Close your eyes and think of the perfect backyard cook out. Ice cold beer, fresh summer veggies, rich cuts of meat, hot and charred, the smell of hardwood charcoal smoldering and the laughter of your best friends as you hang watching those steaks or chicken thighs cook on the grill.
While standing around watching things cook is usually as exciting as watching paint dry, around the grill it’s the perfect excuse for a little Zac Brown Band and cracking open another beer. While grilling is all about standing around, taking it slow and casting off your worries, there’s one thing that should never be a part of a good cookout: planning. It’s all about spontaneous summer afternoons with no more planning than a swing through the market and asking friends to grab an extra bag of ice.
Last year, flipping through a cooking magazine I saw a recipe for the perfect burger. It involved starting 4 hours ahead of time and letting it rest or air dry in the fridge or some such nonsense. I’m sure it was amazing. This magazine’s recipes always are. But no level of perfect will ever find me working in the kitchen 4 hours before my friends arrive.
Not willing to sacrifice perfection? Then cook this steak: a simple skirt steak in a simple marinade. Make it a week ahead of time and toss it together 8 hours before you plan to grill. That’s it. When it’s time to eat just pull it from the marinade, sear it over a hot fire, cook to medium and you are ready for delicious perfection.
While it marinades practice being lazy, cracking open beers and wearing flip flops. Now you’re ready for a great day of grilling.
Marinated Skirt Steak
Serves 4. To feed more people, buy a bigger steak, or a second steak. Cook this steak to medium or medium-rare. It’s a bit chewy at rare. (And you weren’t even thinking about well, right?)
1 red onion, thinly sliced
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 cups dry red wine
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 bay leaves
3 tbs fresh thyme, separated
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1-1 1/2 pound skirt steak
2 tbs cup brandy
2 tbs chilled butter
Make the marinade: combine red onion, garlic, Worcestershire, red wine, orange juice, vinegar, bay leaves, 2 tbs thyme and the pepper, in a bowl.
Pour over steak in a freezer bag and marinate in the fridge for 4-8 hours.
Bring the steak to room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove steak from marinade and pat dry.
Grill: prepare a medium-high fire. Sear over direct heat for 3 minutes per side, and finish the steak off to the side to medium or medium-rare.
Stove top: Over med-high heat, warm 1 tbs vegetable oil in a heavy skillet until almost smoking. Sear both sides of steak, about 3 minutes per side.
Reduce heat to medium and cook steak to medium or medium-rare.
Cover steak with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before carving across the grain.
Meanwhile, strain marinade into a skillet, add brandy and bring to a boil. If you cooked the steak on the stove top, reduce the sauce in the same pan, scraping up any brown bits. Reduce liquid to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and whisk in cold butter.
Season to taste and serve over sliced steak.
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