Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Zak Pelaccio's Skirt Steak Salad

I must admit, I was really excited for this recipe.  Zak Pelaccio owns Fatty Crab, which is one of my absolute favorite restaurants in the city.  The food is really good (although there are some misses from time to time), the vibe is fun (if a little loud and raucous at times) and it's just different from most of the other restaurants on the UWS.  I wanted the recipe to have everything that I love about Fatty Crab - spice, flavor and fun.  But it ended up dominated by the fish sauce.  We kept adding more sugar and more lime juice to the dressing to try to balance it, but no matter what we did the fish sauce dominated.  We finally got it to a place where we thought it would be good, but once we tossed everything together the dominant flavor was the saltiness of the fish sauce.  Perhaps if we had used the full number of chili peppers that Zak had called for, we wouldn't have run into that problem.  But I wanted to cut down on the number of chilis (he wanted 6 Thai chilis and 2 Anaheim/Hungarian Wax chilis) so that the dish was spicy, but not blow your mouth out spicy.  Actually, you would still have the problem of a one note dish - the dominant note would just be heat in lieu of fish sauce.  The licorice flavor of the Thai basil was the only flavor that really managed to overcome the flavor of the fish sauce.  But in some bites, the licorice flavor was totally overpowering so I thought that the bites with the Thai basil were at times the best and also the most jarring bites.  My final complaint (although I would like to think that it is constructive criticism for my future attempts at making Thai-inspired beef salad) is that this dish isn't exactly much of a salad.  It is really just a skirt steak that happens to have a little herb, chili, ginger and garlic garnish.  I wish there had been some watercress or another green to give it more of a salad feel.  Or maybe some green apple or something to give it a little sweetness?  The more I think about it, the more I want to tweak this salad until it is more like the Spicy Beef Salad at Land Thai Kitchen, which we vaguely paid homage to here.  All in all, I just wanted the salad to be more of a salad and the flavors to be a little better balanced - less salty, more sweet and more brightness/freshness.

P.S.  If you want to take a look at the original recipe, it is also available on Serious Eats.  I appear to be on a serious Serious Eats kick lately...

Recipe after the jump!

Zak Pelaccio's Skirt (Hanger) Steak Salad
Eat With Your Hands
By Zakary Pelaccio
3 tablespoons palm or brown sugar, or more to taste
3 tbsp fish sauce, or more to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or more to taste
1 lb skirt steak (or two 1-inch thick hanger steaks (about 7 ounces each))
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
about 1 tbsp neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine or dry sherry, or more to taste
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
4 fresh serrano chiles, thinly sliced
1-2 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

In a small bowl, stir together the palm sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice. Taste the mixture. Do you want it sweeter, saltier, or more acidic? It's up to you.

Generously season the steaks with salt and pepper. Heat a cast-iron skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat until it's smoking. Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add the steaks. Cook until beautifully brown on one side, about 2 minutes (or 6 minutes for the hanger steaks), then flip and cook for 1 more minute (or 4 minutes for the hanger steaks) for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and let them rest for 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the Shaoxing wine, scrape up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic, ginger, and chiles, and cook for 30 seconds, remove the skillet from the heat.

Slice the steaks against the grain. Add sliced steak and all juices to the skillet with the garlic-ginger-chili mixture.  Stir to combine. Transfer steak to a mixing bowl and add 2-3 tbsp of the fish-sauce-lime dressing, the onion, and the herbs. Toss. Add more dressing as necessary. 


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