Monday, October 13, 2008

dinner on the cheap(ish): steak

Steak's not exactly a budget-friendly meal, whether you eat in or out. But certain cuts of meat can easily stretch to feed a lot of people when you slice them thinly and add some hearty side dishes. I found organic skirt steak for $13.99 a pound at my local specialty foods store last weekend. I consider skirt steak a middle-of-the-road cut of beef. Flank, cube, and hanger steak are usually cheaper, but rib eye, T-bone, porterhouse, and of course, filet mignon are usually more expensive. When you're cooking for yourself, it's always easy to go cheaper. When you're having friends over, sometimes you want to go a little more expensive. Skirt steak is good for both occasions.

A brief word about meat: Unless you live on a ranch, beef probably shouldn't be an everyday meal. I already preached about the rising cost of food last week, so I won't go there. I'll just leave it at this: factory farmed meat of any kind is bad. Bad for the environment, bad for the animals, bad for you. This doesn't mean I never eat a steak in a restaurant or buy regular ground beef at the supermarket. In some places, sustainably-raised meat is nonexistent. But if you can find it, it's worth the few extra dollars on the occasion you do want some meat.

That said, here is a meat-centric menu that per person is way less than eating a good steak dinner out.

Beef, it's what's for dinner

Grilled skirt steak with Chimichurri sauce
Roasted acorn squash with maple syrup and nutmeg
Chocolate pudding with roasted strawberries

Grilled skirt steak with Chimichurri sauce

This recipe, by Mark Bittman via Food & Wine, feeds a lot of people. One pound of meat is enough for about two people, so you can easily reduce this to feed a smaller or bigger party. The bright grassiness of this parsley and garlic-based condiment livens up a plain grilled steak. I use a food processor when making the Chimichurri because it's faster and gives a more saucy consistency.
(Serves 8 people)

2 cups chopped parsley
2/3 cup. olive oil
6 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
4 lbs. skirt steak

Heat your grill or grill pan. In a food processor combine the parsley, oil, lemon juice, garlic, and red pepper. Process until chunky, then add salt and pepper to taste. Season the steaks with salt and pepper and grill over high heat until the meat is charred outside and rare within, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the steaks across the grain. Serve immediately with the sauce on the side.

Roasted acorn squash with maple syrup and nutmeg
Mmm...I love this dish. This recipe is based on my mom's way of cooking acorn squash, but I added nutmeg for more flavor. When cut in half, acorn squash creates a nice little bowl for a fragrant mix of butter, maple syrup, and nutmeg that you mash into the squash. It's great with the steak, but hearty enough to eat as a vegetarian main course with a side of brown rice.
(Serves 4, or 6 to 8 people if quartered)

2 medium-sized acorn squash
4 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. nutmeg
4 Tbsp. butter
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the squash in half. Rub the cut side with a small amount of olive oil. Sprinkle each cut side with nutmeg. Place the squash in a roasting pan, cut side down and roast for 25 minutes, or until you can easily insert a sharp knife in and out of the squash. Remove from the oven. With tongs, flip over each squash half. Add 1 Tbsp. butter and maple syrup to the center of each half. Sprinkle with salt and serve. Cut into quarters, if desired.


Anonymous said...

What a deal?
Acorn squash at Publix is $.99 lb? That's almost $3 for one of those fat little suckers.

Daniel said...

If you eat the squash as a main course with a side of rice, it's relatively cheap (and healthy) compared to meat.

Call it the "bail-out special."

Lisa said...

Well, the squash were $1.99 a pound at our store, so it's all relative, I guess. Either way, like Dan said, squash is a cheap and healthy meal.

Izzy's Mama said...

Sounds like a perfectly lovely and reasonably-priced meal to me! It all depends how many you served of course, but even for two, far less than a restaurant! I make my acorn squash the exact same way..yum.

Maggie said...

Looks great!

Lisa said...

Izzy: Thanks! It's so funny to me how many people grew up eating this dish.

Thank you, Maggie!


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