Salads needn’t be boring even in the winter. They can be hearty, they can be substantial and full of flavor. They can even tweek your expectations about the season and its food possibilities.
Take this Spinach Salad with Roast Pears, Dried Cranberry Vinaigrette and Flank Steak. My brother Grant paired it with Bonny Doon “Le Pousseur” Syrah 2007. It’s made with ingredients that are easily available in the coldest corners around the globe almost any time of the year.
I see you nodding your head saying, “sure pears, spinach and dried cranberries can be winter food. But, flank steak– well Greg– that’s summer food.”
But I am here to prove to you that even flank steak can be winter friendly. But I know what you are thinking right now. You are thinking there is no way you are going to trudge out to the back yard and light up the grill just so Sippity Sup can prove some inane point about flank steak being winter food. You are thinking that although (of course) you love Sippity Sup dearly, and you want to try and make us happy. But really, grilling outside in your swim suit during a snow storm that’s starting to cross some unwritten line of allegiance. Is that what you’re thinking?
But please, stay close. Stay inside, and stay warm. But listen to me. Everyone knows flanks steak is great cooked on the grill. It’s marinated in something flavorful, then it’s quickly cooked over hot flames until barely past rare. Because flank steak must always be served fairly rare. It dries out easily, so it’s best cooked fast and hot and licked by flames. Which, you’re thinking, makes it summer food. Right?
Well, mostly right. That certainly is a terrific way to cook flank steak. But there is some winter wiggle room too.
You see I was cruising over at Simply Recipes recently and I picked up a neat little trick about searing flank steak. It’s how her mother cooks flank steak and it’s a pretty fool-proof system. I tweaked it a bit to make it, not just an easy way to cook flank steak, but a flavorful way to enjoy it inside, off the grill and in the winter.
- 2 lb flank steak
- 4 clv garlic, peeled and minced
- 1⁄2 c worcestershire sauce
- 2 T plus 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper as needed
- 1 T unsalted butter
- 2 firm but ripe pears, preferably bosc
- 3⁄4 c cider vinegar
- 2 T pomegranate molasses, or substitute with honey
- 1 T dijon mustard
- 3⁄4 c dried cranberries
- 1⁄2 c almonds, roughly chopped
- 6 oz baby spinach leaves, washed & dried
Marinate the flank steak. Stir garlic, Worcestershire sauce and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a non-reactive dish; season with salt & pepper. Place the steak in the dish, swirling to get the meat well coated. Marinate, turning occasionally for at least 1 hour, or up to overnight in the refrigerator.
Roast the pears. Place the rack in the center of the oven, then preheat to 450 degrees F.
Grease a small baking sheet with butter. Peel and core the pears, then cut each lengthwise into 8 wedges. Toss the slices with sugar in a bowl then place on the buttered baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping the pears and turning the tray once, until softened and browned. Transfer to a plate to cool completely. The pears may be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days, then brought to room temperature before assembling the salad.
Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. In a blender, whirl vinegar, pomegranate molasses, and mustard. With the machine running add remaining 1/3 cup olive oil, and blend until emulsified. Add 1/4 cup dried cranberries and pulse the machine several times to roughly chop them. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Toast the almond pieces in a small skillet set over medium heat, shaking often, until lightly browned. Remove from skillet and set aside in a small bowl to cool. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup dried cranberry. Set aside.
Cook the steak. Heat a large cast iron skillet set over high heat, until very hot. It must be an iron skillet to retain as much heat as possible. Remove the steak from the marinade, letting most of the liquid drip away. Sprinkle both sides of the steak with salt. Place steak in the hot pan. Let sear for 2 to 3 minutes until well browned. Flip to the other side and let sear for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the steak continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the steak. Flank steak must be served rare. 120°F for very rare, 125°F for rare, or 130°F for medium rare. When the desired temperature is reached, remove the steak from the pan to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.
When you are ready to assemble the salad, cut the meat in very thin slices, at an angle, against the grain. Place the spinach in a large bowl, add half the almond/cranberry mixture and the vinaigrette to taste. Toss well and arrange the greens on a platter or on individual plates. Top the greens with some pear and flank steak slices to taste. Garnish with additional nuts and berries and a good grind of black pepper.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD