I'm a fan of old cookbooks that are usually found in garage sales throughout Ontario, usually in dusty old "$1" boxes. You know these books. They were usually published by church groups, or community business associations, and had titles like "Getting the Most Out of Ground Beef", or "Dairy Mothers of Paisley Journal Best Recipes".
One of the defining trends in these books (really, they are usually barely more than leaflets) are recipes that can stretch your dollar on the kitchen. And one way that happens is by taking a cut of meat, and stuffing it with cheaper ingredients to make a meal that will feed more for less. I love stuffing a cut of meat with other aromatic ingredients, as it can completely change your expectations of what that cut is intended to be.
A great example of this is flank steak. Flank can be stuffed, rolled, or sliced for a variety of recipes that change how you look at the otherwise tasty, but one dimensional, steak.
In the following recipe (adapted from my book “Cooking Meat”, I have used flavours of the Mediterranean to stuff a flank. This flavour combo is a cherished one of mine (I use feta and olives a lot), and the flank takes well to the briny-ness of the stuffing. This dish goes well with a light pasta salad.
1 (about 2½ pounds) whole flank steak, trimmed of any silverskin
2 Tbsp olive oil + more for rubbing the steaks
1 cup minced onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
1 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
½ cup thinly sliced green onions
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper
- Cut the flank into 6 thin, evenly sized steaks. To do this, place the steak on a work surface with the long side parallel to you. Cut the flank in half through the muscle grains. Then, cut each half into thirds, along the muscle grain.
- Cut a pocket into each flank steak. To do this, use a thin boning knife. Holding the parallel to your work surface and starting at the thickest end of the steak, plunge the knife blade into the meat, being careful not to cut all the way through. Wiggle the knife a little to create a pocket. Think of the steak like a pillowcase—you’re creating the opening in which to put the pillow. In this case, the pillow (stuffing) is delicious. Once you have cut the pocket in each steak, remove the knife, set the meat on a plate, and refrigerate, uncovered, while you make the stuffing.
- To make the stuffing, heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sweat until slightly caramelized. Add the olives and sundried tomatoes and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the bread crumbs, parsley, and green onions and cook, stirring frequently, until the bread crumbs are slightly toasted. Remove from the heat and stir in the feta cheese. Mix thoroughly to combine and set aside to cool.
- Arrange the steaks on a cutting board. Using a tablespoon, stuff the olive mixture into the pocket of each steak. Seal the end of each steak with a couple of toothpicks. Rub each steak with some oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and as long as overnight.
- To cook the flank, you can either grill or pan-fry it. Either preheat your barbecue to hot on one side and warm on the other or preheat the oven to 400°F.
- To grill the steaks, place them on the hot side of the barbecue and sear, until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the steaks to the warm side of the grill. The steaks are done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 140°F. To pan-fry the steaks, heat two ovenproof frying pans over medium-high heat. When hot, add the steaks and brown on one side. Turn the steaks over and place the pans in the oven until the steaks are cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove the steaks from the heat, discard the toothpicks, and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
- To serve, slice the steaks into ½-inch rounds, and serve either on a platter or on individual plates.