"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Pan-Seared Ancho Skirt Steak

Friends, a few posts ago I talked about substitutions in a recipe. Being the obsessive little creature I am, it makes me nuts when I can't find EXACTLY what the recipe calls for. And then, what to do? Continue anyway, with an approximation? Bag it and hope for a more successful shopping expedition elsewhere, another day? Can I really honestly evaluate a recipe if I can't cook it as it's written?

Such was my dilemma when shopping for Pan-Seared Ancho Skirt Steak. People, it only has 8 ingredients, and that's including olive oil and salt. But Stop N Shop has inexplicably stopped carrying dried peppers (so no dried ancho or New Mexico chiles) and the butcher not only didn't have skirt steak, he had never eaten it himself.

The moment of decision. Do I go to a spur-of-the-moment Plan B, or make some intelligent substitutions?

There are many types of recipes in The Gourmet Cookbook. Fussy, labor-intensive ones, building blocks, easy-but-impressive, and the category this recipe falls into (or is supposed to): quick, mid-week dinner recipes for hectic days or no-fuss situations. I figured I'd follow the spirit of the recipe if not the letter and substitute as I could.

A quick conference with the butcher led me to flank steak as a substitution for skirt steak. As for the chiles, I decided on jarred, diced hot chiles from the Exotic Foods aisle, even though they seemed to be sort of pickled in some liquid.

And then--onward.

I can testify that this recipe is indeed as advertised--quick and easy. I did not sear the flank steak, I cooked it as suggested in the recipe that comes right before it in the book, Flank Steak with Chimichurri--broiled for 12 minutes, turning halfway through.

But basically you're just making a chili/OJ vinaigrette to flavor the meat--it gets cooked with half, and the other half goes over the meat as a sauce. Then the whole shebang gets topped with sliced avocado.

My husband and son were impressed and appreciative--O'Malley had three helpings, in fact. It's good stuff, folks. Give it a try. And I WILL be sourcing skirt steak--there's at least one more recipe in the book that calls for it, and I'd like to try this mysterious cut of beef.

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