Tequila & Calamansi Marinated Flank Steak

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Among the many local produce and products that surprised us when we moved to Hawaii, local grass-fed, hormone-free, antibiotic-free beef was one of the best. With all the concern about the chemicals and pharmaceuticals that are pumped into commercially produced meats in the U.S., it is such a relief to find high quality beef raised right here in the Islands.

Truth to tell, we were introduced first to Big Island beef on a visit there. We had heard that beef was raised on Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii, but we didn’t see it on market shelves. The only retail source seemed to be the Saturday Farmers’ Market near Diamond Head — and we had only been there once (it’s a long haul from where we live). Anyway, on our second visit to the Big Island, we chanced upon a loco moco (rice topped with beef patty and egg, smothered in brown gravy...mmmm) that was made with Big Island grass-fed beef patties. OMG! The difference in flavor between beef we had known and grass-fed beef is the difference between fresh tuna and canned tuna — seriously, it is that much of a difference!

We actually hand-carried several pounds of steaks and ground beef back to Oahu from that trip! Now that we were converted, we started looking more intently for grass-fed beef on Oahu, too. Happily we finally found a retail source closer to home — Tamura’s Market in Wahiawa carries Oahu’s
North Shore Cattle Company grass-fed beef. A closer inspection of the frozen meat section of other retailers uncovered Big Island-produced Kulana Foods (couldn’t find a URL for them) grass-fed beef at the Kokua Market co-op near the University.

Why local beef? If the incredible flavor is not enough to win you over, consider the health benefits as well. Hawaii’s local beef is leaner per pound, so less fat ends up on your plate and hips. And the cattle are not given hormones or antibiotics — both of which are absorbed and stored in the body.

Lastly, Oahu-produced North Shore beef is not treated with carbon monoxide (aka “tasteless smoke”) — a color preservative used to keep meats and fish artificially “red” and “fresh-looking.” Carbon monoxide is intended to make meats look fresh and safe to eat long after some of the most harmful bacteria making the news today may be present, including Clostridium botulinum, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E-coli 0157:H7. It’s one of the reasons the use of carbon monoxide for meats and seafood is banned in the European Union, Japan, Canada and Singapore (read full article here).

We received confirmation from North Shore Cattle Co. that they do not use carbon monoxide, and from what I remember of the Big Island beef, it does not look like it is treated either (if someone knows for sure, please comment or email us). So let’s support local island producers who provide such high-quality additve-free meats. How can you tell whether carbon monoxide is used? The treated meat or fish (sadly, carbon monoxide is used a lot in ahi too) is bright mauve-red or cherry-red. Still unsure? Ask the butcher!

OK, enough of the blah, blah, blah...
where’s the beef?!

We recently grilled a Tequila and Calamansi Marinated Flank Steak made with North Shore beef and it was out of this world. The first thing I noticed about the flank steak when I took it out of the package is that it was so beautifully trimmed — very little to no “silverskin” (that thin membrane that surrounds the tissue in flank steak that will cause it to shrink and curl on itself when cooked). Also, flank is a notoriously “un-tender” piece of beef that requires either long marination and/or cutting across the grain to break it down to palatable chewiness, and so we did both. But when the meat was sliced after grilling, we marveled at how easily the meat cut compared to other flanks — it was smooth and tender. In fact, at the table we ended up cutting our beef with a fork instead a knife!

Whether or not you can find grass-fed beef, this marinade will put some sizzle into your next grill. Calamansi is a lime native to southeast Asia with a very distinct and addictive flavor that marries especially well with beef (learn more). In this marinade, calamansi and tequila not only infuse the steak with loads of rich flavor, they help tenderize it too. We are sending this, too, to Sig at Live to Eat, our host for the “Grill It!” Monthly Mingle begun by Meeta at What’s for Lunch, Honey. Although we didn’t serve them together this time, this steak would pair well with our other entry for the “Grill It!” event, the Guam-style Grilled Eggplant Salad with Coconut Milk.

This should serve 4-5 people

(Marinate one day before grilling)
1-1.25 lb (455-570g) flank steak
3-5 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise
1 oz. (30 ml or 2 TBL.) tequila
1/4 cup (60ml) fresh calamansi juice
1 tsp. soy sauce, preferably Kikkoman
1/2 tsp. sea salt (omit if using Aloha shoyu)
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Remove silverskin from flank steak, if necessary.

Cut small slits across the grain on one side of steak. Insert slivers of garlic in each slit. Lay steak in glass or other non-metallic pan, or use a large recloseable plastic bag.

Combine remaining ingredients, and pour over steak. Refrigerate ovenight.

The next day, prepare your grill for direct heat cooking.

Remove steak from fridge while grill is pre-heating. Take steak out of marinade and pat dry. Just before steak goes on the grill, sprinkle with sea salt, preferably alaea sea salt (red clay salt).

Grill over high heat to desired doneness. Allow steak to rest for 5 minutes before cutting. Slice across the grain to serve. We served this with Salsa Rice and sauteed peppers and red onions.

You can see the marinated and cooked garlic slivers
still embedded in the steak slices (we arm wrestle for these pieces!)

Other Island Fresh explored produce on this site: Melons, Watercress, Mustard Cabbage, Warabi, Daikon, Eggplant, Corn, and Choi Sum

See also
Calamansi Margarita