Ever had a recipe make it into your "almost but not quite" file?
This happened to me a few weeks ago. I found a Melissa Clark recipe that sounded great on paper, but didn't quite happen in the pan. Kind of like a job applicant with a great resume but no personality.
Take the sauce--that was great on paper and in execution. Sweet fennel, onions, and briny Calamata olives simmered in red wine and freshly squeezed orange juice, with some fragrant chopped sage tossed in at the last minute. Oh my word, is that good stuff.
But the overall dish?
Alas, it saddened me in the end. The problem was the meat. Melissa used a cut of London broil, which is notoriously tough unless it is marinated for hours in something highly acidic. Since the recipe did not call for a long marinade, no such marinade occurred.
And that's why I was disappointed on the first run. The sauce was lovely, but the meat was tough and tasteless and dense. I mean airline seat cushion dense.
I kept thinking about the sauce in the days that followed. It really is something. And it deserves a better cut of meat.
That's why I had a do-over this week. I picked up a cut of flank steak, which is economical but tender, and got to work.
And found satisfaction, at last.
Flank Steak with Red Wine, Fennel, and Olives
Adapted from this Melissa Clark recipe in Food & Wine
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
One 3/4-pound piece of flank steak
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 small fennel bulb halved, cored and very thinly sliced crosswise
2 tablespoons pitted Calamata olives, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup red wine (I used a 2004 Heras Cordon Rioja)
1/2 cup water
The juice from one orange
1 teaspoon finely chopped sage, plus sage leaves for garnish
In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Season the meat with salt and pepper, add to the skillet and brown over moderate heat on both sides, about 4 minutes; transfer to a plate and cover tightly with foil.
Add the onion, fennel, olives and garlic to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 8 minutes. Add the wine, water, orange juice and chopped sage and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes.
Nestle the flank steak into the skillet. Cover and cook the meat over moderately low heat until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 145° for medium rare, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and cover loosely with foil; let stand for 3 minutes.
Divide the flank steak into two portions and serve covered with the onion and fennel mixture and the pan juices. Garnish with the sage leaves and serve immediately.