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Drunk Chuck

By Meathead Goldwyn

This may be the first recipe I ever created. I was an undergrad at the University of Florida in the 1970s. On a limited budget I often bought cheap chuck steaks and marinated them overnight in spiced cheap red wine, which was plentiful because I worked at ABC Liquors on Newberry Road.

I have since learned from an article by one of my favorite food writers, Mark Bittman of the New York Times, that a similar recipe was common in ancient Venice for another cut of cheap meat, horse. So I have combined his recipe with mine, fiddled with it, and ended up with something better. These steaks will not be as brown and crisp on the surface as an unmarinated steak because the surface will be wet when cooked, but they will have a deep rich flavor. Keep in mind that marinating adds flavor but does not tenderize much. I normally do not recommend marinating steaks, but this is an exception. Read more about the pros and cons of marinating.

Just in front of the rib primal, the best and most expensive section of steer, is the chuck primal, which includes the shoulder meat. Chuck steaks can be a little tough because these muscles work harder than the meat a little further back, and they have more hunks of fat and gristle, but they can also have great flavor and be relatively cheap. When you shop for chuck, look for cuts that are at least 1/2" thick, and try to find those that have a big round hunk of meat in the center. That will be the piece that is the same muscle as the ribeye and strip steak, the longissimus dorsi. At half the price. You can even ask you butcher to cut you steaks from the back of the shoulder. Ask for chuck eye steak. Another good chuck is the flatiron, but it has become popular lately so it might be more pricey.

By the way, I have done this with flanks steak and it works just fine.

Here are some of the cuts of chuck in order of quality

Chuck eye steak. This is the steak just in front of the rib section and contains meat very much like ribeye (at right). It is the best part of the chuck primal, can taste a lot like a ribeye, but it is a lot less expensive.

Top blade steak or Flat iron steak. Nicely marbled for flavor and not too tough.

Shoulder center cut or Ranch steak. Not as well-marbled and a bit tougher, so it is usually cut thinner.

Petite tender. Flavorful, but it can be tough

Shoulder steak. Best cut into cubes for spiedies.

Chuck steak. Can be gristly. Best for pot roast.

For a more complete list of the different steaks and roasts from the chuck primal, see my article on beef cuts.

Drunk Chuck Recipe

Makes. 3 cups, enough for about 8 servings
Preparation time. 45 minutes to make the marinade, 1 hour for it to cool, 2 to 12 hours to marinate, and 20 minutes or less to cook.

Ingredients
1 (750 ml) bottle cheap dry red wine
1/2 cup inexpensive salad grade balsamic
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon table salt
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 chuck steaks, cut at least 1/2" thick

Method
1) Combine all the ingredients except the steaks in a 2 quart or larger pot and whisk them together. Boil hard for about 10 minutes to reduce by about 1/3. This will get rid of most of the alcohol, extract flavor from the herbs and spices, and concentrate the wine a bit. Alcohol, contrary to popular belief, is not great in marinades because it can dry out the meat. Cool to room temp, about an hour.

2) Trim excess fat from the exterior of the steaks. With a sharp knife, score the surface of the steak about 1/8" deep by dragging the knife across it. Make these slits about 3/4" apart on both sides. This technique, called gashing, will help the marinade penetrate and will hold the flavor when it is cooking. Don't worry, juices won't escape. Put the steaks in zipper bags, add the marinade, and zip. Put the bags in a bowl or pan to catch any leaks, and marinate in the fridge at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours, turning them occasionally to help the liquid contact all surfaces.

3) Preheat the grill for 2-zone cooking but don't get the hot zone rip snorting hot, about 325°F, but precision isn't necessary for this because the wet surface of the meat acts like a thermal regulator cooling the surface. Take the steaks out of the marinade, drain off most of the liquid but do not pat dry. Normally we pat meat dry to make sure it crisps. But when using a flavorful marinade, don't pat it dry because much of the flavor is captured in the microscopic cracks on the surface and the slits we made. Grill over the hot section of the grill until rare to medium rare. They'll take longer than normal because the surfaces are wet, perhaps 20 minutes for a 1" steak. As always, a good digital thermometer is essential for getting things perfectly done. To make the meat a bit more tender, serve them sliced. Be sure to cut across the grain into 1/4" slices.

This page was revised 6/16/2013

 


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