Slowly simmered chicken and wild mushroom ragout served with polenta. Merguez lamb sausages paired with couscous and a bowl of vegetables simmered in homemade broth. Cassoulet (an abbreviated 2-hour version). Those are just some of the robust and time-consuming dishes I’ve been cooking during the cold snowy weather we’ve been experiencing here in New England. Although I love these hearty entrees, I was searching for a lighter and quicker main course when I spotted a recipe for pan seared flank steak with a caper and walnut relish. I loved the idea of juicy strips of rosy-pink steak topped with a salty, crunchy mélange. It didn’t take me long to create my own rendition.
For a salty touch in the relish, I opted for pitted Castelvetrano olives, a mild yet delicious Italian variety, and paired them with diced fennel, walnut pieces, and halved cherry tomatoes, all tossed in a lemon dressing scented with crushed fennel seeds. A marinade with a similar flavor profile—lemon, olive oil, crushed fennel seeds, and some grated garlic—was perfect for seasoning the flank steak.
My husband, always an enthusiastic omnivore, took seconds of the meat each time topping the slices with the colorful and vibrantly flavored garnish. The relish, which takes about 15 minutes to assemble, can be prepared several hours ahead. Count on 5 minutes to whisk together the marinade for the steak, and then several hours to marinate it. At serving time, all that is necessary is to cook the steak, either by pan searing it in a heavy skillet or grilling it on a stovetop grill pan. Voilà! A delicious anchor for a winter meal.
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Pan Seared Flank Steak with Olive, Walnut, and Fennel Relish
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and grated
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tsp fennel seeds, crushed or coarsely ground
3 tbsp olive oil plus extra for the sauté pan or stovetop grill pan
One flank steak, about 1 1/3 pounds, trimmed of any excess fat
Olive, Fennel, and Walnut Relish
One lemon grated to yield 1 tsp of zest and juiced to yield 4 tsp
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed or coarsely ground
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup pitted Castelvetrano olives, quartered
1/2 cup diced fennel bulb (cut into 1/2-inch dice)
1 1/2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes (red or yellow or a combination), halved or quartered if large
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1. For the flank steak, in a large nonreactive baking dish (a pyrex dish works well), whisk together the lemon juice, grated garlic, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, crushed fennel seeds, and olive oil. Place the steak in the dish, turn several times, and cover with plastic wrap. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 3 hours or overnight, turning occasionally. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before cooking.
2. For the relish, in a medium non-reactive mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and zest, crushed fennel seeds, kosher salt, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. Add olives, fennel, tomatoes, and walnut pieces. Stir to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for up to 6 hours. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes or longer before serving. Then stir in the parsley. (Makes about 2 cups.)
3. Remove the steak from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper on both sides. Place a large heavy skillet such as a cast iron one over medium high heat or use a stove top grill pan. Cover the bottom of the skillet with just enough oil to coat lightly and if using a stovetop grill pan oil it lightly. If your skillet or grill pan is not large enough to accommodate the whole flank steak, cut the meat in half at the center so you have two pieces about the same size with one piece slightly thicker.
4. Pan sear or grill the flank steak about 5 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 130 to 135 degrees for medium rare. Remove to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Cut meat on the diagonal against the grain into 1/4 inch-thick slices.
5. Arrange the sliced meat on a platter or wooden board and top with some of the relish. Serve remaining relish in a small serving bowl alongside.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2024