from The Kitchen Diaries, p. 271.

I returned late Saturday night with abundant evidence of my friends’ generosity. My basket barely held the mound of eggplants and tomatoes that I collected from their vegetable patch before dinner. From their patch to their house, from their house to my car, from my car to my house, tomatoes rolled off the mound and split when they hit the ground. I picked them up and piled them back on.

I must do something with all these tomatoes. This morning, I took out of my freezer a flank steak from grass-fed beef. Charcoal. Definitely a night for charcoal.

Nigel supplied the framework for my steak.

Dressing:

grain mustard – 1 tablespoon

the juice of half a lemon

mint – a small handful (about 20 leaves)

egg yolks – 2

olive oil – about 4-5 tablespoons

To make the dressing, put the mustard, lemon juice, mint leaves and egg yolks in a blender and whiz for a few seconds. Pour in the oil slowly, stopping when you have a dressing the consistency of double cream.

My version:

I had a feeling that this dressing would come in handy for much more than sliced beef. So, I doubled the amounts. I followed the directions carefully — even counting out forty leaves of fresh mint from the jungle around my peach tree. I used kosher salt, of course. I wish I had had some really high quality extra-virgin olive oil, because I think this sauce is only as good as its foundation. Still, what I made was pretty damned good.

I lit a chimney filled with hardwood charcoal. While that burned, I soaked some wine barrel oak chips in water. This is the first time I’ve used them. Meanwhile, I sliced a big tomato and arranged it on my plate, because I knew I wasn’t going to leave the flank steak long on the grill.

In a small bowl, I mixed together 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1 tsp of garlic salt, and several grinds of black pepper. I thought I still had some good chili powder, but I was wrong. The flank steak required little attention. I scored it lightly on the diagonal, but waited to apply the salt mixture.

Before heading outside to put the whole act together, I drained the wood chips, even though they had been soaking only fifteen minutes. I piled up in my arms the steak, the bowl of salt, pepper and garlic salt, tongs, and chips.

When the coals were glowing, I poured them over half of the lower grate and put the upper grill in place. I then sprinkled on the sodden wood chips, which I feared would lower the heat too much. But hardwood charcoal burns hot, so I needn’t have worried. The bottom vents were fully open. I closed the vents on the lid half way. To allow the kettle to heat up, I put the lid on for a few minutes, then raised it to place the flank steak on the grill.

I put the steak directly over the coals, which were smoking heavily. If my nice neighbor
hadn’t distracted me, I would have been careful to let the steak sear on one side a full two minutes. But I figheted and turned it too soon. In all, I cooked the steak about five minutes in all. I would have preferred another two minutes.

I took it off the grill, still chatting to my neighbor, placed it in the pan and covered it with foil. Now I could chat for another few minutes with impunity. The meat settled in its juices.

A dollop of the dressing, a few thin slices of the flank steak on the slant, a glass of rosé from Corbières and I had a delicious meal that required a lot of discipline not to continue with extra helpings.