There’s this restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama, called Highlands Bar and Grill, and, a few years back, I had a food-gasm there. The wife and I had gone to the south to visit family and friends, and we had about 18 hours in Birmingham. Our friend Tree took us to the aforesaid restaurant. For my main course, I had a braised side of rabbit over dirty rice made with rabbit offal, complete with a half-bottle of Chateauneuf-de-Pape Vieux Telegraph (forgot the year). It was one of the best goddamn meals I’ve ever eaten, hands down.
Moreover, I tripped out because in California, we usually “share” a dessert, you know, to be “good,” in the caloric sense. In Alabama, everyone gets their own dessert, and fuck off if you want to “try” someone else’s; you should have ordered it to begin with. I had banana pudding, a southern staple, and I think the other patrons noticed my eyes rolling back in my head and the table shaking. This is yet another reason I have a love affair with the south.
Upon leaving Highlands, I bought the chef’s cookbook, Frank Stitt’s Southern Table (http://www.highlandsbarandgrill.com/southern-table.php), and I have used it for years. There’s a shredded potato cake recipe in there that alone will make you want to put the book in your pants for the evening. To be honest, though, a lot of it is pretty highfalutin and chef-y, so I can only get so deep into it. But I have wanted to make the steak on cornbread with salsa verde meal for years. Tonight, I made it. I made it for you, kid, and I made it easier.
First, he has a cornbread recipe that sounds awesome, in that you should make it with bacon grease. I made it with veg oil and, well, I would have preferred a Jiffy Corn Bread instead. I can’t bring myself to use bacon grease in anything, now that I have a kid and all. Also, he calls his sauce a “salsa verde,” which it is, to be sure. But to me, its more of a pesto sans pine nuts, and it is wonderful nonetheless. Lastly, the steak I made was a Trader Joe’s Flat Iron marinated steak. It’s prepackaged and one of the best cuts of meats around for the money. I sliced it thinly, seen above thusly, and it was a rock star with everything.
Make the pesto in advance, and then you’ll have time for the sides and the steak.
Steak, Cornbread, and Salsa Pesto
4 steaks, filet, flat iron, rib-eye, New York, whatever
4 garlic cloves, smashed with the flat side of a knife
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 red onions, sliced into 1/2″ slices
salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Corn Bread Slices (use the Jiffy recipe on the side of the box)
Salsa Pesto (my name for it), recipe after
Rub the steaks with the garlic and drizzle with the olive oil. Let them get to room temperature. Then, sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper.
Heat a grill, grill pan, or skillet over high heat. Drizzle olive oil over the onion slices and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Sear these (meaning grill them) for about five minutes on each side, until they’re charred and soft. Transfer them to a separate plate, cover with foil, and let them hang out.
Remove the garlic from the steaks, and cook them to your liking. I’m a medium to medium rare guy myself. Once done, let them sit for a good 5 to 10 minutes, and then slice them against the grain.
Place a few slices of the corn bread on the plate and top with some steak slices. Top that with some seared red onions, and then top THAT with the Salsa Pesto. Serve the Salsa on the side, too, for people who want more of it, which they will because it’s a sack-fondler.
Makes 1 1/2 cups
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp. capers, rinsed
2 tbsp. chopped cornichons (or small dill pickles)
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped chives or green onions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (I omitted this because the wife hates it and it worked fine, but I would have liked it for sure)
1/4 red wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Combine the garlic, capers, cornichons, shallot, and fresh herbs in a food processor and pulse it until it’s chopped up well. Then, add the vinegar, olive oil, zest, and salt and pepper (take it easy on the salt…you can always add more later). Pulse this until it’s like a pesto. Note the picture:
We both remarked that the flavors are intensely rich, yet light and herby (herbaceous sounds dickhead-ish). I served it with brussels sprouts and potatoes, but next time I would probably make a side salad with a light vinaigrette to balance it all out.
I had this again tonight to complement it:
This is one of the best reds I’ve had in its price range from Trader Joe’s.
This is just an interesting way to serve a steak, and only the south could make it so elegant.
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.