Stuffed flank steak has been one of my favorite foods for over 50 years. It is one of my family’s favorites, too. But honestly, our version has gotten a little boring. The tradition is to stuff the flank steak with a conventional bread dressing and – don’t get me wrong – it is delicious. But my thought is that surely you can do something different after 50 years. Once again, it was my turn for the main dish at our Sunday family dinner. A wonderful new market had opened in the little shopping center across the street, and they had some beautiful flank steaks in their butcher shop. Like a conjunction of the planets, flank steak stuffed with something different seemed like an inspiration. Evan and Brandin Rice at Rich Table have been experimenting with farro lately, and I was interested in how I might make it work in my more plebian dishes. Inspiration! – farro-stuffed flank steak. Of course, there needed to be something to perk up meat and grain, so the addition of a green sauce – chimichurri is a natural – came to mind. Mushrooms and pine nuts added to the flavors. It all came together.
I made a serious miscalculation by buying two flank steaks for 6 people. That is way more than you need, The recipe that follows is for one flank steak. On the other hand, leftovers of this dish are a bonus, so you may want to make two stuffed steaks. Regardless of your decision, I am sure you will enjoy the result.
Farro-Stuffed Flank Steak
Butterflied and pounded flank steaks
Flank steaks spread with filling
Rolled, tied, and ready for braising
Stuffed flank steak pinwheels
Rolled flanks steak topped with chimichurri
- 1 flank steaks, about 1½ pounds
- ½ cup cooked farro
- 1 recipe chimichurri, divided (see previous post for recipe)
- 4 cremini mushrooms, chopped finely
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup panko
- 1 egg
- all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- salt and pepper
- With a sharp knife, butterfly the steak so that it opens like a book. Flatten the meat with a heavy pounder. Chill until ready to fill.
- In a. Medium bowl, combine the cooked farro, half of the chimichurri, mushrooms, pine nuts, panko, and egg.
- To fill the flank steak, open it on a flat surface, cut side up. Spread with the farro/chimichurri mixture leaving a half-inch border around the edge. Begin to roll the steak beginning from the narrow end until the roll is sealed. Tie the rolled steak with kitchen twine at two-inch intervals, making sure the ends are tied closed.
- Heat the oil in a heavy lidded oven-proof casserole over a medium flame. When the oil is hot, brown the stuffed flank steak, turning frequently until browned on all sides. When the steak is browned, add the beef stock and tomato paste. Bring to the boil and then transfer the covered casserole to the middle of an oven preheated to 275°F. Cook, covered, for 2 hours.
- Remove the steak from the oven and transfer to a plate, cover with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Remove the twine, slice into ¾ inch slices and serve with the remaining chimichurri to be spooned over the top if desired.
Old clothes – that’s what it means in Spanish for reasons I’m not sure about, although the explanation I’m most attracted to is that the stew looks like clothes in the wash tub. At the same time, when I enjoy the dish I always think of the plaza at the foot of the Santa Fe Bridge between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez surrounded by warehouses filled with old clothes and signs on the fronts that read “Ropa Usada” (used clothes) where old clothingis sold by the pound.
None of this has anything to do with this delicious Cuban classic for which I developed a hunger for. Unfortunately, our Cuban restaurant recently went out of business, so the only way to satisfy my craving was to make it myself, along with the usual accompaniment, yellow rice.
Ropa vieja must surely be counted as a genuine comfort food. It certainly has a great taste, and it is filling. It takes a little effort to put everything together, but the long, slow cooking assures you that it will be melt-in-mouth tender.
There are probably as many recipes for yellow rice as there are cooks who make it. The most important thing is that the rice is yellow, and there are several ways you can accomplish that. You can use achiote or oil made from heating the seeds, called annatto. You can use saffron if you have an unlimited pocketbook. You can use turmeric. You can use paprika, although that really makes the rice more red than yellow. Lots of cooks use a packet or two of Sazón made by Goya Foods and which contains cilantro, annatto, cumin, and a bunch of other ingredients. I guess you could even use yellow food coloring. Then, of course, you can use a combination of two or more of the above.
The other thing you can do with yellow rice is to add various vegetables. Green peas and chopped bell peppers are common, and pigeon peas or gandules are also popular. It may be difficult to find gandules if you don’t have a well-stocked ethnic market.
- 6 ounces bacon, chopped
- 2 pounds flank steak cut with grain into 2 inch strips
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 2 cups beef stock
- 14.5 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
- ½ cup pitted green olives, halved
- 4 ounces (1 jar) diced pimentos
- 3 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1 tablespoons white vinegar
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro
- In a large Dutch oven, render the bacon over medium-high heat. Remove the bacon and transfer to a plate.
- Season the flank steak with salt and pepper. Then brown in in the bacon fat over medium-high heat. Transfer to a plate.
- Add the onion and peppers to the Dutch oven. Add vegetable oil if needed. Cook until soft.
- Add the tomato paste, cumin,thyme, oregano, garlic, and bay leaf. Stir until lightly caramelized.
- Deglaze the pot with wine. Then return the bacon and steak to the pot. Bring to the boil. Then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 3 hours until the steak is tender.
- Remove the steak to a cutting board. With two forks, shred the meat and then return to the pot with olives, pimento, capers, and vinegar.
- Simmer for 30 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Garnish with cilantro and serve
- 1/8 cup annatto seeds
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- Combine the annatto seeds and oil in a very small saucepan and bring to the simmer over a medium-low flame
- Simmer for 20 minutes. Cool, and strain the oil into a small jar with a tight-fitting lid.
- Use immediately or store in the refrigerator indefinitely.
2 tablespoons annato oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped finely
- 1½ cups water
- 1 cup long-grain rice
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- In a small saucepan, sweat the onions in the annatto oil over medium heat, being careful not to let them brown.
- Add the water and bring to the boil.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and reduce the flame to the lowest setting.
- Cook the mixture, covered, for 25 minutes. Test for doneness. If liquid remains, stir, return to the boil and cook uncovered until the moisture is absorbed. Otherwise, cover the pan again, turn off the heat, and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve.
Flank steak (2 pounds)
Peppers and onion
Onions and peppers ready for the stew
Shredded flank steak
Ropa vieja simmering on the stove
Pitted green olives ready to be cut up
Ropa vieja and yellow rice garnished with cilantro leaves
Goya brand Sazón seasoning, a substitute for annatto oil and your own seasoning