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~ Mel's E-Z, Crazy-Good, London Broil, Steak Salad~

IMG_6340Last Tuesday I got a request from a new reader which totally got my attention and made my heart go pitter-pat.  It took me less than a second to decide it would be my very first post after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  One thing this blog is teaching me is:  Every recipe, no matter how simple, if it is good eats, and, it is made at home with love, has a place in this food world!  

Roger says and asks:  I am a 41-year-old, recently-widowed, elementary school teacher raising 9-year-old twin boys.  We all eat lunch together in the school cafeteria (which is convenient), but, because I have almost no cooking skills, it is all I can do to resist taking the easy way out at dinnertime too:  the drive through.  Can you recommend a quick-to-prepare, satisfying, sort-of kid-friendly meal that gets some fresh vegetables on the table (to replace the fries), using a budget-friendly piece of beef (to relace the burger)?

6a0120a8551282970b0168e94ef875970c-800wiI stumbled onto your blog last week. I was looking for an easy way to cook chicken breasts and your recipe for ~ My E-Z "Real" Roasted Chicken Breasts & Gravy ~ (which can be found in Categories, 3, 19 or 20) came up.  I've made them twice. I admit to serving them with a jar of store-bought gravy (not your homemade gravy), microwaved baked potatoes and a box of frozen vegetables, and, we three REALLY love this meal!  Thank-you!

Kitchen Encounters:  Roger, let me start by saying:  I am totally impressed with your honesty and find it admirable that, in the best interest of your boys, you are doing your best to avoid that drive through window.  Back in the days when I was cooking for three little boys, even me, an accomplished cook, kept a few super-easy-to-prepare, kid-friendly recipes in my recipe box!

IMG_6200A bit about London broil:  While this sounds fancy and expensive it is not.  London broil was not invented in England and it is not a specific cut of beef.  It refers to the method of preparing it, which could not be easier.  London broil once referred to flank steak, but nowadays it almost always means, and is sold as, a 2"-thick piece of top round.   IMG_6213At $6.00 per pound (very budget-friendly), this 2-pound piece will easily feed the three of you with enough of leftovers for a sandwich meal the next day.  Because it's so lean, there is almost no waste, but, trim it of any fat you do find. Lean also = a tough cut of meat, so, it's time to make a quick marinade:

What is a marinade and what does it do?

IMG_6226A bit about marinating:  This is a very simple process whereby meat, fish and/or vegetables are soaked in a flavorful, acidic liquid for several hours to absorb flavor, and in the case of tough cuts of beef, tenderize them.  Because all marinades contain an acid (lemon juice, vinegar or wine), which reacts with aluminum, always marinate in a glass or stainless steel container, or, a simple food storage bag.  In the case of a 2"-thick piece of top round, a minimum of two hours (1 hour per 1") or overnight in the refrigerator.  FYI:  When fruits are similarly soaked, the word used is "macerate".

6a0120a8551282970b01774325ec6d970d-320wiFor the marinade/salad dressing:

1  cup white balsamic vinegar

1/2  cup vegetable oil

1/4  cup sugar

2  tablespoons Dijon mustard, or:

IMG_6217If an on-hand pantry ingredient will make things easier:

1  16-ounce bottle of store-bought Italian dressing...

... will work just fine too!

~ Step 1.  In a 2-cup measuring container with a tight-fitting lid, place all ingredients as listed. Vigorously shake until thoroughly combined.  Or, skip making the white balsamic marinade/dressing entirely and purchase a bottle of your children's favorite Italian dressing!

IMG_6223~ Step 2.  Place the meat in a 1-gallon food storage bag and add 3/4 cup of marinade.  Place meat in refrigerator for 2 hours, or overnight (until after school the next day).  Set remaining salad dressing aside, while preparing the salad, tomorrow after school, as directed below:

While the meat is marinating, it's time to prep the salad:

IMG_6229You've got a lot of leeway here. Here's my favorite basic must-have combination (which feeds 4):

2  heads romaine hearts, sliced into 1/4" ribbons

1  pound Compari tomatoes, cut into wedges

1  cucumber, peeled and diced

1/2 of a sweet onion, diced

IMG_6238~ Step 1.  Prep all ingredients as directed, placing them in a large bowl as you work.  BTW:  Slicing a head of romaine into "little ribbons" is culinarily referred to as "chiffonade".

Note:  Feel free to add any other of your family's favorite in-season ingredients.  Things like chopped celery, diced bell peppers and shredded carrots are great options!

IMG_6252In our house,  a couple of on-hand pantry ingredients & some cheese round out the perfect steak salad:

1  2-ounce can sliced black olives, well-drained

1 cup store-bought croutons

4  ounces crumbled blue cheese

Note:  Add your family's favorites. Things like roasted red peppers and/or marinated artichoke hearts and cheddar cheese taste great!

IMG_6258~ Step 2.  Add any canned or marinated pantry ingredients to the salad at this time. I'm adding black olives today. Cover and refrigerate the salad until serving time.

Note:  Do not be inclined to add any cheese or croutons until just before you toss and serve the salad, as they will just become mushy.  Do not be inclined to prep your salad a day in advance.  All of the fresh ingredients will lose their crisp and fresh integrity if left in the refrigerator for more than 2 hours. 

Broiling the London broil couldn't be easier!

IMG_6273~ Step 1.  Remove the meat from the marinade, discarding the marinade remaining in the bag. Place the meat on an 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pan...  




... Place the pan on an oven rack positioned about 6" underneath preheated broiler to broil:  for 9 minutes on the first side, until very lightly browned.

IMG_6297 IMG_6303~ Step 2.  Remove meat from oven, flip it over and return it to the broiler. Continue to broil, until golden brown on the second side, about 12 minutes, or, until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat reaches 130 degrees.

~ Step 3.  Remove meat from oven, cover with aluminum foil and set aside to rest prior to slicing, about 10-15 minutes, to allow the juices to redistribute themselves.

IMG_6314~ Step 4.  Remove the salad from the refrigerator.  Add any optional cheese and the croutons.  Add 1/2-3/4 cup of dressing, and, using two forks or two spoons toss until the ingredients are lightly and evenly coated in dressing.

~ Step 5.  Holding your chef's knife at a 30 degree angle, slice the meat, across the grain, into thin, even-sized slices.  Traditionally, the meat is sliced as thinly as possible and no more than 1/4"-thick!

Meet perfectly cooked, medium-rare London broil

IMG_6378Mel's E-Z, Crazy-Good, London Broil, Steak Salad:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings and 1 3/4 cups marinade/salad dressing.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 2-cup measuring container w/tight-fitting lid; 1-gallon food storage bag; 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pan w/corrugated bottom;  instant-read meat thermometer (optional)

IMG_6340Cook's Note:  To serve, portion the chilled, dressed and tossed salad onto 4-6 serving dishes.  Arrange a few slices of warm meat on each plate and garnish with some freshly ground peppercorn blend.  Serve remaining dressing at tableside!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary & Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


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