Taming Round Steak

The last few years, my parents have made a portion of a cow the family Christmas/birthday presents. When you consider the joy that comes with having beef that's been raised by a farmer we know and a single source we enjoy year-long, it's a pretty fantastic gift. I'll wander the beef section of our local market in amazement at how much buying all or most of a cow can save you over the course of a year. I highly recommend the investment if you are a fan of quality beef, even if a generous gift isn't in the cards for you.

One thing I've heard from folks who know I've got a year's worth of cow in the freezer is "But what do you do with the round steak?" We eat it, of course! Then there's usually a bit of a rant about how tough it is and how it's only ok if you slow-cook it and then it's tender, but kinda blah and the older folks have a hard time chewing it and it makes the kids cry and … you get the idea. Well, I don't have that problem, but that is very likely because of my approach to preparing round steak, which I will share with you today. By the time it gets to my table, this is what I'm looking at:

I'm sharing a fantastic steak fajita recipe here, but the method for making round steak divine is the same if you want to toss it in a stir-fry, make a great steak salad, or try your hand at a cheese steak sandwich. You begin with the nicest round steak you can find. If you're lucky, you'll get it pre-tenderized. If not, you can make that happen, too. But first, trim all of the visible fat from the meat. The cleaner the steak when it hits the pan, the more mouth-wateringly tender it will be when it's on the plate. If your meat is not tenderized, spend a little time doing just that. Then it's time to cut the meat into thin strips. If you are looking for a beautiful chunk of steak to put on a plate, round steak is not your choice. This one's for a lot of flavor in a bunch of itty-bitty packages. Trust me.

Slice the meat into thin strips against the grain (if you don't know what that means, here's a quick guide) and then into small squares. They should be bite-sized pieces of meat when you're done. Then add a healthy sprinkle of salt and pepper, rub it evenly into all of the surfaces of the meat, and let it sit and think about what it did for about a half hour. That will give you enough time to work on other parts of your menu and/or recipe.

When it comes time to cook your steak, get a heavy pan, some flavorful cooking fat, and make sure you cook it hot and quickly in small batches. This approach will not disappoint you. I add fajita seasonings to the steak in this recipe, but the sky's the limit. Then it's just a matter of finishing up with some tender veggies and serving it all in your favorite warm tortillas. Or you could serve it over rice with stir-fried veggies and a simple Asian sauce. Or you could fold it into a pita with hummus and grilled veggies. Really, think outside the box here and congratulate yourself on choosing an inexpensive cut of beef and making it part of a magical menu for you and yours.

Carne Asade Fajitas

  • 1 lb. well-tenderized round steak
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground chipotle
  • 1-2 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 large orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
  • Warm flour tortillas

Trim all of the visible fat from the meat, then cut it across the grain into thin strips, about 1/8 of an inch. Cut each of the strips into small squares. Liberally pepper and salt the surface; allow the meat to rest for about half an hour.

While the meat is resting, combine the smoked paprika, granulated garlic, ground cumin, ground black pepper, and ground chipotle in a small dish. Set aside. Prepare the onion and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a heavy skillet with some bacon fat, butter, or other chosen cooking fat until it is bubbly. Cook one layer of the prepared meat at a time until done, allowing the pieces of meat to brown, but not burn. Near the end of cooking, sprinkle with the reserved seasoning mix and continue stirring to evenly coat the meat.

Remove the meat to a plate and keep warm. Add the prepared onions and pepper to the hot skillet and stir constantly until the vegetables are crisp tender. Add the meat back to the skillet, stir, and remove from the heat. Adjust salt and pepper according to your tastes.

Serve the meat and vegetables in warm flour tortillas with your favorite fajita condiments.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

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