Canada has a wondrous bounty of great food and there is no better way to celebrate the current season than with fresh asparagus and a beautifully grilled steak.
There are a number of steaks to choose from for grilling: A rib steak is fantastic, as are strip loins or tenderloins, but I prefer cuts that are more textured. Flank steak is flavourful and perfect for quick grilling and tri-tip is the best for serious barbecuing. My favourite cut, though, is hanger steak. It has a very thick grain and is ropey in appearance, but this gives it an excellent texture and slightly chewy quality.
Some of the best beef I’ve ever eaten has been hanger, a specialty cut that is not always available. Talk to your butcher – I use Cumbrae’s in Toronto – about its availability.
There is no finer accompaniment to the steak than local green asparagus. When cooking asparagus, peel about half of its stem to remove the wooden texture of the lower skin and poach it in salted water with a little sugar added to balance its bitterness.
Steak also pairs well with cheese, which can elevate any dish. Pecorino pepato is salty, so I don’t season the hanger steak when I serve these two together. Hanger steak, asparagus and pecorino combine to make a simple but delicious meal, which I offer to my guests throughout May at Nota Bene to herald spring’s arrival.
David Lee is co-owner of Nota Bene in Toronto.
4 pieces hanger or flank steak, 6 ounces each
20 to 24 spears green asparagus, half peeled, stem removed
3 ounces pecorino pepato cheese, shaved
4¼ cups water
¼ pound unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1½ tablespoons kosher salt
Dash Maldon salt
Set a grill to high heat. Remove the steaks from the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking. Put water, butter, sugar and kosher salt into a wide, shallow pot over medium heat.
Bring to a boil, add asparagus and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the tip of a knife can pass through the asparagus with little resistance. Remove cooked spears and set aside.
Lightly coat the steaks with olive oil. Do not season at this stage.
Cook on high heat, turning every minute for six minutes to cook to medium-rare. Remove from the grill and let rest at least 10 minutes before carving.
Remove all but one cup of the asparagus poaching liquid from the pot and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a thin glaze and add the cooked asparagus back in to heat through.
Carve the steaks, making sure to cut against the grain, and season lightly with Maldon salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Serve with the asparagus and shaved pecorino pepato.
Suggested Wine Pairings
Steak often goes best with a rich red such as cabernet sauvignon, but there are twists in this recipe, namely the cheese and asparagus. Better to veer toward something with a tad more acidity than cab. Acidity adds verve to cut through the lively cheese and herbal essence of the vegetable. A top choice would be Chianti, made from sangiovese, a grape with a zippy profile and in many cases a finish that can suggest saltiness. If you prefer beer, consider a strongly bitter, aromatic and herbaceous pale ale. - Beppi Crosariol