Sometimes I have a craving for meat.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, red meat is not bad for you.  However, there is a caveat — you get [health, environmental] benefits from animals that are pasture-raised; animals that spend their days grazing and living in open, green pastures and are attended to by farmers who care about the land and the animals they raise on it.  These animals tend to be leaner with higher quantities of omega-3 fatty acids and other fat-soluble vitamins — not to mention that animals raised this way taste great.

Nowadays, it’s not that easy to come by quality meat.  Organic meat does not necessarily mean pasture-raised.  The best way to ensure that you get quality meat is by getting to know your farmer (this piece of hanger steak comes from Pecan Meadow Farms or having a butcher you trust like this (a great butcher shop in Chicago).  Slowly but surely, butcher shops — owned and operated by people who care about how animals are raised and who embrace the “snout-to-tail” philosophy — are reappearing in cities big and small; what better place to buy meat.

I discovered hanger steak at Avec (one of my all-time favorite restaurants).  Hanger steak comes from the plate section of the cow (the front of the belly); it “hangs” off of the cow’s diaphragm.  Hanger steak is fairly lean and best served rare to medium rare; it just needs a quick sear to ensure its juiciness/tenderness.

A good sauce elevates just about any dish.  Today I made an Italian salsa verde that incorporates parsley, rosemary, garlic, anchovy, capers, lemon, and a Serrano chile (for a touch of heat) — a herbaceous and versatile salsa that pairs well with the earthiness of the hanger steak.  Yes, those are anchovies and capers you see below.  Worry not, they are not overpowering, I promise.  Rather, they add a hint of salinity to the salsa; otherwise you can hardly tell they’re in there, but would sorely be missed if you left them out.  In addition to meat, this salsa verde is a natural accompaniment to roasted fish, seafood, and vegetables.

To round out the meal, I roasted a head of Romanesco, a strange and unique looking vegetable.  Romanesco tastes like a cross between cauliflower and broccoli.  Just separate into individual florets (slice larger florets in half length-wise), toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in the over until tender and lightly browned (400 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes).  Drizzle with the salsa verde and serve.

Hanger Steak

1 hanger steak, cleaned and trimmed (here’s a good video on cleaning or ask your butcher to do so)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoons olive oil
Salsa verde (recipe below)

Bring the steak to room temperature, about 20 minutes.  Season both sides generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Add the oil.  When the oil is hot, place the steak in the skillet.  Cook for 5 to 5 1/2 minutes, flip and cook for another 5 to 5 1/2 minutes (125°F to 130 degrees) for medium rare.  Let rest 10 to 15 minutes.  Slice across the grain.  Serve with salsa verde.

Note: I like my steak on the rare side [as shown in the picture above]; however, the cooking instructions are for medium-rare.

[Italian] Salsa Verde

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 anchovy packed in salt, rinsed
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained
1 Serrano chile, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lemon for juicing

In a mortar and pestle, gently pound the parsley and rosemary to a paste (work in some of the olive oil).  Add the anchovy, garlic, and capers to the herbs, and gently pound to incorporate into the paste.  Stir in the remaining olive oil, chile, a few grinds of black pepper, and a big squeeze of lemon juice.  Taste for balance and seasoning.

Alternatively, for a smoother salsa, you can process the ingredients in a food processor.

Note: you can make the salsa a few days ahead of time and refrigerate.  Just bring to room temperature before serving.

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