Garlic-Rubbed Skirt Steak and Vidalia Onions with Peanut Romesco
In this age of seasonless grocery stores, where strawberries and squash are always available, Vidalia onions remain a spring treat, with a harvest from late April through mid-June. Every spring, without fail, many Southerners buy a big mesh sack of these sweet onions and store them knotted in panty hose in a cool, dry place for as long as they'll last. Here their unique sweetness provides a great complement to rich steak and tangy romesco sauce. The sauce makes about 2 cups and can be easily doubled for a crowd. Skirt steak is a thin, long cut of beef from the diaphragm muscles of the cow (when purchasing, you may need more than one steak, as they are generally sold in pieces). It is very lean and fibrous with an intense beefy flavor, and is often used in fajitas (the Spanish word fajita means "belt" or "cummerbund," referring to the long beltlike shape of the steak). Skirt steak is best cooked over very high heat and should only be cooked to rare or medium-rare for the tenderest texture; when you serve, cut across the grain of the meat. You may use other steaks such as flank or hanger in this recipe with equally delicious results.
To prepare the steak, using paper towels, pat the steak dry and place in a large bowl; slather the garlic paste and olive oil all over the meat, turning to coat. Add the onions. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
To make the romesco sauce, grind the peanuts in a food processor. Add the roasted peppers, tomato puree, garlic, bread, and paprika. Process into a paste. Add the vinegar and pulse to blend. With the motor running, gradually pour the oil through the feed tube in a steady stream until the mixture thickens like mayonnaise. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper and then transfer to a serving bowl.
When ready to grill the steak, scrape any excess garlic off the beef and discard. If using a charcoal grill, prepare the fire using about 6 pounds of charcoal and burn until the coals are completely covered with a thin coating of light gray ash, 20 to 30 minutes. Spread the coals evenly over the grill bottom, position the grill rack above the coals, and heat until medium-hot (when you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grill surface for no longer than 3 or 4 seconds). If using a gas grill, turn all the burners to High, close the lid, and heat until about 500 degrees F, 10 to 15 minutes. If using a grill pan, heat the pan over medium-high heat.
Cut the steak into one or more pieces if it is very large. Grill the meat and onions over direct heat until char lines appear, the meat is done to taste, and the onions are tender and charred, 3 to 5 minutes per side. (A vegetable basket will help keep the onions from falling through the grates if you’re cooking over a gas or charcoal grill.) Let the steak rest for 5 minutes before slicing it across the grain. Serve the steak and onions with the romesco sauce on the side.
Cook's Note: To prepare the garlic paste, place the unpeeled garlic on a cutting board, broad-side down, set the flat side of a chef’s knife on top, and give the knife a quick whack with the palm of your hand to crush each clove. Remove the papery skin and trim away the tough basal plane at the end of the clove. Halve the garlic and remove any of the green shoot, if present, as it is bitter. Coarsely chop the garlic, then sprinkle it with a pinch of coarse salt. (The salt acts as an abrasive and helps grind the garlic.) Using the side of the knife like an artist’s palette knife, press firmly on the cutting board and crush the garlic a little at a time. Repeat until the garlic is a fine paste.