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Bye Week: Rocky Top Talk is now a food blog

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Taking a page from And the Valley Shook, we're talking about cooking during the bye week.

Winning the tailgate, even if the Vols aren't playing.
Winning the tailgate, even if the Vols aren't playing.
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The Vols are off this week, so rather than dealing with all of the logistics of preparing a tailgate, you can relax in the comfort of your own home with delicious grilled meats and college football. If you have an excess of rosemary, flank steak, and laziness, try this easy marinade from Cook's Illustrated (now passworded, so check this out instead: Grilled Flank Steak with Rosemary).

Marinade Ingredients

  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons worth of freshly chopped rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • a couple grinds of black pepper
  • half a cup of olive oil

A few words about meat

The original recipe calls for flank steak, but there's a whole range of meats that you could use. Any decent quality steak will taste great with this marinade, although in that case, you're not really tailgating, you're preparing Bistecca alla Fiorentina like a sophisticated and worldly gourmand. Since this is supposed to be an easy afternoon meal while watching football, I'd recommend a cheaper but still flavorful cut of meat like flank, skirt, hanger, or flatiron. Depending on where you are in the world, a few of those cuts will be more or less expensive, and each will require a slight variation in cooking time, but they're all generally similar enough to work. I used a medium-sized hanger steak from a local butcher shop.

Preparation: Marinade

The truly lazy cook maximizes effort by investing in heavy duty kitchen tools, like an ancient Cuisinart food processor with a giant motor in it. Throw everything except the olive oil (and the meat, duh) into the food processor and process it until the rosemary and garlic are finely chopped, then drizzle in the olive oil and give it a few more seconds until it's a paste. Scoop the marinade into a plastic bag, add the meat, and mush it around until it's well covered. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, or overnight. This marinade doesn't have any acid in it, so it won't break the meat down like one that uses vinegar or citrus juice.

Note: adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to the marinade won't be out of place, especially if you're using flank steak, but in that case, don't marinate for longer than 8 hours.

Preparation: Cooking

If you're using a good quality steak, prepare it the way you usually would, making sure to drain any excess marinade before cooking.

If you're using flank, skirt, hangar, or flatiron, you want to use direct high heat applied in one of two ways:

  1. Grill. Clean and oil your grill grates, then light or preheat your grill until it's blazing hot. Grill for 3-4 minutes a side, depending on the thickness of the meat, for a total cooking time of no more than 7-8 minutes. You don't really want to go past medium because none of these cuts have enough fat to keep them from turning into beef jerky for longer cooking times.
  2. Cast iron pan on the stove.

Last night, I used a cast-iron pan with a small amount of vegetable oil in it, heated so that the oil was almost (but not quite) smoking. Since hangar is such a long cut of meat, I cut it in half and cooked the pieces side-by-side, about 3-4 minutes per side for a total cooking time of about 6 and a half minutes. I let the meat rest for a couple of minutes and served it with an ersatz tzatziki sauce (chopped fresh dill, splash of lemon juice, salt, shredded and drained cucumber and Greek yogurt-- all mixed together).

So what are y'all cooking up on a non-Tennessee college football Saturday?