In this year’s San Diego CityBeat Food Issue, I wrote about my experience cooking with reigning MasterChef Junior Champion Nathan Odom. Naturally, inasmuch as the article was about Nathan — not me — I wrote about Nathan’s dishes and not mine. But one of those dishes I did not write about is one of my personal favorites.
It began life as something of a BajaMed-style deconstructed carne asada, that classic Northern Mexican dish of beef – usually a tough, flavorful cut such as skirt, flank or flap steak – marinated in a lime-based concoction, sliced thin and grilled over mesquite wood or charcoal. It is often served with guacamole, beans, grilled onions, pickled vegetables and salsas and used as a taco filling. Carne Asada is the star of backyard barbecues and impromptu parties throughout Northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States nearly any weekend of the year..
For my version I wanted to take the dish upscale and I started with the meat itself: good quality, thick New York steaks instead of thinly cut tough (if tasty) cuts of beef. I gave the steaks an initial cooking in the sous vide water bath and then a pan sear to caramelize the outside. Instead of the classic salsa accompaniments I adapted a red wine reduction sauce to the Mexican milieu using some of Baja’s best ingredients: wine from the Valle de Guadalupe and two bee products (honey and bee pollen). I combined the the classic Mexican pickled onions and carrots with the equally classic raw radishes by pickling those radishes. And I pulled the entire dish together with fresh peppery arugula.
I chose to cook my steak sous vide. There are compelling reasons to do so, most particularly the fact that it cooks evenly throughout thus yielding a steak that is all just like “the good part” at the center. A quick sear after it emerges from the sous vide yields pretty much the perfect steak: gorgeous caramelization on the outside and a perfect temp throughout.
But if you don’t have a specialized equipment set up for sous vide you can do it this way. Or you can produce great results by grilling the pieces of steak about three to four minutes per side (for medium rare) over high heat. Either way produces a beautiful dish.
It should not be difficult to see how this recipe began its life as an attempt to deconstruct and elevate carne asada. That’s not to say that the end result is exactly that. But it is definitely tasty
New York Steak | Guajillo-Honey Reduction | Pickled Radishes
For the Steak
- 4 (8-ounce) New York steaks, trimmed and cut into 3 cubes each
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Bee pollen
- Maldon or other finishing salt
For the Borlotti beans
- 1 pound of dried Borlotti (cranberry or other) beans, soaked for 8 hours
- 3 unpeeled cloves of garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
For the Pickled Radishes
- 5 radishes (of your choice)
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 heaping tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 heaping tablespoons kosher salt
For the Guajillo-Honey Reduction Sauce
- 5 guajillo peppers (Californias or New Mexico work fine)
- ½ cup minced shallots
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 cups good quality red wine (Valle de Guadalupe, of course)
- 2-4 teaspoons good quality honey
For the Garnish
- Arugula leaves, trimmed
- Make the Pickled Radishes. Bring a pot of water to boil on the stove. Using a mandolin (or Benriner or just a really sharp knife), slice the radishes very thinly. If possible keep the string at the tip as part of the radish slices. Place the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Place the radish slices in a metal bowl and cover with boiling water for one minute before draining. Add the sliced radishes to the bowl and let stand for at least half an hour. Store in a refrigerator.
- Make the Borlotti Beans. Place the beans, garlic, bay leaf and salt in a large sauce pan and cover with water by at least one inch. Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook until the beans are soft — 1 to 1 ½ hours — adding water by the half-cup full to keep the beans submerged.
- Cook the Steaks in the Sous-Vide. Meanwhile, season each steak cubes liberally with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Place 3 steak cubes in each food grade plastic bag and vacuum seal each bag. Using a sous-vide machine, waterbath or a pot of water and a thermometer, bring the waterbath to 132° Fahrenheit. Cook the steaks for one hour at that temperature.
- Make the Guajillo-Honey Reduction Sauce. De-stem and seed the guajillo chiles. Toast them on a comal or in a dry frying pan for about 10 seconds a side (until they just begin to smoke), using tongs to press the chiles to the pan. Rehydrate the chiles in hot water for about thirty minutes. Combine the shallots, stock and wine in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, add the chiles to a food processor and process with some of the chile soaking liquid – just enough to create a smooth purée – and add the chile purée to the saucepan. Add two teaspoons of the honey and bring the sauce back to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer. Taste the sauce and add the honey as necessary to balance the chile. Reduce the sauce to a desirable consistency, then strain the sauce
- Sear the Steaks. Remove the steaks from the sous-vide and from their bags. Heat a heavy sauté pan over high flame and sear all steaks on both sides until they have nicely caramelized, about 1 minutes per side. Remove the steaks from the pan and allow them to rest.
- Plate the Dish. Arrange three steak cubes per plate and spoon the sauce over them. Arrange beans attractively around the steak. Lean pickled radishes up against each steak. Arrange arugula leaves in between the steak cubes. Sprinkle bee pollen and finishing salt on each piece of steak.