What’s for dinner? Grilled Skirt Steak and Arugula Salad

Last night, while many of you were out painting the town red, or painting it vodka or gin, I was … propped up on the bed, ripping out pages of magazines getting ready for another five-day bender of dinners. And this time I had an additional goal: Nothing that required turning on the oven, no matter how delicious the end result might have sounded.

So today, after an entertaining afternoon at Dave & Buster’s — I think I might love Guitar Hero! — I stopped by the store with my list at the ready — organized by section, so I didn’t have to bounce back and forth between areas. Even the cashier was impressed. At first she started to say the “Did you find everything you were looking for?” bit they always do, but she saw my list and answered her own question: “Yes, you did.”

Grilled Skirt Steak and Arugula Salad With Roquefort and Catalina Dressing, from Gourmet, June 2009

Grilled Skirt Steak and Arugula Salad With Roquefort and Catalina Dressing, from Gourmet, June 2009

Indeed I did, thanks to the butcher who helped me find skirt steak, for tonight’s dish, and ground pork (in the area that might as well have been labeled “right under your nose, duh”). A far cry from the butcher a year or so ago at the same store, who apparently had asked the “are you finding everything OK?” question at my back. I didn’t realize he was talking to me until I turned around and saw some random guy staring at me, somewhere between “expectedly” and “annoyed.” He then looked at me and said, really pissy, “Yeah, you.”

My response was to look at him and say (and, thankfully, simultaneously sign): “I’m deaf. Did you say something?” I hope that dude is gone.  Today’s butcher was lovely. Yay, Safeway at Seventh Avenue and Osborn. Not quite the Gayfeway at Seventh Street and McDowell, but you’ll do.

Cost of ingredients: $14.50 plus tax. I already had ketchup, sugar, balsamic vinegar and olive oil in the cupboard, but finally ran out of garlic so the tally above includes the price of the whole crown, instead of trying to figure out a per-clove allotment. It’s interesting how at the store, when you’ve been wandering around throwing things in your cart, $4.50 for blue cheese doesn’t really phase you, but now I’m like, “Really?” It is a pretty essential piece of the meal, though, so no scrimping.

Substitutions: None, for once. I was a little afraid of the skirt steak, at first. It comes off the grill with lots of pink/red, even though I knew full well it was cooked through. Do not play it safe and cook it longer, because I bet you would just end up with a stringy mess.

As easy as they said? The toughest part was mincing the garlic. I am thinking about buying a garlic press. Along the “kitchen tools” line of thinking, one year my friend CJ gave me a battery-powered pepper mill — it even has a light on it! — for my birthday. At the time I was like, “Thanks for this incredibly nonessential kitchen tool,” and was taken aback when she said, “I use mine almost every night.” Let me now state for the record: C.J. Coppola, you are a freaking genius for presenting me with a gift that I never knew how much I would love and use until I grew up a little more. I have used it (and kosher salt and, I think, some form of olive oil) every night so far. Everyone should have one, even if it means your wrists are that much weaker from lack of exercise.

How’d THAT go over? Whenever Mr. Brooks asks a question about a part of the meal, he either really likes it, or really doesn’t. Tonight it was the dressing, which was the star ingredient. I couldn’t help but think that elsewhere in the same issue of Gourmet were recipes for making your own ketchup and mustard — and CJ has done both! — but I settled for store-created versions of these condiments.

Would I make it again? Mmmmmmmmmaybe. Learning the joy of skirt steak was a good thing. It’s apparently famous, at least in butcher circles. My Safeway guy asked, when I was trying to find it, “Are you going to slice it thin and put it in a salad? It’s really good that way”). And it was quite tasty. But I think the salad needed a little more punching up. One more item would have been nice to throw into the mix. Maybe some chilled grilled asparagus? I’m keeping it as a contender. When it’s 115 degrees outside, you like a good filling-but-not-stuffing-you-senseless salad.

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