With a head full of ideas from the classes taught by Ideas in Food, I realized it was time to turn theory into practice. I thought it would be prudent to try one of the simpler recipes, and the bacon-wraped skirt steak fit the bill, with a straightforward preparation and only four ingredients: steak, bacon, water, and transglutaminase.
But first, a brief digression.
I Am Mistaken for a Drug Dealer
In May I had purchased the smallest available amount of Activa RM transglutaminase – one kilogram – in order to prepare one of the courses for She Who Must Be Obeyed’s birthday dinner.
I learned that transglutaminase has a limited shelf life; after all, it’s an enzyme that acts on proteins at temperatures above freezing. If I wanted to protect my investment, I had to divide the kilo into smaller amounts that I could store in the Deep Storage Facility and retrieve when needed. I labeled ten zip-lock sous vide bags, placed a silica gel desiccant pack (courtesy of She Who Must Be Obeyed’s lab) in each, then proceeded to weigh out 100 gram batches of the Activa. It’s fluffy stuff, so I used a paper plate on top of my scale to make pouring into the bags easier.
I had filled and vacuum-sealed nine out of the ten bags when the doorbell rang. The chimney sweep had arrived and needed access to the basement, which would take him right by the kitchen table where I was working. He saw bags full of white powder and a heaping pile sitting on a scale, gave me a look, and walked downstairs. I felt I had to say something, so I waved the now-empty Activa bag at him, saying “It’s a cooking ingredient.”
“Whatever you say, sir.”
At that point I should have told him not to disturb the meth lab in the basement, but I didn’t know how for his good will extended. I haven’t been arrested, so maybe he’s seen a lot worse.
Back to the Recipe
I cut the steak into two equal lengths, trimmed off the silverskin and most of the fat, and saved the scraps.
I lined a sheet pan with plastic wrap, then laid out bacon slices to span the width of the steaks. I overlapped each slice on the previous one by about a quarter of an inch. I also flipped every other slice over to provide a more uniform distribution of fat and lean and to satisfy my behavioral compulsions.
Activa can be applied directly to meat surfaces like powdered sugar (mmm, sugared meat…), or it can be mixed with four parts of water and brushed on. The liquid application method is more consistent, so I weighed out 100 grams of water and twenty five grams of Activa. Check out the new scale, accurate to a hundredth of a gram:
I seasoned each side of the steak pieces, mixed the Activa and water in a blender, waited a minute or two for the foam to subside, then brushed the slurry on each surface.
I did the same with the exposed side of the bacon, then layered each piece of steak in the center of the bacon, turning the steaks end-to-end so that the thickness would be consistent across the length.
I wrapped the bacon around the steak by lifting each edge of the plastic wrap and draping it over the center.
I folded the plastic edges over each other, pulling tightly to close the gap between the bacon ends. I twisted one end and tied it off, then slowly pushed any trapped air toward the open end before twisting and tying it off.
I punched a series of pinholes along the length of the package, then vacuum sealed it in a sous vide bag. The bag went into a 53 °C water bath for two hours.
While the steak cooked, I started a sauce by browning the reserved steak scraps with some carrots and shallots before adding beef stock and red wine and simmering for an hour. I removed the vegetables, passed the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer, and then reduced it to a thick glaze.
When the steak was done I removed it from the water bath and dried it on paper towels.
I rolled the steak in a hot pan filmed with oil in order to crisp the bacon, then drained it again on paper towels and let the steak rest for fifteen minutes.
I cut the steak on the diagonal so that I wouldn’t have slices cut directly with the grain. I served a pair of slices on each dish and drizzled a line of the glaze across.
You can see that the slices are a perfect medium rare all the way out to the edges. They were tender but had a bit of chew that you’d expect from skirt steak, along with an intense beefy flavor. Add a little crunch and smoke from the bacon, and some sweetness from the glaze, and you have a simple but delicious dish.
I prepared this dish for my sister (the original She Who Will Not Be Ignored) and my niece who were in town for a softball tournament. When we attended one of the games the following day, I was greeted like an old friend by other parents I had never met. My sister had taken photos and showed them to the crowd, raving about the dinner I had cooked. The others had been living on fast food, the only option available in the middle of nowhere (Wrentham, MA) where the tournament was played. There will be another local tournament in September, maybe I’ll surprise them by bringing a few pre-cooked steaks to serve tailgate style.
What else was on the plate? Pan-roasted asparagus with miso butter and slow-poached egg. But that’s my next post.
Skirt steak: Savenor’s
Bacon: North Country Smokehouse
Activa RM: L’Epicerie