Thursday, July 28, 2011

A couple dinners of hanger steak

Hanger Steak is not an obvious cut of beef to fall in love with. As far as steak is concerned, most people may opt for the more tender and juicier pieces like sirloin, ribeye or tenderloin, but I personally enjoyed the strong meaty flavors and a touch of chewy texture with a well cooked hanger steak. To me it feels more masculine to have a hanger steak than a cute little filet mignon - just a random thought.

According to Wikipedia, hanger steak (also known as onglet in french) is derived from the diaphragm of a steer (shown on the above picture courtesy of Wikipedia), and it's often called "Butcher's Steak" because butchers would often keep it for themselves rather than offer it for sale. It's said to "hang" from the diaphragm hence the name. I was doing some research online about it recently out of curiosity, and surprised that I can't find a "proper" Chinese name for it. Many restaurants called this "牛胸外膜" (literally means diaphragm outside of ribs) which to me sounds more like an anatomical term than sexy food. Apparently it's picking up in popularity among teppenyaki restaurants recently but I don't think the name do the steak much justice in boosting its sales.

Well there are two important keys in cooking hanger steak right -  one is to make sure all the silver membrane lined next to the meat is completely removed. That's unbreakable and often the reason why many people found the meat too chewy. It's not a hard task to do yourself at home but most often your butcher will do that for you, especially when they are asked nicely. Two is to make sure the steak is served well-seared on the outside, and medium-rare inside. Yes you still want a somewhat charred surface to bring out the best of flavors but once it's overcooked, it tastes like beef jerky. For me, I can even live with part of the meat still raw when served. So it's best marinated then broiled in the oven, cooked on a barbecue, or simply seared in a pan. Sous vide works as well if you have the equipment and prefer that be a bit delicate.

There are many ways to serve hanger steak - do it with pomme frites just like how a typical Parisian bistro often do, put it in salad with arugula or spinach and a light vinaigrette, or even make a sub sandwich as a quick lunch option. Better yet, how about a good home-made fajitas served on a sizzling plate with the usual condiments and warm tortilla?

The one hanger steak dish I particularly enjoyed recently is at this new casual Italian restaurant in Central. Marinated, seared and served with a dollop of caramelized onion aioli, the meat's amazingly tender yet flavorful, just what you would expect from a hanger steak. Not melt in your mouth type tender but of the right texture, and the rustic aioli with a hint of sweetness is the perfect complement to the meat. We tried a number of impressive pasta dishes that evening - and by the way, all of them are homemade and prepared with a fusion sort of touch using local ingredients with authentic Italian cooking, but the hanger steak was still my favorite part of the meal. Hats off to Chef Vinny who knew his meat well and did a marvelous job with many of his one-of-a-kind dishes served at this chic restaurant.

Last weekend a couple friends came by for dinner and wine and I did a similar dish for them. This time I sweat some shallots, pour a cup or two bourbon and add a bit of soy sauce in a saucepan, heat that up a little bit to melt the sugar I put in. Then I used the mixture as marinate for the steak for an hour or so in the refrigerator. The marinate was then reduced in heat to syrupy texture and became the sauce for the steak.

The steak was pan-seared in a red-hot cast-iron pan for 3 minutes on each side then I wrapped it up in aluminum foil and left that in a pre-heated oven (110C) for 10 minutes to make sure inside's warm as well. I sliced the steak real thin and on the sides I made a caramelized onions, and use slow-roasted tomatoes I did overnight to go with it. Quick and easy, and went well with a couple vintage Bordeaux we opened. Of course not as good as the one we had at the restaurant, but then it's more chilled and relaxed dining at home (and not to mention, no corkage!)


Gregoire Michaud said...

Love it! Hanger steaks are actually very good I think! Charred on the outside and nicely red inside - I love it too!
Did you notice the wikipedia drawing doesn't have the cheeks mentioned which also happen to be one of my favorite part! :)

gary s said...

Thanks! Yeah, cheeks are good too - though it's hard to find in local markets or grocers.