Coffee-rubbed Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

Too often, my hubby and I fall into a make-it-Mexican rut, and we neglect the other flavors that are hanging out in our pantry cabinet, just waiting to thrill our palates. When we discovered last week that our dinner rotation had an empty slot, I pulled a package of skirt steak from the freezer, figuring we could always give it a Mexican spin and fajitas or tacos with it. But with all the other flavorful things that could be applied to a cut as tender and succulent as skirt steak, isn’t plain ole usual fajitas just “phoning it in?” 

So I reconsidered, taking our steak in a different direction with my homemade spicy coffee rub and a zesty, garlicky chimichurri to accentuate and complement the smoky, earthy flavors of the rub. We did pile it all onto hearty tortillas and enjoyed it as fajitas, but this meal had a decidedly more interesting appeal!

Les couldn’t wait to sip his brew!

As long as we were trying new things, we swapped in scallions for the usual grilled onions, which was a nice change of pace texturally and flavor-wise. And we gave our red bell pepper only a few quick turns on the grill, keeping some of the firmness and amping up the sweetness with those blistered skins. No hot spices on them, only salt and pepper to preserve their natural flavors.


No salsa, cilantro or sour cream here either; rather, I set up my food processor and pulsed down a couple of big handfuls of fresh parsley with garlic, more scallions, fresh oregano and red wine vinegar. The grilling of this meal moves quickly, so it’s best to make the chimichurri a few hours or even a day ahead. Here’s how it goes.


This is a classic formula for chimichurri, a condiment familiar to Argentina, and though it typically calls for a few shakes of crushed red pepper, I swapped in a scant spoonful of this wicked hot crispy habanero stuff that I picked up last year from Trader Joe’s. Drizzle in some olive oil while the processor runs, and it’s ready in a snap.


Now, if you’re thinking, “I need to get to Trader Joe’s right now for some of that crispy habanero!” well, don’t bother. As is par for the course, this spicy stuff has already been 86’d from TJ’s lineup— their abrupt dispatch of interesting products is, as you know, part of my love-hate relationship with the store— but you can easily go traditional with your chimichurri and just use crushed red pepper, or even a fresh jalapeno. But if you happen to be stuck with a jar of the habanero crisp already, at least now you have a fun way to use it. I intend to put it to work in my next batch of spicy homemade sausage, and I’ll let you know how that goes.

As for the skirt steak, I gave it a nice massage with my spicy coffee rub, which I introduced in 2021 with this coffee-rubbed grilled tri-tip steak. Link back to that post for the rub recipe and another great meat idea for the grill. This homemade rub has amazing flavors, including coriander, ancho, brown sugar, oregano and cayenne— altogether, a really nice change of pace for fajitas. The coffee rub does not impart a coffee flavor to the meat—if it did, my husband wouldn’t touch it—no, it’s more of a bold, earthy flavor, a little bit spicy and a touch smoky, depending on the roast level of the coffee you use.


The secret to making skirt steak the best it can be is threefold— season it well ahead of time, grill it quickly and cut it against the grain. Les took care of the grilling part (and it happened fast!) while I prepped the fresh avocado and chopped the charred veggies. We wrapped the finished steak tightly in foil for about seven minutes before slicing, and dinner was served!



The coffee rub turned out to be a terrific flavor for our skirt steak, and the chimichurri was like icing on a cake! OK, well, maybe green icing. 🙂

This was a very tasty bite!

Coffee-rubbed Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

  • Servings: About 5
  • Difficulty: Average
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The earthy, smoky notes of my coffee rub, combined with a bold and zesty chimichurri was a flavor explosion for our taste buds! If you can't purchaset this flavorful cut, a flank steak or hangar steak would be a good substitute. Allow a few extra minutes on the grill to adjust for the thickness.


Ingredients

  • 2 to 3-pound skirt steak (preferably grass-fed)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (liquid or spray)
  • 1 Tbsp. spicy coffee rub (recipe available at https://comfortdujour.com/2021/05/17/coffee-rubbed-grilled-tri-tip-steak/)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into large sections for easy grilling
  • 1 bunch fresh scallions, divided (you’ll use them in the chimichurri and as an accompaniment to the steak)
  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into slices or cubes
  • 1 small lime, cut into wedges
  • Medium size flour tortillas for serving

Directions

  1. Trim away any lingering membrane pieces from skirt steak. Pat dry, then rub or spray on a small amount of olive oil. Apply coffee rub evenly over the entire surface of the steak. Let it rest in the fridge a few (or up to 24) hours, bringing it back to near-room temperature about 45 minutes before grilling.
  2. Preheat grill or grill pan to roughly 500 F. If working indoors, be ready to use your vent fan, as the high temperature will likely produce some smoke.
  3. Prep the red bell peppers and remaining scallions by brushing or spraying with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the veggies, turning frequently to ensure even charring. Transfer to a cutting board and chop into bite sized pieces.
  4. Place the skirt steak over direct heat and grill only until the first side is seared (this will be 2 minutes or less). Turn the steak and repeat searing on the other side. The cooking should be very brief so the meat remains tender.
  5. Transfer the steak immediately to a plate lined with a large, double layer of foil. Season immediately with kosher salt. Wrap the steak so it is fully enclosed in the foil and seal it tightly, resting for 5 to 8 minutes. The residual heat will finish cooking the meat as the juices are redistributed.
  6. While the steak rests, flash-grill the tortillas just long enough to warm them. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and slice thinly against the grain of the meat. Serve with grilled veggies, avocado and chimicurri.

For best flavor, make the chimichurri a day ahead so the ingredients have plenty of time to mingle in the fridge. Bring to near-room temperature for serving.

Ingredients

  • About two handfuls fresh Italian parsley, rinsed and trimmed of heavy stems
  • 3 or 4 scallions (green onions), trimmed and rough-chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and rough-chopped
  • A few small sprigs fresh oregano leaves, rinsed and stripped from stems
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • A few shakes crushed red pepper (or some other spicy element), to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Add one handful of the parsley to the small bowl of a food processor, along with scallions, garlic, oregano, vinegar, crushed pepper, salt and pepper. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Pulse a few times to combine.
  2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining handful of parsley, pulsing again just to combine.
  3. Turn the processor on to run continuously and stream in the rest of the olive oil while it’s running. Adjust to taste, then transfer to a bowl to rest in the fridge.



Irish Coffee Ice Cream

When it comes to recipe ideas, I have a hard time letting go. My mind will grab hold of a “what if” twist on a classic, and I am off and running until I find the finish line. If that idea seems impossible (or if my first, second and tenth attempt fails), I will ponder it until I figure it out.

This Irish coffee ice cream almost didn’t happen, and that would have been a shame because it shines a light on two things I enjoy—OK, three—coffee, Irish cream and ice cream. You might recall at Christmastime that I had contemplated turning My Dad’s Irish Creme into an ice cream, but I was concerned about how to make it freeze with the amount of Irish whiskey it would take to flavor it correctly. Yes, I have used spirits in my ice creams before, but usually only within the context of a syrup swirl or a splash at the end to help improve the scooping texture. Irish coffee and Irish cream have a great deal of whiskey in them so it wouldn’t be as straightforward. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and when I started searching out formulas for infusing ice cream with booze (and knowing when to say when), I ran across this article on Serious Eats, which gave me enough of a road map to give it a go. But this experiment was not without roadblocks.

The sheer amount of Irish whiskey in this ice cream makes it ultra-scoopable. Is that even a word?

As you can see, it turned out fine, but I had a setback the first time I attempted to freeze the mixture, and it had nothing to do with my formula. Here’s something you may not know, but should, if you happen to have an “extra” freezer that you keep in an unheated garage. When the ambient temperature of the garage (or basement, carport, etc.) drops below the settings on your freezer, trouble kicks in. And over last weekend, we had an overnight low of 19° F (which is, frankly, ridiculous and rare for us in North Carolina this close to Spring), and the freezer bowl for my ice cream maker suffered for it because the freezer could not regulate properly with the fluctuation of the outside temperature. I did not realize this, of course, until I tried to freeze my ice cream base. After more than 30 minutes of churning, my Irish coffee not-quite-ice-cream was basically a thin, boozy milkshake (not exactly a terrible thing, either). But what I really wanted was ice cream.

Armed with the Serious Eats information, I refused to give up when my first attempt at freezing failed. I cleared a space in our kitchen freezer and gave the freezer bowl a good solid 24 hours in deep freeze mode. That made all the difference for the outcome of this ice cream, which is perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.

That frosty mug is so inviting…go on, reach in for the spoon!

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole milk

2 Tbsp. espresso powder* (see notes)

1 Tbsp. dark cocoa powder*

2 Tbsp. light corn syrup*

14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup 80-proof Irish whiskey*


*Notes


Espresso powder is not just finely ground coffee; this is a specialty ingredient that I used to infuse the milk in my recipe with a deep coffee flavor. Find it in the baking aisle of a well-stocked supermarket or online.

Chocolate is not necessarily an ingredient in Irish coffee, but I considered that a little bit of coffee works to intensify the chocolate flavor of other desserts, so why couldn’t it work the other way around? I chose to dissolve a little dark cocoa powder into the milk at the same time as the espresso powder, and it turned out to be a good decision because my coffee-hating husband found something to enjoy about this ice cream. 😊

I always add a little corn syrup to my ice cream base if I have concerns about ice crystals. Given that I wasn’t sure how the whiskey would behave in the mix, I played it safe.

The Serious Eats article was specific to mention maximum amounts of alcohol that was 80 proof, so I didn’t want to push the limit and mess it up. I used Jameson Irish Whiskey, the same brand I use when I make my Dad’s Irish cream recipe. Lower proof would not be a problem, but if your whiskey is higher, I’d recommend using less.


Instructions

Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the espresso powder and dark cocoa powder until dissolved and evenly incorporated. Remove from heat and stir in the corn syrup.

Transfer the milk to a large bowl and whisk it together with the sweetened condensed milk. These ingredients are at opposite ends of the consistency scale, and I like to combine them first so that I don’t accidentally whisk the heavy cream into thickening.

Gently whisk or stir in the heavy cream until blended, then stir in the Irish whiskey. Cover the bowl and refrigerate several hours to overnight (colder is better).

Stir or whisk the ice cream base just before freezing to reincorporate any settled ingredients. Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions, and don’t be surprised if it takes a few extra minutes to achieve soft-serve consistency. Transfer the churned ice cream to an insulated container and put in the coldest spot of your (inside) freezer overnight before serving.

Because of the high alcohol content, this ice cream will scoop very easily and will melt more quickly than typical ice cream upon serving.



Coffee-rubbed Grilled Tri-tip Steak

My husband, Les, has stepped up into the role of “kitchen boss” as I convalesce after slicing my finger. He is especially good on the grill, and sharing one of our fabulous recent meals. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Terrie

There are few things I like better than cooking and, of course, eating, a perfectly seared steak. Medium rare.

Strangely, loving steak didn’t come easily for me. My mom, forced to stretch a budget in our lower middle class household, didn’t get the best cuts. I remember endlessly chewing and chewing and chewing, dawdling through meals while eventually my two older sisters and parents drifted away into the “den” (which in actuality was a hallway) to watch TV. I would wait until I knew they were occupied and sneak over to drop my gray meat and leftover canned vegetables into the trash. Then immediately volunteer to take the trash out to the incinerator chute down the hallway of our apartment building in Queens, N.Y.

Eventually, two things changed.

First, I hit puberty and suddenly couldn’t get enough of steak. Second, about this same time, I recall my father started to speak out for getting his steak more rare. In particular, my mom started to buy London broil, a lovely cut of meat, which she cooked on the electric broiler, a rare, new “toy” in our household, slathering on some Open Pit barbecue sauce during the process. Best of all, my mom learned to take the meat off the broiler, cut medium rare slices for my father and me (by then my two sisters were both out of the house; the oldest married and the other in college) and then put the meat back on the grill to get it more done for herself.

I’ve never stopped loving a good cut of steak. As a young adult, I became adept at grilling, and London broil was always my favorite, even over a good New York strip. Until a couple of years ago, that is. Terrie and I were in Whole Foods one day and there was no London broil. The butcher suggested we try a tri-tip. “A what?” I recall saying. He pointed to a triangular-shaped piece of meat about 2 inches thick, which except for its shape looked similar to a London broil. The tri-tip comes from the point end of a sirloin, while London broil typically comes from the top or bottom round of the cow. The tri-tip is thus a better cut of meat, more marbled and flavorful.

Terrie suggested using her coffee spice rub, which is interesting because coffee is one of three things I can’t abide (the others being goat cheese and malted milk). But as part of a spice rub, I honestly don’t taste the “coffee” part, and it makes a terrific flavor profile for cooking steaks of any sort. It has become our favorite preparation for tri-tip, and Terrie’s recipe for the rub is included below.

This cut of beef slices easily, and it stays juicy inside with lots of spice and flavor on the crust.

I can’t tell you how easily and perfectly this meat sears. Not only is it delicious fresh off the grill, but the leftovers slice beautifully thin for sandwiches. Tri-tip, provolone, onion and lettuce on one of Terrie’s sourdough breads for lunch? Yes, please, as my better half likes to say.


Instructions

  1. Brush or spray olive oil onto the surface of the tri-tip steak, and rub a generous amount (about 1 tablespoon per pound of meat) all over it.
  2. Let the dry rub sit for a few hours in the fridge, taking the meat out about an hour before grilling time.
  3. Put the gas grill on high (550 to 600° F) and sear the meat on each side for 45 seconds to a minute depending on the thickness, before turning down the temp to about 350° F.
  4. Cook the tri-tip about 7 to 10 minutes on each side, using either a meat thermometer to hit 140° F internally for medium rare, or simply using your eye if you care to slice into it while it’s on the grill.

Reminder: the meat will continue to cook after being removed from the grill, so err on the “rare” side regardless of how you like your meat, as the idea is to let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Slice tri-tip thinly, against the grain of the meat, taking note that the direction changes slightly about halfway into it.

Nilla knows delicious meat when she smells it!

Terrie’s Coffee Rub

Adapted from Bobby Flay’s rub recipe

Ingredients

1/4 cup very finely ground dark roast coffee* (see notes)

1/4 cup ancho chile powder*

2 Tbsp. Spanish sweet paprika

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. mustard seeds

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

1 Tbsp. ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. coriander seeds

1 Tbsp. dried oregano

2 tsp. ground ginger

2 tsp. ground cayenne* (adjust to taste)


*Notes

Use a burr coffee grinder on the finest setting to produce the best ground coffee for this recipe. Alternatively, use purchased espresso powder or a good quality instant coffee, such as Starbucks Via brand.

Ancho chile is a smoked, dried poblano chile. It has less heat than chipotle, and is more “fruity” in flavor. Seek out ancho chile powder in a specialty store or online, or substitute a lesser amount of ground chipotle. I don’t recommend substituting a purchased, generically labeled “chili powder,” as these products usually also contain a lot of salt and other spices.

Cayenne packs a fair amount of heat, so adjust the amount to your match your tolerance. If you really like it hot, substitute ground chiles de arbol.


Instructions

Place mustard and coriander seeds in a spice grinder and pulse until finely ground, but not quite powdery. Combine with all other rub ingredients and keep in a sealed jar for up to six months.

Use about 1 Tbsp. per pound of meat as a grilling rub.



Savory Smoky Baked Beans

Just about every baked bean recipe I’ve ever eaten has hit me a little too heavy on the sweet tooth. Do they really need to have brown sugar and honey and molasses and maple syrup? Geez, it hurts my teeth just thinking about it. My version has some sweetness, but it’s a deep, earthy kind of sweet, thanks to molasses, and balanced with only a bit of brown sugar. There’s dark-roast coffee, cumin, ancho chile, coriander and ginger, too—plenty of savory notes to keep these beans off the dessert end of the potluck table.

You could sauté the onions in olive oil and this recipe would make even a vegan happy. But don’t lament, carnivores. Your beloved bacon will feel right at home in this dish, too. Y’all go ahead and make it your own!

Ingredients

About 4 cups cooked pinto and great northern beans* (see notes)

2 Tbsp. bacon drippings (or extra virgin olive oil)

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 Tbsp. spicy coffee rub*

1 tsp. coarse kosher salt

8 oz. can tomato sauce

2 Tbsp. ketchup (Heinz organic made with sugar)

3 Tbsp. molasses

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. maple-flavored balsamic vinegar*

(Optional) chopped cooked bacon and/or browned meat*

*Notes

I cooked the beans from dry, which is easy to do after an overnight soak. For me, the texture of from-scratch beans is worth the minimal effort, and a lot cheaper. If you prefer, use two or three varieties of canned beans. You’ll need 3 cans, and you’ll want to drain and rinse them well before proceeding.

My recipe for spicy coffee rub follows, or substitute any pre-made spice blend that includes coffee, sugar and chili spices, but be mindful of the sodium content and adjust the recipe accordingly.

I’m a very devoted follower of flavored oils and vinegars, and I think the maple balsamic brings a nice maple flavor to these beans, without more “sweet.” Use any other dark balsamic you like (perhaps espresso or dark chocolate), or omit it altogether. It’s kind of like the cherry on top of a sundae—nice, but not necessary.

We had 3 slices of leftover cooked bacon from breakfast and about 1 cup cooked ground bison (a leftover from chili for hot dogs). Both found their way into the baked beans, and the dish was even more hearty and satisfying for it.

Instructions

Sauté onion in bacon drippings (or olive oil) until they’re slightly soft and translucent.

Add spicy coffee rub and salt, and cook until fragrant. Add tomato sauce, ketchup, molasses, brown sugar and maple balsamic vinegar. Cook until sugar is dissolved, and mixture is thick and syrupy.


Preheat oven to 350° F. 

Put prepared or canned beans in an oven-safe, lidded casserole. Pour sauce over beans and fold gently to combine. Bake about 45 minutes, until fully hot and bubbly. I left the lid on for most of the baking time, but removed it for the last 15 minutes. That dark, sticky crust just makes me so happy, and I can’t wait to eat the leftovers cold from the fridge.

Spicy Coffee Rub – my take on a Bobby Flay recipe

Makes about 1 cup

1/4 cup ancho chile powder

1/4 cup finely ground dark roast coffee*

2 Tbsp. sweet Spanish paprika

2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar

1 Tbsp. dry mustard

1 Tbsp. ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. ground coriander seed*

2 tsp. ground ginger

2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (optional to taste)

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. dried thyme leaves

1 tsp. kosher salt*

*Notes

The coffee should be ground as finely as powder, not just ground for coffee. If you have a spice grinder, that’s the best way to achieve the proper grind texture.

Coriander is the seed form of cilantro, but the taste is not similar. You can find it pre-ground at the market, but I much prefer the flavor of freshly ground seeds for this rub. I use a mortar and pestle to crush the seeds, but you could also use a spice grinder, as used for the coffee.

I keep the salt to a minimum in this spice rub recipe to allow more flexibility in its use. If you want a more intense flavor when you use the rub, you don’t end up making your end dish too salty.

Instructions

Combine all ingredients and keep in a tightly covered jar for up to four months.

Use it as a dry rub on steak or ribs before grilling, add a tablespoon to your favorite chili recipe or mixed in with your meat for burgers or tacos. Obviously, use it also in this recipe for savory baked beans.

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