Sunday, June 4, 2017


I rarely eat beef. In eight years of blogging about Spanish food, I’ve written about beef only six  times—two stews, meatballs, hash, steak sandwich and beef tongue.

But, every now and then, maybe once every six months, I get a hankering for steak. Maybe it’s my Midwestern roots. Where I grew up, we ate steak maybe every other week, a big sirloin to feed a family of six. 

Chuletón--a big rib steak, this one of vaca--cow--, sliced off the bone.

Although bullfighting has a long legacy in Spain’s culture, raising beef cattle for eating does not. The reason is that much of the land is too arid to provide good rangeland and pasturage. Only in Spain’s green north and parts of central Castilla were cattle traditionally raised, both for meat and dairy.

Cattle were slaughtered young because it wasn’t profitable to feed them longer. Called ternera; meaning “veal,” the meat usually was yearling beef; having neither the succulence of baby veal nor the juicy, red meat flavor of a full-grown steer.

Nowadays, encouraged by European subsidies, Spain produces superb beef. And many Spaniards eat plenty of it.  In fact, the best steak I’ve ever eaten in my life was in—not Chicago or Kansas City—but Madrid, in a Basque restaurant serving Galician beef. It was a chuletón de vaca, a massive rib “chop,” grilled over a wood fire, then carved off the bone.

Chuletón de vaca--rib steak of Galician cow, dry-aged more than 30 days.

Entrecôte of boneless yearling beef.

Here’s a glossary of beef words:
Ternera blanca: white veal, up to 8 months.
Ternera, “veal,” 8-12 months.
Añojo: “yearling,” slaughtered at 12-24 months.
Novillo: Young bull, or novilla, heifer. Slaughtered at 24-48 months.
Cebón.: Fattened steer, castrated male, up to 48 months.
Buey; The word means “beef” or “ox.” Designates castrated steer at least 48 months. The word used to be used for any big steak. Now, price usually indicates whether the meat is really “beef” or “cow.” 
Vaca: “Cow,” minimum 48 months. (Usually means dairy cow.) Beef from cows is excellent.
Madurado: Aged, dry-aged beef.
Chuletón: Bone-in rib steak, usually of buey or vaca. Big cut of meat.
Entrecôte; Boneless steak cut from “between the ribs,.” May be from lomo alto or lomo bajo. This is the cut most commonly served in restaurants.
Solomillo: tenderloin, fillet.

In my steak experiments, I tried a chuletón (bone-in) of Galician vaca (2 pounds, costing about $24), aged more than 30 days, and an entrecote of añojo (boneless) (2 pounds 10 ounces, costing about $20). The chuletón was seared in a cast-iron skillet and finished in the oven. The entrecôte was cooked on a wood-fired grill.

Heat cast iron skillet smoking hot. Sear the steak 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to preheated 375ªF oven for 3-4 minutes.

My steak is a little overcooked. For rare, cook meat to internal temperature of  125ªF. For medium-rare, cook to 135ºF. Let the meat rest 5- 10minutes before slicing.

Let steak rest 5-10 minutes before slicing. Cut around the bone, then slice the meat thickly perpendicular to the bone.

Sautéed mushrooms make a savory steak sauce or side dish.

The chuletón is juicy, succulent, but chewy.

Salt the meat before or after cooking? I say, afterwards. Use coarse salt once the steak is sliced.

This is the entrecôte of añojo on the parilla.

Forget the heavy macho wines with steak! Serve tinto de verano--fresh red wine with fizzy lemon soda and ice.

Let the steak rest 5-10 minutes before slicing. Meanwhile, serve a starter of sliced melon with serrano ham.

Ben, the grilling maestro, carves the entrecôte.

Sprinkle coarse salt on the meat after it is sliced.

Mushroom Sauté to Go with Steak
Salteado de Champiñones para Acompañar el Chuletón

6-8 ounces mushrooms, such as portabello
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup chopped piquillo pepper
Red pepper flakes, to taste
2 tablespoons brandy
2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup meat juices
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Wipe the mushrooms clean. Cut them in half and slice them thinly.

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the shallot and garlic. Sauté until garlic begins to turn golden. Add the mushrooms and sauté them until they begin to brown. Add the piquillo pepper and red pepper flakes.

Add the brandy and let the alcohol cook off, 2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

Set the mushrooms aside until the steak is grilled. After slicing the steak, pour meat juices into the mushrooms and reheat them. Serve with chopped parsley.

Chimichurri Sauce for Grilled Steak
Salsa Chimichurri para Carnes a la Parilla

Chimichurri is a sauce famous in Argentina, but it’s found its way into Spain’s cooking too, especially with foods cooked a la parilla—on the grill. It’s piquant enough to complement grilled meat, but it’s also good on baked potato, roasted ears of corn, green beans, roasted squash slices.--

1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup boiling water
5 cloves garlic
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Red pepper flakes, to taste
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Dissolve the salt in the boiling water. Allow it to cool.

Chop the garlic in a mini-processor. Add the parsley and cilantro leaves and process until finely chopped. Add the oregano, red pepper flakes and vinegar. Blend in the oil, then the salt water.

Store the sauce, covered and refrigerated. Serve it at room temperature.

Beefsteak Tomatoes with Anchovy Dressing
Tomates con Aliño de Anchoa

Salty anchovies in this simple dressing bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes.

3 anchovy fillets, drained and minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 large beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
Chopped chives
Grated toast crumbs (optional)

Combine the minced anchovy in a small bowl with the pepper, oregano and oil.
Arrange the sliced tomatoes on a serving plate. Drizzle them with the anchovy dressing. Sprinkle with chopped chives and toast crumbs.

Three Bean Salad
Ensaladilla de Tres Alubias

Combine three kinds of cooked beans for this salad that goes well with grilled foods.

2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup sliced green beans, cooked to taste
1 cup sliced yellow wax beans, cooked to taste
Fresh cooked shelling beans (optional)
¼ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup chopped piquillo peppers
1 hard-cooked egg, chopped
¼ cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar

Combine all the beans in a bowl. Add the onion, piquillo pepper, egg and celery. Add oil and salt and mix. Salad can be prepared up to this point in advance and refrigerated, covered, until serving time.
Shortly before serving add the vinegar.

Rustic Beef Stew with Sausage.
"Ropa Vieja" Hash.
Beef and Chickpea Flour Meatballs.
"Altogether" Beef Stew.
Braised Beef Tongue.
Pepito Steak Sandwich.


  1. Letting the steak age for a couple days in the refrigerator might make it more tender.

    "3 bean salad" was a common country fair/church picnic dish when I was a kid in Pennsylvania in the 1960s.

    1. David: Also, when I was a kid in Illinois--tho, not with black beans. Did you notice in the photo that we grilled corn-on-the-cob with the steak?