Sunday, 14 August 2011

Cooking: Skirt steak cooked ghetto sous vide

In London there is a an excellent steak restaurant called The Hawkesmoor. I first went not too long after they had opened. The restaurant was idealistic back then. They didn't serve fillet 'because it had no flavour' and hanger steak was on the menu as a 'secret' cut. Like every good restaurant they evolve to their market and nowadays fillet is there along with other popular cuts, but hanger steak is gone.

I didn't order the hanger steak that night, but ever since then I've kept and eye out for it on menus. It isn't something you see very often. Around the time I was ordering some meat from Feather and Bone I put on twitter that I was thinking of cooking hanger steak sous vide and I got the the challenging reply from my friend Mike 'you must do this!'. My fate was sealed.

I spoke to Feather and Bone as they weren't advertising hanger steak. They told me it was known as skirt steak in Australia, so I ordered some of that instead. I've since discovered that they are different, but neighbouring, cuts from near the diaphragm. I was a bit nonplussed at their dud advice and also the fact they hadn't trimmed the tough sinew away that runs along the side of the steak.

I cut my steak in two and left one of them plain and marinaded the other over night in:
8 tbsp apple juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp sesame oil

Not having a fancy vacuum sealing or water bath machine I decided to follow the Momofuku ghetto sous vide technique. My tap water doesn't run hot enough, so I put the steaks into sandwich bags and popped them into a saucepan on a very low heat. I kept my eye on the temperature, keeping it at 50-60 degrees celsius for 45mins. It was easier to keep the temperature constant than I thought.

After 45mins the steaks are put into iced water to stop them cooking and then popped into the fridge until they are ready to eat. The steaks look pretty anemic, so when it was time to eat I gave them a minute either side on a very hot BBQ to give them some colour.

Being honest I was a bit disappointed with the results. The plain steak wasn't very good at all! It was was very bland in flavour. The grain of both steaks was pretty open, they weren't tough, but they were quite chewy. There was definitely lots of mastication going on!

The marinade on the second steak imparted a wonderful flavour. There was sweetness from the apple juice, saltiness from the soy and a background of sesame. A great marinade. Unfortunately the texture of the steak stopped it being truly enjoyable.

I'm not sure if it was the fact I cooked a skirt rather than a hanger steak? Something wrong with my technique? Or the fact that, although I tried, I didn't trim all the sinew off the steak?

I reserved my marinade so that I can try again. I'd like to give it a go with an actual hanger steak if I can get hold of one.

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