I’m still going to be picking recipes from my mother’s recipe file, but instead of making them exactly as written and disparaging the results (since so many of them are just downright…disparagble), I’ll give the original scary creation, with all the peculiarities of ingredient and method that that implies, and then provide an updated version (which is the one I will prepare myself) in an effort to salvage these gems and bring them back to the fold, and give them the chance to be functioning elements within the recipe macrocosm. In some cases there may be little hope (Shrimp Casserole springs to mind), but in other cases, there may be hope. Let us endeavor to give them hope and a fair chance at success.
So with that goal defined, we begin today with the Meat section, and a recipe that came to my mother from my grandmother, Teriaki Flank Steak. Yes, she actually spelled it Teriaki. And as to why it was called Teriaki (or Teriyaki if you prefer the correct spelling) Flank Steak, I am unsure, as it contains no teriyaki sauce at all. It uses soy sauce, which gives it a faintly Asian flavor, along with some ginger, but otherwise it’s a fairly basic steak marinade. I actually recall having eaten this as a child at some point or other. Most of the recipes in this file seem to have served no other purpose than to hasten the splitting of the recipe file’s bellows, but this one saw the light of day on at least one or two occasions.
Flank steak, as food writers seem determined to remind us tirelessly (and tiresomely) is a very quick cooking cut of meat, therefore perfect for weeknights or other times when a fast meal is desired. And as we’ve been told time and again, it can be cooked under a broiler, or on a grill, or even on a grill pan on the stove. Its shape allows those who prefer rare meat and those who prefer more well-done meat to both be satisfied. There, I’ve run through all the required blahbety blah on flank steak.
Here’s the recipe as written:
In a jar mix or shake: ¼C soy sauce
¼C wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp ginger
½ tsp garlic powder
1 Tbs. dehydrated onion
Sprinkle 2 lb (get 2 flanks which run around 3lbs) with meat tenderizer. Then pour marinade over meat. Refrig. Over night. Barbeque (broil) 7 minutes on each side, Cut on diagnol [sic].
The layout is a bit strange, probably attributable to its having been typed with a manual typewriter onto a recipe card. The ingredients are far over to the right and kind of blend in with the instructions, which start about halfway down the card on the left. In fact, it’s sort of hard to tell where the ingredients end and the recipe starts up.
Originally the instructions say to sprinkle the meat with MSG. Since MSG is not a product I have in my kitchen, I was sadly forced to omit this step. Also, the quantities specified for meat are a little peculiar. If two flank steaks run around 3 lbs total, is there some sort of division or separation that should be performed? I went with a single flank steak at a little over a pound, and it fed two with leftovers. Originally this recipe was to serve four. This is otherwise a pretty simple mix-up-the-marinade-and-drop-the-meat-in kind of a recipe.
In considering how to update this recipe, there were a few obvious choices. Instead of using powdered anything, I used fresh. I grated a thumb-sized piece of ginger into the marinade, and then did the same with two cloves of garlic, and a quarter of a yellow onion. I did also add about 6 cloves of garlic cut into slices. Rather than the simple “salad oil” (canola, safflower, corn) oil that my mother and grandmother would most likely have used, I used olive oil. I used the white wine vinegar and honey as originally dictated, quantities as written.
I used my microplane grater for grating the ginger, garlic and onions. The result is a very fine pulp, which adds more of the flavor to the dish immediately. When I use the microplane to grate onion into things like chicken salad, I only use about ¼ of what I would have actually chopped up, so pungent is the resultant pulp. The benefit in chicken salad is no little chunks of onion, which can be quite sharp; in a marinade it allows the flavors to be available more readily than if the ingredients are in larger pieces.
In the future I might consider a couple of additional modifications. To further emphasize the Asian flavors of the marinade, I’d add a tablespoon or so of toasted sesame oil, and use unflavored rice vinegar instead of white wine vinegar.
Although originally instructed to marinate the meat overnight, I chose to marinate it all day instead, having first scored the meat to increase penetration of the marinade. I think the all day option, combined with the scoring, and the fine grating of the solid marinade ingredients made a reasonable amount of flavor, but without being overwhelming. Besides, I suspect that if this were marinated for the 22 hours suggested (assuming the meat was put to marinate at 9 p.m. the previous night, and dinner was cooked at 7 p.m.), the end result would be practically inedible. It is, after all, possible to marinate meat too much.
I served this as a winter meal with oven roasted potatoes, sautéed mushrooms (given a complementary Asian twist by using sesame oil as the cooking oil, and adding a splash of sake to deglaze the pan), and a red onion jam.
The flavor was delicate and subtle, not overpowering, and I think the use of the fresh ingredients over things like dehydrated onion and powdered ginger improved the recipe significantly. Powdered ginger is fine in baking, but not in marinades. And I don’t even own dehydrated onion, nor would I ever use it. To me dehydrated onion is an ingredient found only in Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing Mix and similar products.
Here's the updated recipe, including the modifications I would include in the future.
Asian Flavored Flank Steak
1 approx. 1 lb flank steak
1/4 cup soy sauce (I always use reduced sodium)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or unseasoned rice wine vinegar)
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup olive oil
(1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil)
1" piece fresh ginger, finely grated
2 cloves garlic, finely grated
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 of a medium onion, finely grated
Salt & pepper to taste
Combine marinade ingredients in a zip top plastic bag, or a shallow pan. Add flank steak and make sure it's completely coated with the marinade ingredients. Refrigerate and marinate about 12 hours. Preheat broiler and cook about 5 minutes on each side for medium-well.
Serves 2 with some leftovers.