When I opened the shop six years ago I was happy to offer cuts that were easy to find on restaurant menus but difficult to find in a grocery store. Sure, we sold striploins and ribeye but it was the less expensive bavettes, hanger steak, and flat-iron that made me (and my customers) excited. These cuts generally had lots of flavour, but may be tricky or unfamiliar to work with. People bought them because even though they weren’t as recognizable as top sirloin, the price was right for a good steak. Now with beef prices going crazy, the challenge for my customers (and myself) is to find good value steaks that are still tasty. We have recently started offering two good steaks in this range – one is an inside round minute steak (cut from the hip and tenderized before being marinated in our Cuban-flavoured mix of onion, garlic, lime and paprika), and the other is a paleron, more commonly known as a top blade steak.
The paleron is a tricky one. It’s a cross cut of the top blade (aka flat-iron) muscle. The muscle isn’t cleaned of the nerve or silverskin before portioning, which basically means that you have two super-tender muscles surrounded by and bisected by inedible gristle. Which sounds nasty until you realize how to cook it. You see, a paleron is not the best grilling steak. Sure, it’ll do in a pinch when you want to save a few bucks and you don’t mind eating around the tough bits. But the best way to cook this steak is in a pan, swimming in red wine, beef stock and aromatics and simmered for a couple of hours. Cooking it this way will break down the nerve and silverskin and allow them to get unctuous, therefore rendering the whole cut edible. Actually, more than edible. This is probably my new favourite recipe for beef, and I hope restaurants start selling this steak once the weather cools down and people are ready to turn off their grills.
Paleron Steak in Red Wine
4 paleron (top blade) steaks
½ cup flour (for dredging)
to taste salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter
1 cup onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 herb bundle (bay leaves, thyme, parsley, rosemary)
8 pc dried shiitake mushrooms (optional)
2 cups full bodied red wine
2 cups beef stock
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cups button mushrooms, quartered (you can use any mushrooms though)
1 cup pearl onions, peeled
1 cup bacon, diced (optional)
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp chives, chopped
Pre heat the oven to 325°F.
Melt the butter in a pan (large enough to fit all of the steaks) on the stovetop on a medium high heat.
Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and season liberally with the salt and pepper. Flour each side of the steak before placing in the pan. Cook on either side until the steaks are golden brown all over. Remove from the pan and rest.
In the same pan, add a little more butter. Add the onion and garlic and sweat until translucent. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper, and then add the wine, herbs and dry shiitake (if using). Simmer and reduce the wine by 25% before adding the beef stock. Bring to a simmer before adding the steaks back to the pan. Make sure they are completely submerged. Cover the pan with a lid and place in oven. Braise for about two and a half hours, or until a steak knife can easily pierce the nerve in the middle of the steak.
About a half hour before the steaks are done, melt some butter in a clean pan on the stovetop over a medium heat. Add the bacon (if using) and the pearl onions and sweat until the onions are slightly golden (about five minutes), seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the carrots to the pan and cook for another five to ten minutes, or until everything is quite golden. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook until they release their liquid and shrink a little. Season the vegetables to taste and keep warm.
When the steaks are done remove them from the pan and keep warm. Discard the herb bundle and dried shiitake (if used). Reduce the braising liquid until it’s the consistency of sauce, and add the pearl onions, carrots and mushrooms and toss all together. Pour over the steaks and enjoy.
P.S. I cooked up a little polenta to go with this but a hearty mashed potato would be great as well. Or you could go full Frenchie and side with a big pile of frites!