Seared balsamic-glazed flatiron steaks with spinach, lemon and olive oil

Balsamic Beef with Spinach

It’s been awhile since we’ve had a new cookbook on the blog – not that we haven’t been cooking much lately, but a couple of recent & great cookbooks have been dominating the JK kitchen this Fall & Winter. The next few posts should help get us back on the track of going through the entire cookbook collection, though. This cookbook, How to Cook Meat, has been on my shelf for years and years. It’s a fun cookbook to flip through, more as a reference on which cuts of meat come from where (on various animals), and how the fat/muscle content changes how you can prepare that cut. I tend to read it more for background material, but it does have a ton of recipes, and the few that I’ve made over the years have been good (if not spectacular).

This recipe for balsamic-glazed beef, however, was both easy to make and really tasty. I have a special place in my heart for the beef and balsamic vinegar combination. When I was in college, dinner was usually two frozen corn dogs. If I was feeling particularly health-minded, I might grab a handful of salad mix from the bag and douse it in some sort of vinaigrette as a side dish. At some point a roommate got disgusted with my dinner regimen and dragged me over to the Barney’s Burgers by our house in North Berkeley. The special that night was a balsamic beef burger, and on a whim I ordered it. It had never occurred to me that a flavor that seemed so intrinsically related to salad could have any use in cooking meat. That burger was amazing though – just the right blend of tart and sweet to balance out the beef flavor. It was so good that to this day I always keep an eye out for recipes involving meat & balsamic vinegar – if it’s on the menu at restaurant Karin and I go to, there’s a good chance that’s what I’m getting.

So after the fold, we’ve got this quick recipe – reduce some balsamic vinegar, sugar and black pepper into a thick, dark sauce, pan-fry some quality steaks, and while the steaks are resting saute some spinach and garlic in the pan you used for the meat. One saucepan, one frying pan, very little time spent hovering over a stove or preparing ingredients yields a really tasty meal. That being said, the next time I make this dish I will add some potatoes or a grain to go with it – gotta have something to mop up the balsamic glaze with after you eat all the steak!

How to Cook Meat

One note: the original recipe calls for top blade chuck steaks, and says that they have a line of fat and gristle through the center that makes people tend to avoid this cut. We used flatiron steaks instead which is (as far as I can tell) the same area of the cow but a perpendicular cut to the top blade, hence avoiding the line of gristle. Ask your butcher, though.

Seared balsamic-glazed flatiron steaks with spinach, lemon and olive oil

Serves 4
Prep time: 30-40 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

For the steak:

  • 1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Four 8 oz flatiron steaks, roughly one inch thick
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the spinach:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh spinach, trimmed, washed and patted/spun dry
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

1. To make the glaze, combine the vinegar, sugar and pepper in a small saucepan and boil over high heat. [Be careful not to lean over the pan and take a deep breath unless you are trying to clear your sinuses.] Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer vigorously until the mixture is reduced by two-thirds and syrupy, roughly 30-40 minutes. Set the glaze aside, covered to keep it warm.

2. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels, then sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the steaks and sear well on one side, 3-4 minutes. Turn and continue cooking for a total of 6-8 minutes longer for medium rare. To check if the steaks are done, make a small cut in the thickest part of the meat and look at it – the meat should be slightly less done than you would like. When the steaks are done to your liking, remove them from the pan, cover loosely with foil, and let them rest until the spinach is done.

3. Wipe out the saute pan with paper towels and return it to medium-high heat. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan. When it is hot, add the spinach and stir like crazy until it wilts, 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the lemon juice.

4. If there is a center line of fat & gristle through the center of your steaks, cut that center line out, and the brush each half of the steak with the glaze. If the glaze has thickened too much, a few seconds over low heat should make it brush-able again. Place a mound of spinach on each plate, and top with the two steak halves.

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