Casa Mono, the perennially-crowded tapas bar just north of Union Square, always makes for a satisfyingly festive evening in Manhattan. Though you never want to wear your freshly dry-cleaned clothes to dinner there—the smoke from the open kitchen’s plancha permeates your coats, sweaters, and hair for days—the food and wine are worth navigating the tightly-packed chairs scraping across the tiled floor and the din of conversation that makes the place live up to the “monkey house” of its name.
Though owned by Italian don Mario Batali, Chef Andy Nusser is the real brains of the operation. His menu reflects both the tradition of Spanish regional dishes, like pan con tomate and patatas bravas, and modern riffs on the country’s cuisine, like this typically Spanish skirt steak with freshly updated accompaniments.
At the restaurant, the steak is often served with a red pepper sauce reminiscent of romesco, the traditional garlicky red Catalonian dip. Romesco gets a lot of its texture from the addition of almonds or hazelnuts, but for tapas lovers with nut allergies (like my husband), omitting the nuts and adding a few extra bread cubes won’t hurt the sauce one bit.
It’s also a Casa Mono habit to add dollops of seasonal mostardas and mermaladas to its meat dishes. Cherries, cranberries, and fennel have all popped up on the menu alongside steaks, lamb ribs, duck breast, and oxtail over the years. The onion marmalade that accompanies the steak here is a sweet counterpoint to the vinegar in the romesco sauce. Feel free to double the recipe to make extra marmalade; it lasts in the fridge for a week and will sit happily alongside Bucheron or another goat cheese on a cheese plate or topped with creme fraiche on flatbread.
Casa Mono’s Skirt Steak
This recipe is from Casey Barber, one of the editors at http://www.goodfoodstories.com , Good.Food.Stories is an online magazine that shares stories of eating and drinking through variety of voices and perspectives. Instead of a singular focus, we cover a gamut of topics including book reviews, restaurant recommendations, recipes and killer ingredients, as well as wide-ranging essays on food. Both a trusty resource and a forum for storytelling, Good. Food. Stories. always wants to hear about how you eat.
I got to spend a week with Casey this last January at the Food Blogger Camp in Ixtapa. I love her sense of style, and she has a wonderful fresh take on life, and food.
Casa Mono’s Skirt Steak
Casa Mono makes a great skirt steak.
- 1 cup sugar divided
- 1 cup red wine (I used a Spanish tempranillo in keeping with the theme of the dish)
- 1 medium red onion sliced
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small Spanish or Vidalia onion minced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 6 ounces roasted red pepper
- 1/2 cup diced tomatoes fresh
- 2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 1/2 cup roasted almonds
- 1 slice paesano or other hearty country bread, crusts removed and cubed
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak sliced in 4 pieces
*Instead of slicing the red onion into rings, I chop off the ends, then halve the onion lengthwise and cut along the same lengthwise grain, creating wafer-thin slices that are uniform in length. To make the onion marmalade: In a medium saucepan, bring 1/2 cup sugar and the red wine to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the red onion, cover, and cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, strain out the wine, and return the onions to the stovetop. Add the red wine vinegar and the other 1/2 cup sugar and simmer until the liquid thickens to a syrupy consistency, about 8 minutes. To make the romesco sauce: In a medium skillet, saute the minced onion in olive oil over moderately high heat until softened but not caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, peppers and tomatoes, and cook 5 minutes more or until the garlic is softened. Stir in the sherry vinegar and remove from heat. In a food processor, pulse the almonds and bread cubes to make chunky crumbs. Add the hot vegetable mixture and puree. (Be mindful of the escaping steam.) To make the steak: Preheat a cast-iron skillet or grill pan for at least 5 minutes over high heat. Mince the garlic with a pinch of kosher salt, mashing the garlic into your cutting board with the flat blade of your knife as you chop to form a paste. In a casserole dish, whisk together the garlic paste, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, olive oil, cayenne, and cumin. Add the steaks and flip them a few times to fully coat. Transfer the steaks to the heated skillet (cook in two batches to avoid overcrowding) and sear about 2 minutes per side to achieve medium-rare doneness. Let the steaks rest off heat for 2 minutes before slicing thinly against the grain.