To me, one of the main heralds of spring is the smell of the grills fired up around the neighborhood. There’s something about that smell that sets my mouth watering. It may also explain why I’ve had an incurable craving for cheeseburgers. On Sunday nights at our house, we tend to try to start the week off right with a nice meal and a bottle of wine. Don’t get me wrong, cheeseburgers certainly fit the bill for the Sunday Night Special, but the choice in wine dictated something with a little more oomph, a little more complexity, but certainly something with beef.
Spring also means cleaning up the yard and prepping our garden for the plethora of veggies to come, so after a day of buzzing around outside, I was looking for something quick that would still accomplish the “special” aspect of our Sunday dinner. Enter a quick marinade and flat-iron steak. Flat-iron steak is a budget-conscious cut of beef from the shoulder that is uniform in thickness and rectangular shaped like an old-fashioned iron, hence the name. Flank steak would be a good substitute in both cut and price if you are unable to find flat-iron. To gussy it up a bit, I put together a quick marinade of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and garlic. The acid in the balsamic vinegar will start to break down the proteins during the marinade process and once on the grill, the heat will caramelize the sugars in the balsamic and garlic to create a nice crust on the steak, sealing in the juices. Hungry yet?
We needed something equally special to go with our steak. Enter spring asparagus. Thin and tender, these emerald stalks begged for a little smokiness from the grill and a swim in decadent brown butter. Even asparagus haters will have to think twice once tempted with this luxurious treatment. Lightly steamed until tender and flash grilled, this quick side dish might just become a part of your regular rotation. And the brown butter? Now we’re talking, friends.
Making brown butter is as easy as turning on the stove. As the butter melts, the milk solids separate and begin to caramelize over the gentle heat. Don’t be tempted to try to rush it, as you’ll end up with burned butter – definitely not the same thing. But, if you leave this alone for a few minutes over medium heat and give it a swirl every now and then, your patience will be rewarded with toasty liquid gold. Just be sure to be a bit more mindful as the milk solids do start to caramelize, because once they start, they will go fast and you’ll be right back to the burned butter conundrum. You can make this ahead too and once it has reached its desired color, take the butter off of the heat and set aside. When you are ready to serve the asparagus, just warm the butter up again over low heat.
Now that you are certain to have drooled all over your keyboard, let’s get to the business of putting this together, shall we? A quick recap: balsamic marinated flat-iron steak with a sweet-tangy balsamic reduction and tender grilled asparagus with brown butter. Throw in that bottle of red wine we talked about earlier, and you have a perfect way to celebrate the close of a weekend and to start the week. You are also guaranteed not to have any leftovers.
balsamic flat-iron steak & asparagus with brown butter
recipe: adapted generously from the Seattle Times
1 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar, divided
1 1/2 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 flat-iron steak, about 1 1/4 lbs.
10 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 lb. thin asparagus
Combine 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar, garlic, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a large glass dish. Add flat-iron steak and marinate in refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning steaks after 15 minutes.
As steak is marinating, place remaining balsamic vinegar in a medium saucepan over high heat. Let balsamic reduce for 15 minutes or until thick and bubbly. Set aside. Place butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Swirl occasionally until butter has melted and has turned a deep caramel color, about 15 minutes. Steam asparagus for 5-7 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat and immediately plunge into an ice water bath to stop cooking. Drain asparagus and place in a large dish. Toss asparagus with olive oil, remaining salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat grill to medium high heat. Grill flat-iron steak about 6 minutes per side for medium-rare, keeping an eye on the steak for any flare ups. Remove from grill and let rest for 10 minutes. As steak is resting, grill asparagus for about 3-4 minutes, rotating to ensure even grill marks on each side. Return balsamic reduction and brown butter to low heat. Slice flat-iron steak against the grain, drizzle with about 1 Tbsp. balsamic reduction. Serve immediately with asparagus drizzled with about 1 Tbsp. browned butter.
Enjoy your own version of a special Sunday supper!
All content and photographs © jb’s pour house