Even as I attempt to eat less red meat, I still crave steak. Its virtues suit our summer lifestyles. Steak cooks quickly, is easy to transport to a picnic and tastes great hot, warm and chilled. Leftovers make indulgent sandwiches. Grilled steak, piled on garden-crisp greens topped with a freshly made dressing, ranks as a favorite dinner on a warm evening.
Combining grilled steak with potatoes reminds us of cozy Midwestern steakhouse dinners. This season we’re enjoying two delicious steak salads: The first pairs thinly sliced steak with crispy grilled russet potatoes and a spicy ranch-style dressing; the second employs grill-steamed little golden potatoes with a fresh herb vinaigrette.
Boneless New York strip makes great salad steak because of its tenderness and uniform thickness. After cooking, it slices thin with little effort. Meatier-tasting sirloin tip, petite-cut top sirloin and flank steak prove good choices when serving the steak cold. Take care when cooking, as these steaks tend to be leaner; don’t cook them past medium-rare, or they’ll be dry and tough. Whenever possible, select choice grade steaks with about 1/4-inch of fat around the edges to keep things moist during cooking; it can be trimmed before adding to the salad.
The same tricks for grilling steakhouse steaks apply to those destined for a salad: Take the chill off the steak before cooking, season it highly and use a properly heated (and hot) grill. Let it rest after cooking for five minutes, so the juices settle. Use a super-sharp thin bladed knife to slice the meat against the grain for maximum eating pleasure.
As for the potatoes, I like the golden-brown flavor of russet slices cooked directly over the coals; I start the cooking in the microwave while the grill heats. These slices make a delicious side to a burger, but tucked warm into crisp greens they surprise the diner. I employ my hobo-pack style of grilling potatoes for small tender yellow potatoes that get even creamier when cooked in their own steam. To crisp them a bit, I move the pack over the hottest part of the coals for a couple of minutes.
When tossing the salad with a creamy dressing, I prefer sturdy greens — especially with hearty slices of steak and potatoes. Romaine sets the standard, but there’s also good flavor in heads of Little Gem lettuces sold in bags and large-leafed arugula sold in bunches. For a stunning presentation with romaine, I cut the head crosswise into thick slabs and put each slab in the center of the plate. Then I top it with all the salad goodies and a drizzle of dressing.
More delicate lettuces, such as watercress, baby spinach, pea shoots and spring mix, welcome a lighter dressing such as the fresh herb vinaigrette. The goodness about tossing sliced steak in a salad with potatoes: You’ll eat less steak. One 8-ounce steak will make two salads.