I've always been a fan of skirts. Gosh, it must've been early childhood that I really took notice of the allure and versatility of a nice skirt. It could go anywhere, wasn't expensive and impressed everyone that came in contact with it!
Wait a second, I'm not talking about a 'Bruce/Caitlin Jenner' experience, I'm referring to a delectable cut of meat known as the diaphragm muscle used in carne asada or to most of us, the skirt steak.
My dad introduced it to us as kids when he would throw it on the grill, char the outside and leave the interior a still cool, pulsating red. Since it is a cut with a distinctive grain to it, improper orientation of the slicing resulted in a fatigue of jaw muscles and frustration for an 8 year old boy.
The flavor was great, but, hells bells, I couldn't chew the bloody thing! Making matters worse, when Mom would ask for the meat to be cooked to a more done temperature, we were brow-beaten into a medium rare.
"Men eat their meat rare!" he would bellow. Yeah, CAVE-men, I thought. If you can't chew it, you can't swallow it. If you can't swallow it, either you choke in a futile attempt to follow orders or you spit it into your napkin and nest it in your lap for a dump into the garbage.
I went for the napkin route and found great success until I was discovered and told to eat what I had dumped.
Not fun and a pointless exercise that diminished my enjoyment of grilled meat.
Flash forward 45 years...
"Hey, old man, wazz cookin', brazh?!" It was Liam just in from a run and sniffing around my 16" saute' pan on the back deck. Had the crab boiler burner hooked up and sliced onions were doing somersaults in a blend of canola oil and bacon fat; colors turning from opaque to transparent and finally a sweet, caramel brown.
"So, what's on the menu?" he asked, sweat dripping down his nose and into the onions as he hovered over the pan inhaling the savory vapors.
"Skirt steaks, saute'd onions, pico de gallo, avocados and choice of tortillas," I followed, taking a deserved draw from a pint of IPA, "I think you're gonna like it."
"Hell YEEAHH!" he puffed, "Ima take a shower, back in 10," he said and off he went.
Once Brendan and Liam were up, each was tasked with several duties and the outside table was set in no-time. I like to put each prepared item on a nice dish for outside meals using painted Mexican earthenware, Italian DeLucca and a catering piece or two. Brendan had pint glasses with water and ice poured, a glass of white wine for Mom and lemonade for Siobhan.
A blessing was said.
I cut the skirt steaks into 3-4 inch lengths for the saute' pan, knowing that they will be sliced against the grain for consumption. To do so otherwise is to condemn your guests to a chewing workout and possible TMJ lawsuit.
"We need one of those things that spins," offered Liam, "you know, like in the Chinese restaurants."
"Yeah," Brendan chimed, "it makes it look fancy and we don't have to keep asking each other to pass stuff around..." Brendan is at the 17 year old boy 'eat everything in sight' stage.
"Excellent...this is flippin' sweeet, Dad!" Liam had juices running from his wrist to his elbow as each over-filled tortilla ran remnant juices towards the table. Brendan took his time assembling three corn tortillas on his plate, spaced equi-distant from each other with condiments strategically aligned along the diameter for perfect flavor on every, last bite.
"Nice, Pop!" he finally commented, "The meat has almost a liver-y flavor, but, the lime juice cuts the fat well..."
We chatted about school, work and activities, then the girls went inside for reading and a bath.
Brendan, who usually eats and runs, stuck around as Liam was on a roll about everything from a drummer in Modest Mouse to how we should crush ISIS. We laughed, discussed seriously, then laughed some more: Prom, bands, rock history, high school teachers that were cool, rear brakes on a '95 Acura, firearm ballistics, muzzle loaders and finally girls.
As we were clearing the table and blowing out candles, each of them remarked,
"The meat was great. Nice job, I love that skirt steak."
Why is it, conversations with men, young and old, always seem to start and finish with "The Skirts?"
Grilled Skirt Steak serves 6 (with some left-overs for snacks...boys!)
3 lb.....skirt steaks. Get the thick ones not the thin ones. Same prep, more meat.
3 Tbs...Kosher salt
Each steak can be up to 24" long and 4" wide. Peel any outer membrane from the steaks if the butcher has not done so already. Cut into 4" sections for grilling or sauteing.
Sprinkle with salt on both sides and let stand on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes allowing the salt to penetrate and 'juice up.'
Place steaks on a medium grill or in a pan and cook to desired doneness. They will plump as the protein sets and you can poke them with a knife to relieve the juices and color. Each steak should take about 15 minutes for medium temperature.
Remove and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain of the meat. Squeeze with fresh lime and serve.
Take care, God bless and remember:
"Food, Faith, Family and Friends,
the Best Things in Life Aren't Things."