Beef Week Day 3: Cube Steak Bulgogi
How is it already Wednesday? Time sure flies when it’s Beef Week…
We kicked the week off strong with a magnificent ground beef mashup, yesterday we discussed the magic that is a chuck-eye steak, and today, we’re actually going to explore another cheap cut of steak—cube steak. Ah yes, the humble cube steak; it’s not exactly en vogue, but man, do I love it. Having grown up in a (lower) middle class household in south Georgia, I consumed a fair amount of cube steak in my formative years, and I’ve since maintained a sentimental fondness for this cheapo cut. I knew that I wanted to do something fun with this thinly pounded sheet of beef (best known for chicken fried steak) for Beef Week 2018, because it honestly bums me out that cube steak rarely takes the spotlight. So I enlisted the help of Ivy Odom, a fellow south Georgia native and general bad-a$$ in the test kitchen, to devise just the right recipe; and let me tell you, she really knocked it out of the park with this Cube Steak Bulgogi.
Bulgogi is a classic Korean dish consisting of marinated, barbecued beef—usually, skirt or sirloin steak. Traditionally, the steak is frozen so that it can then be very thinly sliced prior to marinating. In our version, which swaps in budget-friendly cube steak for the pricier skirt or sirloin, we bypass this step and simply slice the already thinly pounded beef into strips. Now, it’s important to keep in mind that because this cut has been manually tenderized, it will absorb that scrumptious marinade very quickly; while this makes for great flavor, you definitely don’t want to leave the meat marinating for too long, as it will begin to break down (and start to resemble ground beef… that's not what we want here). In testing, we found 2 hours to be plenty of marinating time with the cube steak, but if this timing doesn’t quite work in you schedule, just aim to avoid letting the beef marinate for more than 5 to 6 hours.
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To give the dish another layer of flavor and a pop of color, we reserve a portion of the marinade to use as a finishing sauce for the charred beef. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of char, I need to tell you… you’re gonna want to get your cast-iron skillet screaming hot. Turn your stovetop’s ventilation fan to high and crank up the heat, because this is how you’re going to achieve a beautiful, crispy char on your beef—giving it that caramelized “barbecued” flavor bulgogi is known/loved for. OK, you’ve got a skillet full of tender, crispy edged, flavor packed beef, now what? At this point, you’re gonna want to pile that beef into lettuce leaves with a scoop of fluffy white rice, fresh cucumber slices, and plenty of kimchi. And don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back, you budget-savvy, beefy baller, you.
Be sure to come back tomorrow for more beefy inspiration, and show us your favorite ways to make beef work for your budget by sharing with the hashtag #BeefMyWeek.