A shower of recipe cards fell on my head last night...
That’s how this story started. I never finished it because it just never seemed the right moment...
...I opened that cabinet we use for things we seldom use. You know the one. Every kitchen has one.
It was one of those days and I might’ve gotten upset when the recipe card file opened and rained 3x5 cards all over the kitchen.
But down came Diane’s cornbread, Marcelline’s Lemony Buttery Bar Cookies, Yissakar’s beets, Genia’s Lemon cake, Jim’s Paella, Kate’s Truffles, Jean’s biscuits, and one (porotos granados) written in Spanish on spiral notebook paper by the housekeeper of my friend…I should have translated that one while my Spanish was a little more current. I remember that it was for a simple bean dish, she was perplexed why I would want the recipe for it. But a simple home cooked meal is a thing of beauty. Others reminded me of marriages, divorces, Holocaust, Diaspora, family and friends, gone.
So much history, so much life, in a pile of 3x5 cards.
I noticed I was sitting amongst a pile of memories, a tangle of connections. Each card has a story I remember, every time I pull it out. Who survived cancer, whose marriage survived cultural taboos, religious traditions, new holiday traditions I've built on these foundations. All the stories shared when the recipes were given, they are the reason I've kept all these old cards, they're artifacts of important lives and more than that, my connection to their owners is represented, often in the handwriting of the one passing it on.
Today's Story and Recipe
I found the reason to pick up this story and finish it. I’ve witnessed such generosity lately, new friends giving me gifts of homemade jams or confiture, bread, homemade macarons. I’ve witnessed a revolution of sorts, really a return to some old food ways. Along with our growing interest in the origins of our foods, getting to know our growers, producers, fishermen and farmers, we’ve also been experiencing one of the worst economic recessions since the Great Depression. You may have noticed.
What happens when farm-to-table love meets severe economic downturn? Welcome to the Canvolution. Friends old and new have connected me to some wonderful old recipes and old food preservation techniques. In addition to learning, or re-learning canning, or "putting up" fresh fruits and vegetables while in season, we're looking for inexpensive ways to enjoy meat-centered meals.
Researching the new trend in old butchering skills (see New Butchers, Old Cuts: Recipes of our Mothers Nourish on a Budget) I was reminded of flank steak and the decidedly downscale but delicious recipe of a mother of a friend in college. It involved jarred chili sauce. I kept that recipe (it was good) but haven’t made it in years. Flank steak has the distinction of being the only steak of a beef carcass containing one entire large muscle. This is why the fibers all run in one direction. Because of this unique cut's characteristics, it's best suited to marination and quick grilling.
A new friend made an off-hand comment about her Mom’s “secret recipe for flank steak" and I had to ask: Any chance she’d share it? She did! I even have permission to share it here. I added some black garlic and tomatoes from my in-laws' garden and the result was an incredibly savory and delicious meal. Flank steak makes it economical, the recipe and technique make it wonderful. Serve it sliced over salad for a summer meal that goes far, and serve the leftovers in the gravy from the reduced marinade.
Rebecca Black’s Flank Steak Marinade With special thanks to Rebecca’s daughter Rachel for sharing the once-secret recipe
- 1 cup tomato or v8 juice (I used V8)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup soy sauce (Tamari)
- 1/2 cup olive oil or veg. oil
- two chopped fresh tomatoes*
- two teaspoons black garlic paste*
- salt & pepper
- garlic cloves, sliced
- Score steak lightly on both sides in diamond pattern.
- Mix up marinade and cover steak, add salt and pepper.
- Keep at room temp at least an hour before grilling.
The recipe is marvelous but the technique is important to understand. What you have is a flavorful but very fibrous muscle. The tomato juice has acid that breaks the tissues down. The oil helps carry the flavors into the meat. Black garlic, fresh garlic and tomatoes all are rich with umami the fifth taste also known as savory.
We grilled the flank steak after marinating a few hours. We grilled it quickly then boiled down a bit of the marinade as a sauce.
Finally, one of the most important thing about flank steak, after a good marinade, is to slice it on the bias.
When we think it's gotten too hard to get by, often we can learn from those who came before us. Their skills, their stories, and their recipes can help us make it through tough times and not just survive them, but savor them. Don't overlook those gems in your old recipe files or those recipes your old friends will be happy to share.