After being in a cooking rut for the past couple of months, I pulled out my vintage cookbooks and browsed through them for some inspiration. In my “250 Ways to Prepare Meat” cookbook from the Culinary Arts Institute (1954), I found a recipe for stuffed flank steak. The only time I remember having stuffed steak was when I bought one from Trader Joe’s that had been stuffed with blue cheese (and I was not very impressed). I decided to give it a shot. And, according to the cookbook, flank steak is a budget cut which made it even more appealing since the price of food is starting to go up.
Budget cuts are the part of the cow that are less tender and the cuts need special handling to make sure they doesn’t turn into shoe leather. Additionally, many grocery stores such as Ralphs/Kroger and Walmart, sell “select” grade to keep prices down. Select is the lowest grade of meat that retailers will sell/advertise so we can get a double whammy of reduced tenderness if we buy budget cuts from these grocers.
The flank steak comes from the abdominal muscles of the cow. These are pretty powerful muscles (gives new meaning to “six pack abs”) that have very little marbling (the fancy term for fat within the muscle). Because they are so powerful, they can be pretty tough and are usually sliced across the grain after cooking. At the grocery store, you will often see it labeled as “London Broil” steak because it is most often used for that purpose. The flank steak benefits from marinating and quick cooking to a medium-rare level. I was a bit nervous about my recipe because it indicated braising for an hour and a half. But, since braising is method of cooking tough meats, I thought I’d give it a shot anyway.
- To make the bread cubes: take three or four slices of bread (depending upon the size) and stack them on top of each other. Slice through the bread in vertical rows and then horizontal rows.
- Melt butter in a large saucepan.
- Add onions and celery. Sauté until onions are translucent and celery is soft. It will smell very good and homey while it is cooking.
- In the meantime, mix flour (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup) with salt and pepper to taste on a covered flat surface. I like to use freezer paper but waxed paper or plastic wrap will work, too.
- Unfold the flank steak and dredge with the flour.
- Now, beat the living daylights out of the steak with a meat hammer. This will help break up the tough fibers. Make sure you pound both sides of the steak.
- Add the bread cubes and sage to the onion and celery. Stir to moisten and heat through.
- Spread the stuffing mix onto the steak.
- Carefully roll up the steak like a jelly roll, trying to keep as much stuffing as possible in the roll. If you roll it up too tightly, the stuffing will ooze out the sides and defeat the purpose. Tie the roll together with kitchen twine.
- Heat some oil or bacon fat in an oven proof skillet or dutch oven. Brown the steak on all sides.
- Add about 1/2 cup of water and cover. Cook in a moderate oven (350° F) for about 1 1/2 hours or until tender.
- Remove string and slice across the pinwheel to serve.
Verdict: Although the meat was “well done,” it was quite tender and juicy. The stuffing was an added treat in the middle.
I recommend this recipe to anyone who needs to feed many people on a budget and or need a calorie friendly entree. By my calculations, it will feed eight people for about $1 per person and, according to my recipe software, it comes out to about 225 calories per serving.