Summertime in America: a time when people turn off their televisions and head to the beach, backyard pool, or roof-top lawn chair. It's a time when attention turns to swimsuits and suntans, and families across the nation fire up their grills for the most primal of cooking methods: open flame.
But how many burgers can one person eat? How many times can we turn to hot dogs, potato salad and roasted corn? What does a person do when he can't look at another French fry? Why, fry something else of course:
Beer-battered yucca, grilled rib eye and spring salad greens
First the steak: spend; seriously. There are all kinds of ways you can doctor an inexpensive cut of beef, but sometimes you want the meat to stand (or lay) on its own merit. And if you're going to do that, you're going to have to get as far away from the hoof and the horn as possible (Thanks, Alton). Of course, the fillet is the best, but at $10354839w9.99 per pound it can get a little pricey. NY strip is excellent, too, but bang-for-your-buck wonderful is the rib eye, also known as the Delmonico in some parts. And according to my sources, Australians call it the Scotch fillet.
Preparation is simple:
- Crush a few cloves of garlic and use them to rub each steak
- Season with salt and pepper
- Wrap in foil and set it aside until you're about half-way through frying the yucca (we'll get to that in a moment)
When your grill is ready, cook the steak over high heat, about four minutes on each side (if you want to be extra fancy, rotate the steak 90 degrees--don't flip it!--after two minutes. This will give you those snazzy rhomboids of charred goodness). Because the rib eye has excellent marbling, it's going to end up tender and juicy. However, you'll have to watch out for flare-ups, as all that delicious fat has a tendency to render and drip onto the coals. Keep a spray bottle on hand to help quell some of the fire. And don't be afraid to move your steaks away from the coals for a bit to let things die down.
Once you bring the meat off the grill, wrap it in foil and let it rest for a while. Just leave it alone. This will allow all cell structure to re-absorb all the juices and will give you a tender, tastier steak.
You could easily serve this with a fresh salad of spring greens, or even pan-wilted spinach with garlic and parmesan. Those would, in fact, be absolutely delicious. But we're talking summer here, and what's summer without a little starch? And what's starch without a little potato? Why, it's yucca!
The yucca is a starchy root used often in Latin American, Caribbean and African cuisines. It's starchier than most potatoes, but has a wonderful stratified structure that gives it a flaky texture. Preparation can be time consuming, but it's not difficult.
Beer Battered Yucca
First, you'll need to cook your yucca:
If you're cooking fresh-from-the-market yucca, you're going to invest about 50 minutes. I used frozen yucca I found in the Latin American section in the frozen food isle, and I just cooked it according to the directions on the package-bonus: no additives. At all.
But let's say you went with the root. You're going to cook it much like you would potatoes:
- Peel the yucca
- Cut into section about four inches long
- Place the sections into a large pot and cover with water (about 2 inches over the yucca)
- Bring water to a boil and let cook about 50 minutes, or until fork-tender
- Remove from heat, drain, and shock in ice water to prevent further cooking
- Cut the sections lengthwise into quarters
- Important: There's a cord of woody material that runs through the yucca root. Make sure you remove this from your quartered sections.
- Set all pieces aside and meditate briefly on their future deep-fried goodness
(light your coals-for the steaks, remember?)
Then you'll need a beer batter:
- 1.5 cups flour
- 12 oz. + 2 teaspoons Light beer (for the additional teaspoons, you're going to have to open a second bottle--pity, that)
- 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon additional flavoring agent(s), if desired
- Put the flour in a big bowl
- Open one beer and slowly whisk the fluid into the flour
- Open the second beer, measure out your 2 teaspoons and whisk them in as well
- Add the salt and then add your flavoring agent*
*One of the great things about batters is that you can give them whatever flavor you'd like. For fried yucca, I might recommend a teaspoon of garlic powder coupled with a squirt of lime. Or maybe if you enjoy a little spice, you could go with black pepper or paprika. Cayenne would provide a good bit of heat, and you could even bring in some Asian influence by adding ground ginger. Like I always say, don't be afraid to experiment. If the batter ends up being horrible, you'll just have to crack open another beer and make a second batch. And that's not so bad, is it?
- Heat two inches of oil in a pan to about 370 degrees
- It's best if you set this up as an assembly line. And work in batches. If you put too many yucca pieces into the oil at once, it'll lower your temperature and you won't get a crispy finish.
- I work left-to-right, so my set up consists of my yucca, batter, oil, draining plate. I have yet to buy a cooling rack and half-sheet pan (again, thanks Alton), so go with several paper towels sandwiched between a couple brown paper bags.
To plate, put just a few of the fried yucca together with the steak and some of the field greens. If you'd like, you can make a garlic mayonnaise to dip the yucca in, though I'm sure ketchup would be fine, if you're into that sort of thing.
What to pair it with?
Few wines like to be paired with grilled meat like Australian Shiraz. Traditionally big, jammy wines with nice tannins, an Australian Shiraz will often give you enough structure to stand up to grilled meat but doesn't overpower as can sometimes happen with a European Cabernet. Plus, summertime grilling should be about fun and friends, an ostensibly Australian sensibility. For this dish I went with an exceptionally food-friendly wine, 2 Up Shiraz:
Color--Deep rich, inky red, lightening to a lush ruby at the edges.
Nose--A brash, fruit-forward nose with definite dark stone fruit and berry aromas. Plum, raspberry and blue berry are all found in the wine's complex aroma. There's also a hint of smoke, a breath of spice and a touch of leather.
Palate--A big, succulent, full-bodied wine with excellent fruit characteristics and nice tannins. The mouth feel is excellent and less overpowering than one might expect from such a big wine.
Finish--The finish is slightly warm and tannic with lingering fruits.