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Cowboy Jim's Grilled Steak and Corn Salsa
Yield: 4 hefty servings
For the marinade:
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon orange zest
¼ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds top sirloin tip
For the Corn Salsa:
4 ears fresh sweet corn
2 jalapeno chili peppers, chopped
1 serrano chili peppers, chopped fine
1 red sweet bell peppers, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh Mexican oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
1 ½ teaspoons chipotle chili pepper, ground
1 cup crème fraiche or Mexican sour cream
Salt, black pepper, and ground hot red chili pepper to taste.
In a blender combine all the ingredients for the marinade, put the meat in a couple of large plastic bags, add the marinade, massage it into the meat, and let sit at room temperature for an hour or two while you prepare the corn salsa. (You can prepare ahead and refrigerate the meat in its marinade for 3 to 4 hours)
Husk the corn and roast the naked ears over direct heat quickly on all sides (use tongs) until the kernels are slightly charred (2 or 3 minutes at most). Slice kernels from the ears with a sharp knife into a large bowl. Add all the chopped fresh peppers and the seasonings of oregano and chipotle. Add the crème fraiche and taste well before seasoning further. (Corn absorbs flavor, especially chili pepper heat, so tasting is key to get the degree of hotness you want).
Remove meat from the marinade. Heat a pair of pan grills until very hot and sear the steaks quickly on both sides (2 minutes on the first side, 1 minute on the second side for a steak ¼-inch thick, if you want it rare). Let the steaks rest 5 minutes before slicing it very thin.
Slice the steaks very thin against the grain and heap corn salsa on top.
©Raising Steaks: The Life & Times of American Beef by Betty Fussell; 2008.
Cowboy Jim Hodges was an ex-rodeo bronco buster who'd married a rodeo cowgirl and raised a couple of kids and made a living training horses. When I met him, he was working for the George Ranch in Richmond, Texas, set up as a living-history site where you could glimpse the old-timey ways of raising Texas longhorns on a ranch with a Victorian farmhouse and a chuckwagon and today lots of kids running around learning about the past. Over an open campfire, Jim cooked me a great sirloin steak because he "favors those wide thin cuts with the bone-in that chuckwagon cooks used to serve because you could eat them easily while holding the steak in your hand." But I don't live on a ranch. I live in a city without even a fire-escape to grill on, and now that meat prices have gone as skyscraper high as other food prices, I look for cheaper cuts that I can cook on a cast-iron grill pan on top of my stove. So here I've adapted some of Jim's ways of marinating a steak to give it flavor and a little tenderness and I've also adapted his terrific grilled corn salsa to put on the steak that I will eat on a platter with a knife and fork, dreaming of campfires under an open sky full of stars.