Tender is the bite
Fall-off-the-bone flanken for the holidays
Although I grew up in an Ashkenazi Jewish home, I never tasted flanken before I was grown and married. My mother said she hated the stuff and she was in charge of meals, so that was that. Luckily for me, my mother-in-law was a flanken fan. She made a mean soup that included strips of tender meat, tons of mushrooms and barley, and a generous amount of fresh dill.
I fell in love with flanken immediately, and yet, as with so many ingredients, I also started to use this cut for recipes that weren’t so traditional — flanken grilled with barbecue sauce, for example — and in the recipe below, where I added kosher chunk beef bacon to give a basic stew a smoky aroma and flavor.
Recently, when I asked some of my food-world friends about it, they assured me that they, too, cooked flanken in ways their bubbes would never have contemplated.
Food blogger Gloria Kobrin pairs the meat with dried apricots and fresh oranges in a gravy that includes a large dose of hoisin sauce. “It’s my go-to Purim dish,” she says, “because I enjoy serving entrees with international flavors at my large gathering of 20-30 people.” Her recipe isn’t difficult to prepare but does take some time because she cooks the meat at very low temperatures. That way, she says, “the muscle tissue breaks down and more fat melts away.” The result is “very tender, moist, fall-off-the-bone meat.” When the dish is finished, she separates and chills the ingredients, which makes it easier to remove extra fat. Once the meat is reheated, she serves it with steamed basmati rice and a colorful array of vegetables.
The bold seasonings of the American Southwest inspired a recipe for Jalapeno Short Ribs by food blogger and cookbook author Daniella Silver, who co-wrote “The Silver Platter: Simple to Spectacular” and “Silver Platter Simple Elegance: Effortless Recipes with Sophisticated Results” with food writer, cookbook author, and entrepreneur Norene Gilletz. Silver says that while she loves traditional Jewish recipes, she likes to “put a spin on them” to give her meals a more modern appeal. This recipe, which she serves to company on Shabbat, “is always a wow!”
Like Kobrin, she cooks the dish in parts, first marinating the meat with a layer of chili-brown sugar spice rub, which infuses it with a bit of hot spice mellowed by sweetness. Then there’s a half-hour sear in high heat “for crust and color” followed by a slow braise in spicy sauce, “a process that targets the inside of the meat and makes it tender, juicy, and melt-in-your-mouth good.” Silver serves the dish with green beans and roasted potatoes to create “a beautifully balanced meal and colorful plate.”
Next time you see a good-looking batch of flanken in the market, consider the recipe below:
Flanken with Beer and (Kosher) Bacon
5-6 oz. kosher chunk bacon, cut into smaller chunks
4-6 pieces of flanken
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3-4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 medium onions, sliced
2-3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 bottle beer (12 ounces)
1 cup beef or chicken stock
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1) Cook the bacon chunks in a large saute pan over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally, or until they are browned and crispy. Remove the bacon pieces and set aside. While the bacon is cooking, press the flanken pieces into the flour to coat the meat lightly. Set them aside.
2) After removing the bacon, cook the flanken pieces a few at a time, for 3-4 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Set the browned flanken aside.
3) Pour the olive oil into the pan. Cook the carrots, onions, and garlic for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4) Return the flanken and bacon pieces to the pan and spoon the vegetables on top of the meat. Pour in the beer and stock. Place the thyme and rosemary on top. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover the pan. Cook at a low simmer (or in the oven at 250 degrees) for about 3 hours or until the meat is tender.
Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author, food writer, and cooking teacher in Stamford, Conn. She is the author of “The Modern Kosher Kitchen” and “Hip Kosher.” Visit her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes, at ronniefein.com; friend on Facebook at RonnieVailFein; or find her on Twitter at @RonnieVFein or on Instagram at RonnieVFein. For more of the flanken recipes mentioned here, visit jwfoodandwine.com.