With grilling season in full swing, here’s an idea for something beefy yet on the lighter side—plus, you can stretch a single steak to serve a number of people. Grilling experts and cookbook authors Cheryl and Bill Jamison, who contributed this recipe to Real Food, noted that flank steak is one of their favorites for the grill because its broad surfaces allow every bite to absorb a marinade—in this case, an Asian-accented one—and then to develop a crusty surface from the flames. Here the steak is sliced into thin strips for do-it-yourself lettuce wraps, which can be fun for all ages. The wraps work as a starter or small plate for a group of eight or can serve at least four as a main course, accompanied by rice or egg noodles mixed with a store-bought Asian sauce.
All cooking depends on accurate times and temperatures, but we sometimes forget that when we head outdoors. For “grate success,” the Jamisons suggest preheating your grill with the cover down, then adjusting the heat as needed for the food you’ll cook. And they recommend the hand test for measuring the intensity of the fire, whether gas or charcoal: Hold your hand several inches above the cooking grate and count the seconds until you have to pull your hand away. One to 2 seconds is high and 3 to 4 seconds is medium. (Make sure to be careful with that test!)
Five-Spice Flank Steak Lettuce Wraps
Makes 2 dozen lettuce wraps
¾ c. soy sauce
¼ c. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. five-spice powder
2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp. Asian toasted sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp. Asian chile paste, optional
1½ lb. flank steak
2 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
2 dozen crisp butter, Bibb, or romaine lettuce leaves
4 scallions, green and white portions, cut into inch-long slivers
Stir together marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside 2 to 3 tablespoons of marinade. Place steak in a zippered plastic bag and pour marinade over it. Seal and toss back and forth to distribute marinade evenly. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Prepare grill for cooking over high heat.
Remove steak from marinade and grill until well seared on the surface but still pink at the center, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Let steak sit for 5 minutes, then slice across the grain, into strips no more than 1/4-inch thick. Cut strips into thirds. Toss steak with reserved marinade and any accumulated juices and arrange on a platter. Sprinkle steak with sesame seeds and surround it with lettuce leaves and scallions. To assemble, spoon about 6 pieces of steak onto each lettuce leaf and top with some scallions. Fold lettuce around steak and eat with fingers.