A hammer for crabs is handy for bashing beef

August 02, 1998|By Rob Kasper

I FOUND A new use for my crab hammer - steak bashing. Steak bashing refers to the practice of clobbering meat with a heavy object to make the meat tender.

Usually the advocates of steak bashing suggest performing the task with a meat cleaver. But they don't live here. Those of us who live west of the Bay Bridge typically have a drawer full of wooden mallets that we use every summer to pulverize the shells of steamed crabs. The hammers can be put to other uses.

Folks who live east of the Bay Bridge don't feel the need to use hammers to liberate crab meat from crab shells. Instead they use crab knives.

Being a denizen of Baltimore, I had crab hammers in my house the other day when I saw that a recipe for Nicaraguan-style steak in "The Barbecue Bible" (Workman, 1998) called for pounding the meat. In researching this book, author Steven Raichlen traveled around the world looking for good barbecue. In Nicaragua he tasted grilled steak that had been sliced into thin strips and pounded silly.

When I tried the recipe, I discovered that slicing the meat was tricky. The recipe called for tenderloin, but I used round steak, a lesser and thicker cut of meat. It took me a few tries, but eventually I got the hang of slicing the meat into strips. The strips were supposed to be about half an inch thick. But the strips I cut ended up ranging in thickness anywhere from a quarter-inch to 1/2 inches.

The next part of the steak preparation, clobbering the meat, was fun. I didn't have a cleaver, and the rolling pin seemed unwieldy. As I opened kitchen drawers looking for a tool, the crab hammer beckoned. I grabbed it, and I clobbered the meat. I laughed. Steak bashing was a hoot.

I am not sure what all the hammering did for the meat, but it relieved a lot of tension in me. After a session of serious walloping, I put the meat in a marinade and, later, grilled it quickly over a hot charcoal fire.

The dish was flavorful and - you can't say this about many recipes - preparing it was therapeutic

Smashed Steak

Serves 4

1 piece (1 1/2 pounds) beef (preferably tenderloin center cut)

2 cups Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, stemmed

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red-wine vinegar

3 tablespoons water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Place beef lengthwise on cutting board. Holding the knife parallel to the cutting board, cut the meat into 4 flat, horizontal strips. Place each strip between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound with side of a cleaver, a rolling pin or a crab hammer to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Arrange the strips in a nonreactive baking dish.

Combine the parsley and garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the oil, vinegar, water, salt and pepper and process to make thick sauce. Correct the seasoning, adding salt, pepper or vinegar as necessary; the mixture should be highly seasoned. Place half the mixture in a bowl or crock for serving. Pour the remainder over the meat. Cover and let marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning several times.

Prepare a hot fire in barbecue grill.

When fire is ready, drain the beef and place it on hot grate. Grill, turning with tongs, until cooked to taste, about 2 minutes per side for medium rare.

Serve with remaining sauce.

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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