As Memorial Day weekend approaches, America’s backyard grill masters are looking ways to impress their guests with their favorite go-to meals off the grill. This summer, Michael is teaming up with Lynx Grills to bring you his essential grilling tips and recipes, many of which can be found in MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat (Clarkson Potter.)
“Grilling is one of my favorite ways to cook,” says Chef. “You’re only as good as your ingredients and in this case, it’s a great grill!”
Here we offer his cookbook’s cover recipe, Grilled Skirt Steak with shaved fennel, orange, and green olive tapenade (pgs. 93-94.) During the summer, steak and potatoes won’t always cut it. This main course salad is hearty without being heavy and contains all of the elements of a balanced meal—meat, starch, and vegetables. Grilled beef, crisp fennel, chewy fregola, and bright oranges are finished with a drizzle of briny green olive tapenade in this Mediterranean-inspired skirt steak salad. It’s colorful, light and refreshing, everything you want to see on our plate during these long, hot days.
“Varying texture and temperature play a powerful role in the makeup of this dish, adding a whole other dimension,” Michael explains. “I’m a believer that opposites do attract; hot and cold—the grilled meaty steak and the cool crunchy salad— play off each other.”
Some other ideas from Chef before hitting the grates? Give meat an extra layer of flavor by tossing damp woody herbs like thyme and rosemary directly onto the fire; this will lend a distinctive earthy essence (Thyme-smoked Four-Inch Porterhouse Steak (pgs.168-169) Fish love the grill, too. Salmon steaks are the perfect cut of fish for grilling as they are shaped sort of like a horseshoe and have the bone left in the center. They’re really thick and meaty, and don’t stick to the grill like fillets, which makes them ideal for grilling. Grilled Wild Salmon Steak with fennel hash and sweet onion sauce (pgs. 132-133) Mark your salad! Try to buy your lettuce in whole heads and grill it to impart a great flavor and texture to salads. Make sure you cut thick enough on the vein so it holds together. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and season, then use tongs to mark each size of your “steaks”. It’s usually less expensive and fresher than bagged lettuce and you can choose the kinds you’d like, from radicchio to romaine. Dress as you like. I shave big slices of Pecorino on mine.
Grilled Skirt Steak with Shaved Fennel, Orange, and Green Olive Tapenade
Serves 4 as a main dish, or 6 as a starter
4 8-ounce skirt steaks
2 tablespoons chili powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup fregola
½ large red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 fennel bulb, top removed, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
8 radishes, ends trimmed, thinly sliced
½ pound arugula
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 navel oranges, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch rounds
½ cup Green Olive Tapenade (recipe follows)
Ingredient Note: fregola
Fregola, sometimes called Italian couscous, is a terrific addition to your pantry. It’s much more interesting than regular pasta and has a unique texture. The pasta dough is rubbed by hand to form little pellets, which are then toasted to give a distinctive nutty flavor. If hard pressed, you can use Israeli couscous, but there really is no substitute for fregola. It is worth getting your hands on. It also makes great risotto.
Lay the skirt steak flat on a baking sheet and season evenly on both sides with the chili powder, salt, and pepper. Set aside so the flavors can sink in a bit.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Add the fregola and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook the pasta for 15 minutes until the pellets are al dente. Drain and cool.
Preheat an outdoor grill or a grill pan to medium-high heat. Rub the grill with oil to prevent sticking. Grill the onion slices for 2 minutes, turning often, until charred on both sides. Remove them from the grill and set aside.
Lay the steaks on the grill and cook, turning with tongs from time to time, to sear well on all sides; this takes about 8 minutes total for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and let rest for 2 or 3 minutes to allow the juices to recirculate.
In the meantime, make the salad. In a large mixing bowl, combine the fregola, grilled onion, fennel, radishes, arugula, lemon juice, and olive oil. Toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.
To serve, divide the salad among 4 or 6 plates. Arrange 4 or 5 slices of orange on top of each plate. Cut each skirt steak into 3 equal pieces, then turn each piece sideways and cut into thin slices against the grain, ensuring tenderness. Shingle the sliced meat on top of the salad. Spoon some of the tapenade on top and serve immediately.
Green Olive Tapenade
Makes about 1 cup
2 cups pitted green olives, such as Picholine
4 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times. Scrape down the sides of the processor and pulse 2 more times; the tapenade should be coarsely chopped. It will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.