Last night the Missus and I had our friends Gary and JoAnn over for an impromptu weeknight supper. Nothing too complicated, it being a weeknight and all. But what to serve alongside the vegetables that JoAnn would bring?
Years ago, back when the world was young and dinosaurs roamed the earth, one of our favorite dinner dishes was something out of the New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet, one of our go-to sources for tasty, even elegant recipes that, true to the book’s title, could easily be prepared in an hour or less. The dish, Bavette de Boeuf Sauce Chasseur, sounds seriously ritzy owing to its Frenchified name, but really all it is is a broiled flank steak with tomato-mushroom sauce. And it’s easy as hell to make. She Who Must Be Obeyed and I used to enjoy it on a regular basis, but as time went on we moved on to other things.
Bavette de Boeuf Sauce Chasseur. Sounds impressive; tastes impressive; easy to make.
Time to bring it back, I thought.
First thing I got my hands on was a good-sized flank steak. It’s a great cut of meat: good beefy flavor and no waste whatsoever. The only danger is, you really want to avoid overcooking it and drying it out. I learned to love this cut of meat when I was in college: When they served it in Commons, the University dining hall, we would call it by the derisive sobriquet “snake meat” - and then we would go back for seconds and thirds.
To prepare the meat, I simply sprinkled it with some kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and let it sit out at room temperature for about an hour. The salt acts not only as seasoning, it tenderizes the meat. I fired up the grill and, while it heated up, prepared the sauce.
In a good-sized skillet over medium heat, using a squirt of olive oil (and a dab of butter for flavor), I sautéed up a half pound of sliced mushrooms and one large minced shallot, adding a liberal pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. After about 4-5 minutes, the mushrooms began to brown and the kitchen was fragrant with that wonderful aroma of shallots and mushrooms getting all friendly.
Into the pan went about a half-cup of dry white wine - I conveniently happened to have had the remnants of a bottle in the fridge - which I let simmer for a minute or two. Then I added a 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, a half-cup of beef broth, and about half a teaspoon of dried tarragon, and, stirring occasionally, set the whole mess to simmer over a low flame while I cooked the meat.
By now the grill was red-hot: time to put the meat on. I like to do flank steaks about 3-5 minutes a side: You really do not want to let it sit over the grill any longer, lest you end up with something more suitable for resoling shoes than serving at table. (If it were me alone, I’d lean toward the three-minute time, but the Missus likes her beef medium to medium-well, so I gave it four minutes on each side.) When it was done, I took the meat off the fire and tented it with foil while I finished the sauce, which had been merrily simmering away.
In a small cup, I mixed a teaspoon of cornstarch (arrowroot works, too) with a tablespoon or two of beef broth, then added enough of the slurry to the sauce to thicken it up just enough: I like it to be in that happy zone somewhere between “runny” and “gloppy.” Then I carved up the meat, slicing it on the diagonal across the grain. The meat went on a platter with a liberal sprinkle of freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley, while the juices from the meat went into the skillet and joined the sauce, which was now ready to ladle over the meat.
If the weather had been crappy, I could easily have broiled the meat in the oven, but using the grill meant not having to clean a broiler pan... yay! And as for the meal, it may have taken a grand total of forty-five minutes from start to finish to prepare, including prep time. Worth every second, too.
Yes, I am aware that there are some amongst my Esteemed Readers who do not care for mushrooms. (You know who you are.) But that is OK: more for me. And who knows but that this recipe might just change your mind?