Monday, May 5, 2008

Blueberries + Steak = Delicious? Or, Why I Shouldn't Be Allowed in the Kitchen

Ed. note: This post originally appeared in my 2008 food blog Fork It Over on the website of the Rochester Insider magazine, which is now Metromix Rochester. Since the old blog is no longer available online, I'm re-posting some of those posts here and backdating them to their original posting dates. Although in most cases they are specific to Rochester, hopefully you'll still find them somewhat interesting!  ~Rachel, 6/28/10

I decided to be ambitious tonight. The dining companion (who is a much better chef than I am) is still out of the country, and I'm sick of pasta. In my fridge, I found a hunk of defrosted skirt steak and a container of blueberries. I'm pretty picky about my berries...if they're the least bit sketchy-looking, I usually won't eat them straight out of the container. These berries were somewhere between fresh and old, just a little bit wrinkly, but probably still safe. Not good enough to eat out of the container, though. While staring at the contents of the fridge, I got the idea that blueberry sauce might taste good on the steak. My first thought was to mash up the blueberries, maybe add a few random ingredients, and call it a sauce, but kitchen improvisation isn't my forte. (One day, I'll tell you about the time my friend and I tried to make chocolate mousse with all of the wrong ingredients. As a sneak preview, I'll tell you that we tried to use Cool Whip instead of heavy whipped cream, and we didn't have baking chocolate, so we picked the almonds out of mini Hershey bars and melted the remaining chocolate. But that's a story for another day.) Anyway, I decided that finding a recipe online was a safer bet. One recipe containing ketchup and mustard kept popping up, but that sounded pretty gross, so I finally settled on one containing sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, corn starch, and a pinch of salt. You can see the full recipe here. (Ed. note: Broken link. Sorry. ~Rachel, 6/28/10)

I had all the ingredients, and the recipe sounded easy enough. Mix everything together in a sauce pan except for the vanilla and blueberries, stir constantly, add in the blueberries after it starts boiling, cook and stir some more. Marinate. Grill. Eat. Simple, right? The first roadblock came when I realized that I had every type of sugar...except for plain old white sugar. Light brown, dark brown, and even a special type of sugar called demerara sugar. I determined that the demerara sugar was the closest match texture-wise, although it's a bit coarser than white sugar. It has a strong, molasses-like taste, which I though might actually enhance the recipe. The container does say that it's good for berries.

I started mixing the ingredients together, and everything went well, except that the cornstarch somehow ended up everywhere. Down the cabinets, all over my hands, and even on one of my shoes. Here's a photo so that you can better see my kitchen ineptitude:
Cornstarch Everywhere

Before the addition of the blueberries, the mixture looked and smelled like chai.
Blueberry Sauce, Pre-Blueberries

I've never really cooked a sauce from scratch before, so I was understandably excited when all of a sudden it started boiling and actually taking on the consistency of a thick sauce.
Blueberry Sauce, Pre-Blueberries

I added in the blueberries, and they gradually began to expand and ooze into the sauce, giving it a beautiful blueish purple color.
Blueberry Sauce

After it cooled, I poured it over the steak and put it in the fridge for a couple hours of marinating.

As it was marinating, I realized that I had no idea what to serve with it. Rice or potatoes seemed too heavy for a fruity, summery steak. I headed back to the fridge and found mandarin oranges. I suppose they're an unconventional side dish for steak, but they taste good, and that's what matters. Anyway, I'm eating alone, so there's no one else I have to please. I like steak, and I like mandarin oranges, so who cares if I eat them at the same time? Blueberry steak is already a somewhat odd combination, so one more weird thing on the plate can't hurt :)

Voila! Blueberry steak with mandarin oranges!
Blueberry Steak and Mandarin Oranges

The presentation is awful, I know. But I didn't have the patience to make pretty arrangements and take a bunch of photos; I just wanted to eat it while it was still hot! Also, the steak was pretty boring looking, so that's why I hid it in the background of the picture :)

The first few bites were a little...strange. It tasted almost bland, but with a weird sweet undertone that got progressively stronger with each bite. A little bit disappointed, I got out my favorite steak sauce--the indisputably perfect A1. Surprisingly enough, the A1 and blueberry marinade meshed together perfectly. Each bite started with the sharp tanginess of A1 and ended with a hint of sweetness.

I wonder if a different cut of steak would have held up better in the marinade. The fatty, tender skirt steak soaked up a bit too much, but something a little tougher might have worked better. Also, maybe using the right kind of sugar would improve the taste. Fresher blueberries may have also helped. As I said before, mine were a little bit sketchy...just a couple days away from being thrown in the garbage.

If you're a steak purist, I wouldn't recommend trying this. It's unusually sweet, and the marinade almost overpowers the steak. But for anyone else feeling a little adventurous, I think it's worth a try. Mine didn't come out quite as tasty as I had hoped, but in my kitchen, that's par for the course. I bet you can do a better job. Be sure to leave a comment and let me know if you try it!

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