2 months ago, I set out with one of my best friends on yet another road trip of ours to visit friends in Pittsburgh for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect of the city. To be honest I’d never really given it much thought. Our plans were loose; we had tickets to a beer fest that night and hoped to get in some sightseeing the next day but nothing else. What I didn’t anticipate was having probably the best weekend so far this year, one packed with booze, awesome eats, and some really fantastic people.
One thing to note, when my friends and I get together, there’s nothing that we hold back on as far as topics of conversation. So when Saturday came around and we all had overcome our hangovers with round 2 of beer-drinking, things got a little weird. I guess it all started when my friend and I ordered a bowl of meat at a brewery and couldn’t get over the sheer novelty and genius of it. “Why is this not a thing?!” we wondered. In the age of fast-casual, shouldn’t we capitalize on this and introduce a meat-only option where all you can possibly order is a bowl of meat and maybe, just maybe, a flight of dipping sauce options? Possible names included “Meat Sweats!”, “Meat ‘n’ Greet”, “The Meating House”, then some more inappropriate ones… you get the picture. Maybe a bowl of complimentary tums to grab on the way out? I’m almost embarrassed to admit how long this conversation carried on. Almost.
Anyway, after pre-gaming dinner with our sour beers and meat bowls, we headed out to dinner at a place called Gaucho. They specialize in Argentinian style meat so it was very appropriate. I was warned there would be a wait, and wait we did…for an hour and half…in the snow. Mind you it was 75 degrees the day before and I did not pack for the impending temperature drop. Luckily we passed the time delving into the specifics of our meat concept some more and trying to figure out what we wanted from their extensive menu. Though despite the many options, we all ended up getting the same thing. Steaks all around! But not just any steak. It’s marinated and grilled with unlimited chimichurri for dipping, a big simple salad, and slabs of charred, garlicky rustic bread for mopping up the juices, all arranged on a wooden board. I also ordered a side of more bread, duh, and mashed sweet potatoes and once we all had our food after nearly 2 hours of waiting, all was quiet. Important meat-related activities were taking place.
I haven’t forgotten about that meal since, which is why it occurred to me that it probably would be a good idea to recreate it to some degree. I also figured it would be a nice way to kick off my month of Whole30* (without the bread of course) and ended up with the best result I could have imagined. I started with Julia Turshen’s recipe for grilled skirt steak with pickled jalapeno relish, utilizing the bangin’ farmers market skirt steak I’d gotten earlier that day and subbing parsley for the cilantro for that chimichurri vibe and because, well, I hate cilantro. But that’s a story for another day. The mashed sweet potatoes were a “wing it” sort of deal: roast the potatoes until super-tender and mash them with some coconut oil, smoked paprika, cumin, and s&p and top with roasted pumpkin seeds. Unsurprisingly, with my local, never frozen meat and the genius of Julia’s recipe, this effortless, few-ingredient recipe really delivered and packed a serious punch of flavor. Cutting the meat across the grain makes it crazy tender and cooking it in a hot cast iron pan gives it that nice smoky crust on the outside. Paired with the tangy and spicy relish and the creamy sweet potatoes, I could’ve sworn I was back at Gaucho with my friends. But at least now I have a solid meat and sauce combo for our restaurant to bring to the table.
*I knowwww I’ve given my disapproval for fad diets before. And I still cringe at myself for doing this. But with an upcoming surgery at the end of the month, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get my body in a good state for healing. I’m ok, just taking care of a personal health issue I’ve been trying to beat for a while but without much luck. All is well though, one day I think I can talk about it here, but today is not that day. Anywayyy, eat this steak!
Seared Skirt Steak with Pickled Jalapeño Relish
Adapted from Julia Turshen’s Small Victories
½ cup chopped pickled jalapeños
¾ cup finely chopped parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
grated zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small limes
½ cup plus 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
2 lb. skirt steak, patted dry with paper towels
In a bowl, combine the jalapeños, parsley, garlic, lime zest and juice, and ½ cup of the olive oil and use a fork to whisk together. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium high. Rub the steak with the remaining 2 Tbs. of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the steak in the skillet until it starts to form a crust (about 2 minutes) and flip to the other side. Repeat this on the second side. Then, continue flipping the steak every 30 seconds or so until it reaches your desired doneness. It took about 6-8 total minutes for my medium-rare steak. (Here’s a good way to test your steak-doneness).
Remove from the skillet and let rest on the cutting board for 5 minutes. Slice across the grain and serve with your jalapeño relish, mashed sweet potatoes, and a side salad.