Mango Chili Flank Steak
I don’t have a passion for flank steak because of the rich, meaty flavor you get from such a lean cut, or because it’s so versatile and lends itself to a world of seasonings and flavors. I have a passion for flank steak because I’m cheap. Yes, it’s true. I balk at the prospect of spending $10 a head on a premium sirloin or Porterhouse. When Mike and I had our most recent dating anniversary this year, I bought some luscious marbled rib eyes, and with just a quick slap on the ass in a flavorful marinade they grilled up into a meal of meat most divine…but I couldn’t really enjoy it, when with each bite I was thinking, “huh, I have $2 in my mouth right now. *chew chew chew* Okay, now I’m up to $4.” Oddly enough, the thought never crosses my mind when we dine out. Of COURSE a salad for $28 is perfectly reasonable. It has artichokes on it. And yes, maybe the meal will cost me the equivalent of a half day’s work, but isn’t it delicious? Huh, huh? Sigh. When it comes to home cooking, however, those rusty wheels of rationalizing grind to an immediate halt, and all of a sudden I’m thinking, “How bad COULD goat’s foot be? Maybe I should try it, while it’s on for $1.20/lb….”
We’ve been eating more vegetarian fare lately, in part because I’m a confused carnivore (eating more than 1/2 chicken breast and I start to get the meat sweats) and also because beans, lentils, quinoa and burghul are a hellalot cheaper than eating meat every day. I suppose that we’re rapidly veering towards being those ‘Vegetarian By Convenience’ people, if convenience actually refers to dirt poor. Ah well, long live the affordable legume…..However, after serving Mike countless vegetarian meals this month, I figured that it was about time to bring home the…uh….beef.
Now then, let’s get away from the meat and talk about the mango. I remember a time, not so very long ago, when it was rare to find a suburban grocery store selling mangoes. Over time they gained in popularity, and the Mexican mangoes (for lack of a better name I call them “The big green ones”) started flooding through. It wasn’t until years later that I saw a yellow mango in the store, and decided not to buy it because obviously it was rotten. Yes, sometimes I AM that dumb. Okay, so I learned that there were green mangoes (as opposed to green mangoes in Thai cooking, which are unripened mangoes) and yellow mangoes, but it wasn’t until I went to Pakistan last year that I realized how little of the tropical fruit surface I had scratched.
So there I was, shuffling from side to side in the inhumane temperatures of late June in Lahore, trying to pretend that sweat wasn’t rapidly deteriorating my ‘light’ cotton business suit (there is no such thing as a light suit. Don’t believe the lies. Summer suits are STILL SUITS) and periodically throwing out a distended underbite, to blow up on my own face like a horse, when I thought no one was looking. Things I’ve learned: in Pakistan, someone is always looking.
The tea boy scuffed his feet beside me (yes, there was a tea boy) and offered me, Miss Tina Ma’am, a glass of cold water. I gratefully complied, guzzled it down, and wondered just how much longer I would have to stand there in the beating hot sun before my driver (yes, there was also a driver…Driving Miss Tina, indeed) woke up and remembered that the strange Western woman with the crazy hair was probably waiting somewhere for him. Our driver, Ulfat, was seriously the bees knees, and I adored the poor boy (cemented indelibly when he put Madonna into the tape deck for me, because apparently that’s what Western Women like), but the company worked him so hard that the lovely dear was always falling asleep all over the place, and I never had the inclination to get upset because he certainly didn’t have an easy shot at this crazy life.
Ulfat finally came whizzing around the corner on two smokin’ wheels. He shepherded me into the car before telling me that we were driving to meet my boss at the house of ‘a friend’ (that friend being the CEO of one of Pakistan’s foremost electronic manufacturing and distribution companies) for……a mango party. Huh. Yes, a MANGO PARTY. WTF is a mango party? I have been to many a party in my day, and although I wasn’t really anticipating a kegger to miraculously appear in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, I also wasn’t expecting…..a mango party. Again, WTF?! We traipsed over to said friend’s house, and I was greeted by 9 men in suits and about 12 baskets of mangoes.
There were small stubby mangoes, fat orb-like mangoes, long thin yellow mangoes, it was mangoes as far as the eye could see! They explained to me that Pakistan grew over 40 varieties of the best mangoes in the world (note: I have a close friend who is Indian, who has often told me how India grows over 40 varieties of the best mangoes in the world, but let’s not go there right now…), and they chose the 12 seasonal best for us to sample that night.
After carefully touching and sniffing each basket of mangoes, I selected the one I wished to try. It was divine. The flesh was deep orange and buttery soft with a rich honey flavor that deepened to a light pine on the tongue. It was a little bit holy. I licked my fingers clean and let out an incredibly satiated sigh, when someone passed me my next mango. And then the one that I had to eat after that. And when I was done those two, here was the order in which I would eat the remaining eight (8!!!). So you don’t think it’s humanly possible to eat 12 mangoes? Let me tell you: IT IS. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I had the vicious trots on a 14.5 hour plane ride to prove it. But I can also say that I’ve been to a mango party, and eaten the sweetest, freshest, most perfectly divine fruit that I could ever imagine. The indignities I suffered in a cramped airplane bathroom were so very, very worth it in the end.
All that to say that now the average grocery store in my area sells at least two types of mangoes, no doubt to appeal to our strong East Asian community, and those long yellow mangoes are absolutely where it’s at. The ones I bought the other day weren’t exactly mango party material, but they were sloppily juicy and delicious, and when I had my fill of sliced mango there was only one thing left to do: bring it to the meat.
Mango Chili Flank Steak
- 2 lb flank steak
- 1.5 yellow (Pakistani) mangoes
- 3/4 ” chunk ginger
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp water
- salt & pepper to taste
Slice the mango fruit from the elongated pit, peel it, and put the chunks into a food processor.
Peel a good 3/4 – 1″ knob of ginger and slice it into quarters. Add this to the processor.
I should mention that I have a peculiar penchant for root vegetables that look like something else, and I bought this ginger specifically because it looks like the pony that I never had.
Peel the garlic cloves and halve them. Pop the top off of your hot pepper (remove the seeds and ribs if you want less heat) and cut this into large chunks. Peel the onion, give it a very rough chop into several large pieces, and add all these ingredients along with the spices, oil and water to the processor.
Puree until smooth.
Season the flank steak well on both sides with salt and pepper before smothering it in the mango marinade.
Flank steaks are rather oddly shaped, which means that it can be difficult to find a shallow dish which will hold it flat. If you have one, however, you’re welcome to use it. If not, drench the meat in your marinade from within the confines of a plastic freezer bag, being sure to rub it all in and turn it over periodically.
Let the meat sit at room temperature for 2 hours, or in the fridge for about 4 hours.
Grill the meat over high heat for 3-5 minutes per side, or until you’ve reached the desired doneness. Flank steak is a tough and fibrous meat, and although the acidic mango and onion marinade does wonders towards creating texture, you’re still better of cooking the meat to a pink medium or less.
That is the good thing about flank steak, though. The meat is naturally going to be thicker at one end, which means that if you slightly UNDERCOOK this part you will suit the bloody carnivores (like me) while the majority of the meat is a nice soft pink, and the thin tail end is a medium to well done. There’s a little something for everyone there, regardless of their peculiar persuasions!
Please remember to let the meat rest, tented in aluminum foil, for at least 10 minutes before you carve into it.
Slice the meat into thin strips across the grain to serve it.
And no, those are NOT my hands, thank you very much.
I swear, the marinade makes this meat so tender that, unless you cook it down to shoe leather, it will just melt in your mouth. Not bad for a $10 cut that serves 4……
On the side of the steak is a veritable mountain of southwestern burghul salad, full of corn, black beans and heart of palm, all spiked in a honey-cumin-lime dressing. Deelightful. Oh, and some grilled zucchini, but whatever. That’s not meat.
The moderate sweet heat and rich flavor of this flank steak had me waking up at 7am on a Sunday morning, wondering if it was too early for leftovers….
Note: it wasn’t.
AND one more look at my pony ginger, just because THAT’S AWESOME.