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Ben’s meat newsletter: Quick-fry steaks & escalopes

Ever since we started the meat box business, food writers publishing endless recipes for trendy cuts of meat like onglet steak and New York short ribs but ignoring the popular, easily accessible ones has been a source of considerable annoyance to me. I like a ribeye as much as the next man but it’s a treat. For 95 per cent of us, our meat staples consist of topside, chicken breast, minced beef, leg of pork etc, but rarely the cuts that get food writers’ creative juices flowing. Frying steak is a classic example. For years it’s made a regular appearance in our boxes but do a search on the web and the results will be virtually nada; we might cook it but chefs don’t.

A better name is minute steak or ‘no more than a minute’ steak because it’s absolutely crucial not to overcook it. Normally cut from the thick flank (often confusingly known as the top rump) or topside, it has virtually no fat so will dry out and toughen as it cooks.

It’s good because it’s cheap and very useful – but not for frying as a steak. Our quick-fry steak has been through a tenderiser (a bit like a steak hammer) so you can fry it quickly for a sandwich but I’d always take the precaution of cutting into strips before assembly. But just because someone has gone to the trouble of tenderising it doesn’t mean you have to fry it. Far better cut it into batons, fingers or ribbons and use it for something like a stroganoff, Thai massaman curry, stir-fry or fajitas.

Riverford beef escalopes are, in all but name, frying or minute steak, cut from the same muscles but a little thinner. Use for any of the above. Again the secret lies in fast cooking and not hanging around for too long once cooked. The cooking doesn’t have to be fierce – in fact quickly poaching in broth as with a ramen soup is a better way of ensuring that it doesn’t overcook and
toughen up.

Alternatively, a long slow cook will also work and tapping out and wrapping around a stuffing of some sort is guaranteed to impress. The Italians call them involtini and the Americans and Australians call them braciole. They’re surprisingly easy, cheap and can be crumbed and baked, cooked in a sauce (normally tomato) or part cooked and finished on the BBQ. I’m particularly keen on them cooked in a, not too hot, oven – so the filling oozes out.

pork or beef involtini
serves 4, prep 30 mins, cook 30 mins

4 pork or beef steaks – quick fry or escalopes
4 slices bread (2 for stuffing & 2 for crumbing)
100g lardons
2 onions, 1 very finely chopped & 1 cut into wedges
8 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
12 tbsp finely grated pecorino cheese
8 tbsp olive oil
8 bay leaves
2 tbsp vegetable oil
white wine & stock to deglaze the pan
lemon to serve

Preheat oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Prepare the pork or beef by cutting each steak in half then using a rolling pin to flatten the slices into thin escalopes – they should be rectangular and big enough to wrap a heaped tbsp of stuffing but don’t over do it or they will just fall apart. Blitz the bread into breadcrumbs. Halve the crumbs and pour one half into a mixing bowl. Add the lardons to the breadcrumbs in the bowl plus the finely chopped onion, sage and cheese. Season and mix well. Gradually add enough olive oil so that the mixture clings together and holds well allowing you to shape it. Divide the breadcrumb mixture into 8 – about 1 tbsp of mixture per involtini. Place mixture at the end of an escalope and carefully roll up, folding in the sides as you go to completely seal in the filling. Repeat with remaining escalopes. Take a flat sided metal skewer and thread four rolls onto the skewer, alternating with onion wedges and bay as you go. Repeat with the remaining skewer. Have two plates to hand. On one plate add the reserved breadcrumbs. On another plate add 2 tbsp of vegetable oil. Coat the skewers first with the oil, then crumbs, pressing down well to coat the meat. Repeat with the remaining skewer. Place the skewers onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment, then into the oven for 25-30 mins or until the crumbs have a nice colouring. Carefully turn half way through cooking. Once cooked remove and deglaze pan with a little wine and veg stock. Reduce and serve with a squeeze of lemon and basmati rice.

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