appétit!