Cheers to Independence

July 4th 1 Independence Day – a holiday that, for many Americans, is primarily associated with fireworks, cookouts, and beer. While it may seem blasphemous to commemorate such a day with revelry, it was one of our country’s most celebrated victories – making it an excellent reason to throw a party! This date marks the official adoption of our country’s Declaration of Independence, portending the end of a struggle between our foundling nation and England’s imperial stronghold. For those of you who know me, any excuse to host is a good one – this one just happens to be renowned for food, meaning it’s just my kind of party 🙂
Spicy Bourbon Chicken 1Grilling is THE method of choice for any respectable Independence Day cookout. While we certainly had our share of standards – burgers and hotdogs – I always try to include a recipe that stands apart from the crowd; these Spicy Bourbon Chicken Thighs were just that. The original recipe calls for tequila…but in an effort to save money and time, I used a liquor I had on hand: Bourbon. Though let’s be honest – Bourbon is almost always a better choice (especially over Tequila…)
Spicy Bourbon Chicken 2Another notable difference was to use the sauce as a marinade, rather than an ending glaze. The only setback to this is the potential for more flare-ups (since the sugary sauce will be on the direct heat earlier on), but the flavor payoff is worth it. I made this sauce one day in advance, and then set the chicken thighs into the marinade the morning-of the cookout. The end result was flavorful, juicy, with a bit of a kick. I can guarantee you’ll knock your guests socks off with this one – click HERE to see this unique recipe!
Mixed Berry Tart 1The national ostentation of all things red, white, and blue helps to inspire the rhetoric of Independence Day. While I refuse to stick little American flags into every burger that comes off the grill, I do give in to subtle patriotic presentations – this year it was the desserts: Mini Cheesecakes with Summer Berries and a Mixed Berry Tart with Mascarpone-Ginger Cream. Not terribly imaginative on my part, but thankfully red and blue do a fantastic job of delineating any patriotic intent. They were both quite delicious which (in my experience) is what really counts.
Mixed Berry Tart 2The tart’s original recipe was a little too involved, and seemed to be more work than it was worth. So rather than take on an ambitious project, I made a single tart that could fit entirely within a 9×13 baking sheet. The pastry is the most complicated element – a paring knife and the freezer will be your best friend here. Just stick to basic dough knowledge – keep it cold, but not beyond a workable chill (because you won’t have any use for a frozen brick). Mascarpone in lieu of cream cheese was my idea, and seals the deal on this winning dessert – click HERE to see the recipe for this mouthwatering dessert!
Mini CheesecakesThese cheesecakes were adorable, and made for a great end-of-party indulgence. They can be topped with pretty much anything – berries, chocolate, jam, etc. They are far simpler than your standard cheesecake (no need for a water bath, for starters) and much easier to serve to a large crowd. I made my own mini crusts for these, but you can use a vanilla wafer or oreo cookies for a quick fix. I decided to go fancy and use a real vanilla bean as well, but extract will do in a pinch. The best part about these bite-sized treats? You won’t feel quite as guilty when you reach for a second…or fourth: click HERE to see the recipe for these adorable cheesecakes!
July 4th 2Aside from the food, fireworks, and friends, July 4th is also known for its parades. Whether it’s in the middle of small-town Iowa or the National Independence Day Parade in D.C., our country loves its parades. A notable part of any good parade is the brass band, which leads to my discussion on Charles Ives and this blog’s musical pairing. Ives was a different breed of composer – an innovator, artist, and businessman all packed into one; some go so far as to say that he was the prototypical American. It is believed that one of his strongest influences was his father, who had been a U.S. Army bandleader during the Civil War. The day-to-day band rehearsals left an impression on the young Ives, and his father’s encouragement on musical studies helped foster the composer’s vivid imagination:

“In ‘thinking up’ music I usually have some kind of a brass band with wings on it in back of my mind.” – Charles Ives.

One thing that Ives is known for is the incorporation of musical “quotes” – more often than not, they are allusions to popular American folk songs and hymns. These quotations are both intentional and witty, giving insight to Ives’ thought process as a composer. It’s worth noting that Ives was also a very talented organist, and was composing hymns from a very young age. With an upbringing immersed in folk songs, hymns, and marching music, Ives is perfect for this patriotic blog, and his Variations on ‘America’ for Organ Solo showcases all of these elements quite beautifully. Less than 8-minutes in length, it’s a brilliant little work – he wrote it when he was just 17 years-old, and his prodigious organ talent is apparent in the work’s complexity. In fact, it is one of the earliest surviving examples of contextual polytonality – a well-known feature of Ives’ style. The work is both humorous and edgy, with moments where the theme is fighting to be heard followed by moments where it is exulted – nonetheless, “America” rings true throughout. Enjoy!

Sources Cited
“Charles Ives,” Wikipedia.com

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Salmon Perfected

For those of you who have spent time in a sauna, you known and understand the beauty of cedar wood. I told you once that I had found the perfect way too cook salmon…but then I discovered the brilliance of cedar plank grilling. Not only do you get a beautifully tender meat, but also a smoky hint of cedar. I wanted a recipe that was easy, but also impressive – this was just the ticket. Who would have thought that a few simple ingredients could make one of the MOST delicious fish dishes I’ve ever had. You’ve got to give this Cedar-Plank Salmon a try!
Cedar wood’s durability and aromatic qualities have made it a popular resource for cultures across the globe. Historically, its oil was used as part of the embalming process in Ancient Egypt, while the Phoenicians utilized cedar’s strength to build ships and houses. Modern-day uses include linen storage, shingles and furniture, musical instruments, aromatherapy, saunas, etc. Most grocery and specialty stores will carry cedar planks during the summer…as you can tell from the photo, I went to Whole Foods 🙂
These attributes make it the perfect companion in cooking: it’s durable enough to withstand an open flame while also infusing a smoky flavor that is to-die-for amazing! The plank acts like a “pan” on the grill, meaning you can cook a whole salmon steak (rather than individual filets), and not have to worry about the meat sticking to the grate. This gives you more time to socialize with friends and family, rather than worry about what’s happening beneath the lid. A word of caution: this process cooks a very tender salmon,  meaning the meat won’t necessarily appear fully cooked (even though it is). The way to test for doneness is by checking resistance – a fork should slide into the meat like butter. That is what makes this recipe so perfect – click HERE to see how to make this amazing salmon!
For the musical pairing, I wanted to complement the intensity of flavor, with all its subtle nuances. When taking the richness of taste into account, I found myself leaning towards Béla Bartók. Though this fish was by and large superior to other salmon dishes, it wasn’t quite on the orchestral scale; so I chose his String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 7. The opening movement (Lento) primarily captures the thematic feel I intended – it’s a slow lento with contrapuntal dialogue throughout that ebbs and flows between the four voices. Though built like a fugue, Bartók throws in unexpected shifts that take both performer and the listener by surprise. The work in its entirety was inspired by the composer’s unrequited love for Stefi Geyer, which is reflected in the melancholic state of the first movement. The second movement (Allegretto) has a hesitant start, but begins to unfold with a playful and spirited motif as it gains speed. There is still some sign of the first movement’s anguish, but the music has developed into something braver and more adventuresome. The third movement (Introduzione. Allegro — Allegro vivace) serves as the culmination of this musical journey – from the depths of despair to the towers of triumph, our “protagonist” has found new life. For this recipe, which develops into a truly beautiful meal in spite of the standard grilling methods, this quartet was a perfect match. The recording below is with the Novák Quartet – enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KcsUAp8EDo

Sources Cited:
Rutherford, Brett. “Program notes for April 15, 2009: Tákacs String Quartet with Marc‐André Hamelin,” Rhode Island Chamber Music Concerts
Bruno, Gwen. “History of the Cedar Tree,” eHOW

Rhapsody in Ribs

Barbecue and Fourth of July are the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of culinary traditions – it’s hard to picture  one without the other. This was my fourth year celebrating Independence Day in Boston, and this city just comes to life. The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular is one of THE largest celebrations in the United States, and is a tradition viewed by Americans across the nation. While the live show is truly spectacular (and one every Bostonian should experience at least once), the 500,000+ spectators makes it somewhat of a stressful endeavor…so after having trekked out to the Charles for the past 3 years, my friends and I vied for an at-home Barbecue Cookout and viewing of the Boston Pops show.
Ribs – they are an iconic Fourth of July tradition, and resonate with appetites across the nation. For this dish, I chose baby back ribs. A cut from the top of a hog, they are (unfortunately) much tougher than the more tender pork loin. Because of this, grilling baby back ribs can quickly go from perfect to beyond repair. The trick is to start the cooking process before the ribs hit the grill – the low and slow roast method. What’s even better about this method is that the meat doesn’t need more than 10 to 15 minutes on the grill (as opposed to hours), leaving you more time to relax with your guests.
A great rib needs a great sauce, and this was a great sauce – I like to think that whenever bourbon and brown sugar are combined, a rainbow appears; that is how perfect they are together. It is sweet with a hint of spice (earthy or floral, depending on your bourbon). Making it the day ahead will a) save you time and b) make the sauce 10x better…so basically it’s a win-win situation 😉 Whether grilling for a few or a crowd, these Bourbon and Brown Sugar Ribs are sure to please (thanks Teej for the above photo!) Click HERE to get the recipe for this barbecue classic.
In addition to the ribs, I made some Honey-Sesame Chicken Skewers that were to die for! Tender, packed with flavor, and SO simple to make, they were an ultimate hit. The marinade is what gives these skewers their unique edge, with ingredients including sake, sesame oil, and even puréed pears! The original recipe called for chicken breasts, but the cheaper, more tender thighs were my pick; a solid choice when hosting for a crowd. Trust me, you HAVE to try these – they are absolutely magnificent. Click HERE to see the recipe for these uh-mazing skewers!
As a nod to the Boston Pops Fireworks show, I made my vegan entree a New England classic – Vegetarian Maple Baked Beans (only without bacon, of course). The combination of soaking the beans and cooking in a slow cooker spans over several hours, but most of this has no need for supervision (in other words, you can leave for work and have a meal ready to go by the time you get home!) These beans are (as the title suggests) inherently sweet, and made the perfect side dish vegetarian dish to complement the spread – click HERE to view this recipe!
The traditions of Independence Day bring to life a narrative of victory and celebration that has a universally contagious spirit. With this in mind, I wanted to showcase an American composer whose music can enrapture any audience (using pizzazz that is all-too-familiar of any Fourth of July celebration). That led me to George Gershwin and one of his most iconic works: Rhapsody in Blue. Composed in 1924, it has easily become one of the most popular American compositions. The amalgamation of jazz and classical is a beautiful display of our nation’s diversity and vivacity, which Gershwin shared as his inspiration:

No new themes came to me, but I worked on the thematic material already in my mind and tried to conceive the composition as a whole. I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness…

What’s even more wonderful about this story is that he was on a train to BOSTON when he came up with the idea for this piece – how perfect is that?? The piece is concerto-esque as it features solo piano, originally written for jazz band and later scored for full orchestra. The piece opens with a “famous opening clarinet glissando…that has become as familiar as the start of Beethoven’s Fifth” (according to one columnist with the American Heritage). The full gamut of Gershwin’s style is shown, from graceful melodies of to large-scale harmonies. Such can be said of the gamut of my own culinary talents for this barbecue 😉 I’ve included a recording with another iconic American composer conducting and soloing on piano: Leonard Bernstein – enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmUHI2yTtVY

Sources Cited:
“Rhapsody in Blue” Wikipedia.com

“Grillomania”

Have you ever walked into a store and seen that one item that you can’t take your off of? You glance at the price, and quickly walk over to another display in hopes of avoiding it at all costs…but then you find yourself wandering back (against your own will) just to get a second look. Next thing you know, you’re smitten…long story short: I bought a new grill this past weekend for Memorial Day. I originally set out to buy one of those small charcoal models, but walked out of the store with a massive gas grill and a grin the size of Texas. My summer cooking has just been taken to a whole new level of potential. I christened the grill this past weekend with quite the spread, and so for this post I thought I’d share one of the evening’s masterpieces: Grilled Drumsticks with Peach Barbecue Sauce.
This sauce literally lives up to the name “finger-lickin’ good!” Once the chicken ran out, people became creative and turned it into a chip dip…or just ate with spoons. What’s great about this recipe is that it can be made any time of year, especially given the use of preserves (in lieu of fresh fruit). While peach is what’s called for in the recipe, I’d love to try it with blackberry, or even rhubarb. Add some bacon and maple syrup and smoked paprika…now that’s barbecue! I made the sauce a day ahead of time, which I highly recommend – this will give all those beautiful flavors enough time to really get to know each other, making for a fantastic sauce!
Did I mention that I made 5 POUNDS of chicken legs for this party? These take a long time to cook, so it may not have been the best game plan for a large party (lesson learned!) That being said, the meat was perfectly tender thanks to a quick and easy brine. Topped with that beautiful sauce, these were devoured in no time! My good friend Bonnie snapped several classic shots of friends – they were just too good to not include in this post 🙂 Click HERE to see the recipe for perfectly grilled barbecue chicken!
Irresistible: I couldn’t stop thinking of how irresistible this sauce was, and how I (personally) could not resist that beautiful new grill…Franz Liszt, while being seen as a true virtuouso, had the ability to bring an audience to near hysteria during his performances, causing women to faint, weep, and fight over his discarded kerchiefs and even cigar stubs! This magnetic quality helped coin the term “Lisztomania” – musicologist Alan Walker shares more on this phenomenon:

Liszt was a natural phenomenon, and people were swayed by him…. With his mesmeric personality and long mane of flowing hair, he created a striking stage presence. And there were many witnesses to testify that his playing did indeed raise the mood of an audience to a level of mystical ecstasy.

I chose Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor for the pairing. It’s wealth of components, emotional depth, and thematic metamorphosis perfectly speak to the richness of these drumsticks – a dish that relies on ingredients, flavor, and time. This piece comes across as a single movement, though many agree it can be applied to the sonata form (with no formal breaks, naturally). This seamless quality makes every component dependent on one another; an irresistible “blend,” if you will 😉 The work ends on a peaceful coda, quite similar to our food “coma” following this massive feast. While this sonata wasn’t among the works that induced mass “hysteria,” its present-day popularity has certainly placed it within the upper echelon of our modern “Lisztomania.” Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCHE-UPwBJA

Sources Cited:
“Lisztomania,” Wikipedia.com
“Symphonic Poems,” Wikipedia.com
“Piano Sonata (Liszt),” Wikipedia.com

Jamaican Me Hungry!

There’s something almost to good to be true about grilled meat with fruit – chicken, pork, fish, anything. Not only is it incredibly easy to prepare, but it always delivers amazing results! All it takes is a little creativity – for this occasion, I had leftover bananas from a bananas foster evening (will be blogged about one day if I can beat the melting ice cream in time!). Swordfish steaks were on sale at Whole Foods, so naturally I bought two and made Jamaican-Spiced Swordfish with Banana and Pineapple Salsa.Swordfish are very popular sporting fish, yet these agile predators are no easy catch: measuring up to 14 feet in length and weighing as much as 1,500 pounds, swordfish are quite powerful and highly elusive. As a food, its tough meat is a comparable trade for steak. While considered to be a delicacy, the FSA advises consuming swordfish (shark and marlin as well) no more than once a week; pregnant women and children should avoid it entirely. When choosing swordfish at the store, look for steaks with for healthy pink meat and dark red strips.
This salsa was DELICIOUS! I mean, who thought bananas could take the leap from sweet to savory so effortlessly? As I learned with a previous fruit salsa, ginger does wonders in these settings, so I added a touch to this recipe. Feel free to substitute another fruit for the pineapple, like mango or peach. This salsa was ridiculously good with swordfish, though any fish will do (heck, try it with steak even!) – click HERE to give this fantastic entrée a shot!
This was quite unique recipe, and almost “daring” in theory – thus I wanted a musical piece that was edgy and provocative. I tend to think of Piazzolla when I think of “edgy”, and his Estaciones Porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) captures a raw energy that pairs perfectly with this dish. The original composition was written for his own quintet, with bandoneón, violin, piano, electric guitar, and double bass. It has since been transcribed for a number of ensembles, from piano trio to solo violin with string orchestra. I have included a recording of the transcription for piano trio below of the third movement: Primavera Porteña (Buenos Aires Spring). Definitely take the time to listen to the to other three as well, it’s worth it – enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJzogioRx6A

Sources Cited:
– “Swordfish,” Wikipedia.com
– “Mercury in fish: your questions answered,” Food Standards Agency website.
– “Estaciones Porteñas,” Wikipedia.com 

A Palette of Colorful Fare

I need to use my actual cookbooks more often. The internet is addicting given it provides access to millions of recipes (with photos, a big plus for me!), but I have SO many real cookbooks that it’s a shame I don’t use them more often. I was hosting a dinner for my new neighbors Albert Oppenheimer and Mike Dahlberg, and wanted to finally start utilizing these wonderful resources. So I started to peruse the beautiful book by David Tanis, A Platter of Figs (great title), and flipped to the “summer” menus. That’s when I saw it: a gorgeous dish that uses everything I love about cooking, and so I made this beautiful rendition: Grilled Cod with Indian Spices and Yellow Tomatoes.
The ONLY thing I changed here was using cod instead of hailbut. I prefer the latter, but the cod at the market looked so much fresher that I couldn’t resist. I followed the rest of the recipe to a T. What’s fantastic about this dish is how everything on the plate works perfectly together. The serranos and spices give it just the right kick, making you instantly reach for a second bite rather than your glass of water (a spiciness which Albert enjoyed immensely). The cool raita provides an amazing depth of flavor, and all of it is framed by gorgeous yellow tomatoes.  There’s not much else to say about this dish other than MAKE IT! Click HERE to learn how. 
Have you ever bought something from the market just becaus it looked cool? That was the case with these Chinese eggplants. These amethyst beauties looked liked something from outer space, so naturally I wanted to know how to cook them (that is natural, right?) Anywho, this cultivar, when compared to the familiar American eggplant, is far more delicate in flavor, has thinner skin, and less seeds (the cause of the bitter taste many affiliate with eggplant). I sort of “made-up” this recipe for Indian Spiced Eggplant, using the knowledge I know from previous attempts combined with my preferences for preferring eggplant (see my previous post to learn more about preparing eggplant). Click HERE to learn how to make this spicy, flavorful dish today! 
The pairing for this dinner was inspired by a live performance I saw the other night which just so happened to include one of my dinner guests, Mike Dahlberg (cellist). His string quartet was playing for a function, and it was a piece I had never heard: Brahms’ String Quartet No. 3 in B flat Major. They performed the third movement: Agitato (Allegretto non troppo). This movement features a killer viola part (played beautifully by their violist, Jason Amos) and so I have included a recording of that movement (by the Jerusalem Quartet). The overall depth and flavor of this movement helped to inspire my pairing. The viola, in my opinion, is a very “colorful” instrument that I felt paired beautifully with these two dishes. Please listen to the entire work if you have the time, it’s worth it – I hope you enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNrkUmZsMTU 

Taking out the Meat, But not The Flavor

Who ever said meatless had to mean flavorless? There are occasions when a recipe surprises even me – this was definitely one of those times. I had two beautiful eggplants that I needed to use up before my vacation, and felt that vegetarian meal was the way to go. Eggplant parmesan would be too time-consuming, but Italian was definitely the direction my thinking was headed. Having a general idea about what I wanted to do, I came up with my own invention based on some lasagna rolls I’d made a few years back: Eggplant Rollatini with Ricotta Filling and Homemade Tomato Sauce.
Though these seem complicated, they are actually quite simple. The most involved step is preparing the eggplant slices themselves. Eggplant is a water-laden vegetable, making it act more like a sponge than a vegetable when cooked. That’s why it’s crucial to salt these slices before grilling – you can skip this step, but you won’t get the same result. I stacked three cookie racks and arranged the slices across each layer. The salt acts as a dehydrator, and literally pulls the water out of the eggplant (you’ll see little beads of water towards the end of each 30-minute “session”). It also helps to take away a lot of the bitter taste often associated with the vegetable. The texture of these rolls was perfect as a result!
These slices can be cooked by any method (baking, pan-frying, etc), but I wanted the aesthetic look of grill marks – cue grill pan, which once again proved a great buy for the cost. The width of this pan was perfect for the amount of eggplant I had, and reduced the number of batches substantially. I had a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in my fridge, and I figured these would be great for the filling. For the sauce, I completely made that up – I had a big can of plum tomatoes and a small can of diced. Add some wine and shallots and voila! Even though these rollatini used (mostly) pantry staples with basic prep, the result was fabulous – click HERE to learn more about this vegetarian success!
The pairing for this piece was an interesting consideration: I’ll put it in the words of my friends Tim Wilfong: “a dish that was hearty, but not heavy; had a lightness that was unexpected.” That led me to seek out pieces that were full, yet not overly “heavy” in content. Liszt was my immediate conclusion, given his ability to achieve this dichotomy of character. While his music can be rich and lush, it can also be light and delicate. This led me to his piano works, and his Consolations, Six Pensées poétiques, were the perfect match. Light, yet filled with rich nuances and melodies, these piano works made for the perfect pair. I’ve included here a recording of the famous Vladimir Horowitz performing Consolation No.3. His interpretations of the other six Consolations are also available on YouTube – enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zS5LRRsNYZk&feature=related

Beating the Summer Heat

Several weeks ago, I went camping in New Hampshire with two great guy friends. While I was willing to rough it out with the no shower/bed situation, there are certain things I can’t sacrifice; cooking is (obviously) one of them. This led me to buy a Coleman propane grill – fast forward to being back in Boston. It was miserably hot on the night I was supposed to have friends for dinner, and the oven was the last thing I wanted to have on. This little grill came to my rescue, and gave me the perfect opportunity to create Grilled Chicken with Dijon-Thyme Marinade, with which I paired a colorful Panzanella Salad.
The marinade was sort of a creation I made up. I have researched countless recipes in the past, so I had a pretty good idea about proportions and such. I love the look of whole grain mustard, so I highly recommend using it if you can. While dried thyme can be used, the depth of flavor fresh provides make it worth the purchase. The marinade bag-in-bowl trick is one I’ve used for other recipes (like this flank steak). It’s great given it fully coats the meat  with the marinade, and makes for extremely simple cleanup. Click HERE to see why this chicken has become a staple in my cooking repertoire.  
This Panzanella Salad was a random experiment. Having already made countless salads this summer, I wanted to try something different. Needing my “starch” component for this menu, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. What I love about this recipe is the colorful assembly of fresh vegetables – bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and more! There’s no limit to what vegetables can be used, making it perfect for any season.
The fresh, bright taste of this salad is phenomenal! While traditional Panzanella uses stale bread that has been soaked in water, I prefer the crisp freshness this recipe provides. By toasting the bread, it doesn’t become too soggy or fall apart. That being said, I should warn that this salad may not be for everyone – while I loved the novelty of it, there were those who weren’t quite as keen on the bread + salad component. Nonetheless, I recommend giving this a try – you might be surprised at how addicting this salad can be. Click HERE to learn how to make this cool, summery dish.  
For pairing these dishes, I decided to choose a recording that my friend Luke Reed (who was visiting) actually showed to us later that evening: ‘Ciaccona di Paradiso e dell’Inferno‘ (composer anonymous). All of the performers are wonderul, yet my main draw to this was the STUNNING countertenor Philippe Jaroussky. His voice is beyond words, with a crystal clarity that can melt your heart. Yet the video itself also contains a bit of comic flair, which in my eyes was perfect considering this dinner was an evening of laughter and silly YouTube videos. The recording is from a concert series with the early music ensemble L’Arpeggiata, led by Christina Theorbo. Their are some fascinating instruments, including the theorbo (played by Pluhar) and a wooden cornetto. I’ve included another recording from the concert, ‘Ciaccona‘ by Maurizio Cazzati, to showcase more of the musicians with the group. Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9A-EbjwPhQ&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r4GM_VGVZ8&feature=related


Redefining the Limits of Brilliance

This dish was my first time cooking with flank steak – given it is a much leaner steak than your standard T-bone, I was extremely nervous about how to make the most out of this cut. I had two options – simply cooked then covered it with a sauce, or a marinade. I went with the latter, and thank God I did! If you remember from my previous post, I’m not a big meat eater, but this steak was amazing! Not only that, it fit beautifully into my “get-rid-of-all-that-leftover-OJ” efforts (like this orange cake had from a previous post). If you like steak, but don’t want to shell out big bucks for it, I highly recommend giving this Broiled Flank Steak with Citrus-Honey Mustard Marinade a shot!
Flank steak comes from the abdominal section of a cow, making it much leaner and tougher than your more expensive cuts (i.e short loin, chuck, etc). For quite some time, it was seen as a “cheap, unreliable cut.” Yet that opinion has drastically changed given flank steak is easy too cook, arguably healthier than your fattier cuts, and extremely versatile in cooking method and flavor options. Cutting the steak across the grain is key to help break down the fibrous muscle of the meat, giving you the most tender result. Marinades really bring out the potential of this cut, and the longer it sits the greater the taste. I learned the above method of placing a ziploc bag in a bowl from SimplyRecipes – it ensures even coating with little to no mess.
This marinade…wow was it good! It was on a complete whim, actually – I was cleaning out some old magazines and saw a SouthernLiving grilling edition. There were two pages devoted to marinades, and seeing as how I have so much OJ to spare this one was perfect! The coarse-grained mustard is essential – you can use Dijon, but it won’t have the same intensity. This marinade would probably be great with chicken or fish as well (something I am definitely planning on trying); I didn’t change a thing with the recipe.
Given the lack of grill, the broiler was the way to go (as you can remember from my previous post). If you don’t have a broiler pan, I wouldn’t recommend using your cookie sheets; they will warp/darken considerably. A broiler pan ss a worthwhile investment if you like grilled food and have apartment limitations. Cast iron works great too, of course 🙂 The key to serving flank steak is cutting it into thin slices – it capitalizes on the meats tenderness, and makes for a beautiful presentation. This has definitely become my new go-to cut of steak for a large crowd – it’s fast, tastes great, and has less than 10 ingredients! We had pasta and steamed vegetables as sides for the steak. Click HERE to learn how to make this dish a staple in your own cooking repertoire.
In keeping with my OJ theme, I also made a Orange & Fennel Salad with Citrus-Shallot Vinaigrette. The reduced orange juice gives the vinaigrette a potent richness, needing only a touch of honey to even out the taste. It’s such a simple recipe, yet makes a fantastic salad – click HERE to find out how to make it.
For the pairing of this dish, I wanted to piece that would complement the depth of flavor these two dishes possess: colorful, yet potent. It drew my to Strauss’s renowned tone poem Don Juan, Op. 20. The work launched a 25-year-old Strauss to international success. Regarded as Strauss’s “coming-of-age” masterpiece, Don Juan displays an orchestral valor that far transcends the conservative writing of his youth. This shift of style was a direct result of Strauss’s aquaintance with fellow composer Alexander von Ritter.* Ritter’s influence led to Strauss’s pursuit of the “tone poem,” or an orchestral work that evokes a story, landscape, or other non-musical art form, and is one continuous movement.** For a work that is not even 20 minutes in length, this tone poem is replete with emotional depth and poetic grandeur, thus my pairing. I’ve included here a recording with Bernard Haitink and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra – it is in two parts, and I strongly recommend listening to the entire thing. Enjoy!

Sources Cited:
* Rodda, Dr. Richard E. “Don Juan,” The Kennedy Center website 
** “Tone Poem,” Wikipedia.com