Managing Mystery Meat

     Pardon the rather un-appetizing title for this month's entry, but let's face it:  buying meat can be scary outside the "first world".  The animals are no longer fattened on corn in a feedlot somewhere.  They've lived a life of eating grass and whatever they could forage before being slaughtered that morning in an open air market, the cuts laid out on an unrefrigerated counter or hung from a hook just waiting for us to come along and decide what to get for the freezer.  The result is a bleeding lump of beef that looks very different from the cellophane wrapped and well-marbled cuts back home.

    Third world beef is lean.  Very lean. (As is pork and chicken)  But it also has a richer flavor.  Have you seen those fancy steak houses advertising their "grass-fed" steaks?  They avoid the toughness by finishing each cow's life with a few weeks of straight corn to fatten them up.  Not so down here.  Try to put a cut of third-world beef on the grill and you'd better start sharpening your steak knives because the ultra-lean meat will get as tough as rocks in the equatorial sun.  The obvious answer for a lot of cruisers is to pull out the pressure cooker and stew their meat.  Nothing can stay tough after enough time in a pressure cooker, but there are other options.

     We love a nice grilled steak from time to time, and here's how we manage to do it with third world beef.  Start out with a flank steak.  This is usually a cheap cut of meat at your butcher shop because, (like our mystery meat down here) it tends to be very lean and tough.  But it also has a fabulously rich, beefy flavor compared to that mushy filet mignon that you pay three times as much for.  Then you have to marinate it and salt it for a while before grilling it.  Being a garlic lover, I like to do this with the garlic rub below.  The last secret is to cut the steak across the grain of the meat into thin strips before serving.  Once again, flank steaks are perfect for slicing this way, and it really avoids any toughness in the final product.

Grilled Flank Steak  

Garlic/Shallot/Rosemary Wet Marinade

            6 T olive oil

            6 garlic cloves, minced

            1 med. Shallot, minced

            2 T minced fresh rosemary

blend ingredients in blender to form a smooth paste.  Poke 1 (2 lb.) flank steak with fork, sprinkle with 1-2 tsp salt, rub both sides with wet marinade paste, roll up and refrigerate 1-24 hrs.  Grill, slice thin.