When it comes to flavor, it’s hard to beat a well-marbled rib eye. But when it comes to cost without sacrificing flavor, I go for the flatiron. It comes from the top of the shoulder and is sometimes called a top blade, top boneless chuck or petite steak. It’s used in steak frites in restaurants, and it’s sometimes hard to find at a standard grocer. When trimmed out by a good butcher, a tough, sinewy membrane down its center is removed to leave a perfect steak for the grill.
Whole Foods Market offers flatirons that are trimmed and ready to go. I like making them the centerpiece of my meal, but I’ve been wanting to try something different to accompany the steaks—no potatoes, no rice. I like polenta, but I’ve done the sliced polenta sauté ad nauseam. At a stroll through Trader Joe’s, I spied two beautiful red bell peppers and hatched an idea for the tube of TJ’s organic polenta in my pantry.
I have a pound of fresh asparagus in the fridge, and the menu is complete—grilled flatiron, steamed asparagus and red peppers stuffed with polenta pudding. The stuffed peppers are an experiment, but I figure I can’t go too wrong with the following recipe.
2 cloves of finely chopped garlic, lightly sautéed
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, leaves only
Salt and pepper to taste
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare the peppers by cutting off the tops and removing all of the ribs and seeds.2) In a large bowl, mash up the polenta into pea-sized bits. Add the egg, garlic, thyme, and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.3) Stuff the mixture into the peppers, then place peppers on a baking pan. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 1 hour.
This recipe includes some adjustments based on what I learned on my first try. I initially used three grated raw garlic cloves, but the pungent flavor overwhelmed the finished pudding: The garlic has to be sautéed. And if you’re pressed for time, you can cut the peppers in half vertically to make shallow bowls, and then stuff them, slightly mounded. This will cut the baking time to 45 minutes.
The flatiron is best marinated for at least a half-hour before grilling. I used a quarter-cup of olive oil, a few thyme springs and a teaspoon of black pepper. I added salt just before cooking on my oiled indoor grill pan. This steak does best cooked medium-rare to medium, just below high heat. At well done, it turns to shoe-leather. Depending on the thickness of the steak, cook from four to six minutes per side. When nicely browned, transfer the meat to a plate. Loosely tent with foil, letting it rest for five minutes before slicing.
Add your favorite herbs, some citrus or salsa. Or go Asian with soy, garlic and ginger for a lively marinade. The best part about this simple meal is how many ways you can change it up for great flavors, while you learn what piques your palate along the way.
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