Round steak could use a little help from a friend

June 06, 1999|By ROB KASPER

One of the challenges of my life is getting round steak to taste as good as the classier cuts, to taste as good as sirloin. It is tough. Round steak can be chewy.

The books on beef explain round steak's chewy texture. It has more connective tissue as well as firmer muscle fibers than the more tender cuts. As someone whose muscle fibers tend to be getting softer, I usually find it hard to come up with much sympathy for any hunk of meat that is too firm. Yet I regularly find myself in the kitchen in the company of round steak. I regard it as an inexpensive steak that is trying to taste better. I end up trying to help it out.

The other night, for instance, I labored in the kitchen, making an onion sauce that was designed to improve the flavor of round steak. It took me only five minutes to cook the steak and almost half an hour to make the sauce.

I chopped an onion, and cooked it in butter, adding wine and a sprig of oregano -- the first thing this year I have been able to harvest from my community garden plot. I added cream, mustard, vinegar and salt. I removed the oregano and ran the sauce through a food processor.

While I was doing all this, the round steak was simply sitting on a plate, soaking up a little olive oil, waiting.

The recipe called for cooking the round steak in a frying pan, but instead I cooked it over a charcoal fire in my barbecue kettle cooker.

I didn't keep the meat on the fire long, about two or three minutes a side. If you cook round steak much longer, its connective tissue and its muscles get even tougher.

My wife loved the steak slathered with onion sauce. One of my kids thought it was "too chewy." I thought the sauce was great. But the round steak, even when cloaked in the fine sauce, was a long way from tasting like sirloin.

Round Steaks With Onion Cream Gravy

Serves 4

4 eye-round steaks, about 5 ounces each, cut 1/2 inch thick

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium sweet onion (a Vidalia) cut into large dice

1 sprig fresh oregano or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup heavy (or whipping) cream

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

pinch of cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

salt to taste

Pat steaks dry, then coat lightly with oil. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low-medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the oregano and wine, raise the heat to medium and simmer until the wine is nearly evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the cream and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the vinegar, white pepper, cayenne and mustard. Remove the oregano sprig, transfer the mixture to a food processor and process for 30 seconds or so until blended. Pour the sauce into a small saucepan and season with salt and more cayenne if desired. Set aside.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the steaks and cook until seared and crusted, about 2 minutes. Turn the steaks, season with salt, if desired, and cook 2 minutes more for medium rare, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes for medium. Transfer meat to a cutting board and let it rest while reheating the sauce. Top the steaks with sauce.

-- From "Steak Lover's Cookbook," by William Rice (Workman, 1997)

Pub Date: 06/06/99

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