One of the first recipes I remember sharing when I first started writing about food was for a quick beef stew using the ends of beef filets, or filet tips. The first step of the recipe is to start a pot of rice cooking, and since the stew itself only takes about 30 minutes to complete, everything should be ready at just about the same time.
When I shared that recipe, filet tips were cheap, and I felt like a pretty savvy customer making stew with such a high-end cut. These days I’m happier with cuts that have more flavor and texture, like skirt, brisket and hanger steaks. Which one I choose usually depends on what looks best at the grocery, and what’s on sale. For about the last six months I’ve found good prices on skirt steak, but in the last two weeks I’ve run across hanger steaks at the same price and I’ve snapped them up every time.
Hanger steaks come from the “plate” or belly of the cow, and look like a cross between a flank and a skirt steak (or a lot like the tri-tip, of you know what that is). There’s a good bit of grain to the meat, and a decent amount of fat, which makes it perfect for the grill or the broiler. I’ve read cautionary tales about how hanger steaks are ruined if you cook them past medium rare, but in my experience that’s not necessarily the case.
The last time I cooked the cut I trimmed two steaks into six pieces around the size of small filets, (4-5 ounces each) then marinated them for an hour in red wine vinegar flavored with garlic and herbs. Just before cooking I wiped off the marinade, tossed the meat with olive oil then slapped the pieces onto a cast-iron griddle that I’d pre-heated in a 550 degree oven.
This ultimately produced outstanding steaks – seared to a crust on the exterior and tender inside – but it also produced a cloud of smoke in my home, even with the range vent on full power. It was worth it to me, but you (or your family) may disagree, in which case a charcoal grill may be a better option.
I usually like a sauce with a grilled or pan-roasted steak, but in this case the marinade and a little salt and pepper are all the flavor necessary. Fries are the classic accompaniment to a hanger steak, but I can’t think of a potato preparation that wouldn’t go well. In a nod to my elevated cholesterol, I like to steam some broccoli or other green vegetable to serve with the steak and potatoes. In a nod to my palate, I generally add lemon and butter to said green vegetable; your mileage may vary.
You can find hanger steak on the menu at a few restaurants around town as a standard menu item; Café Degas
serves it as the steak part of Steak Frites, and La Boca
has an organic hanger from Oregon’s Painted Hills farm. As with all meat at La Boca, it’s unbelievably good.
But if you can find hanger steak at your grocer, I’d suggest you give it a shot. It’s quick to cook, relatively inexpensive and it’s got a deep, rich flavor you won’t get from most other cuts.