Celebrating an American holiday with Grilled Moroccan Flank Steak

by Terry B on June 1, 2011

Cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, turmeric, garlic and fresh ginger all add to the big, exotic flavor of these quickly grilled, tender steaks. Recipe below.

Memorial Day is a particularly American holiday, honoring the men and women who have fallen in the service of their country. There are parades in towns and cities all over America. Classical radio stations heavy up on pieces by Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland and John Philip Sousa. And barbecue grills send up heavenly scents of smoke and meat in yard after yard after yard.

At first glance, celebrating this most American holiday with steaks steeped in a Moroccan mix of spices and aromatics might seem a bit odd. But another most American thing about us is that we’re one of the most welcoming countries on the planet. Generation after generation of immigrants have come to our shores, helping shape our nation and, more to the point here, expanding and redefining American cuisine.

In some ways, especially in the kitchen, Morocco mirrors our multicultural heritage. Its cuisine is one of the most diverse in the world. At its closest point, this African nation is a mere eight miles across the Straits of Gibraltar from Europe. Its cooking is flavored by Spanish, Corsican, Portuguese, Berber, Moorish, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and African cuisines—and by its location along ancient spice trade routes.

More than half a dozen spices and herbs flavor the marinade for these steaks, along with fresh ginger, garlic and Spanish sherry. Each is a big flavor in its own right, but here they all blend together, no single flavor standing out, to create something wonderful. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.

Grilled Moroccan Flank Steak
Serves 4 to 6

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry (dry)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)
1-1/2 teaspoons cumin
1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

1-1/2 pounds flank steak, 3/4 to 1 inch thick (see Kitchen Notes)

Marinate the steak. Combine all ingredients except steak in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Trim any excess fat from steak and place in a large plastic zipper food storage bag. (To get 1-1/2 pounds of flank steak, I actually bought two 3/4-pound pieces; this worked out well for grilling.) Pour the marinade over the steak, seal the bag and turn to coat meat. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1-1/2 hours and up to 3 hours.

Grill the steak. Prepare your grill for direct grilling. About 1/2 hour before you’re ready to put the steak on the grill, take it out of the fridge (but leave it in the bag of marinade) to let it come to room temperature. When you’re ready to grill, remove the steak from the marinade, scraping off any excess. Discard marinade. Grill steak over direct heat, turning it a few times during the process.

I grilled the steaks above for about 8 minutes, leaving them nice and rare in the center, just the way we like them. Most flank steak recipes call for grilling them about 10 minutes, which will make them closer to medium or medium rare. Do not overcook flank steak, unless you like your steak tough, dry and chewy. Transfer steak to platter, tent with foil and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Slice steak thinly across the grain. Fan three or four slices on individual plates and serve.

Kitchen Notes

About flank steak. First, looking back over Blue Kitchen’s archives, we must really like flank steak. This is the sixth recipe to use it. That’s because it’s one of the most flavorful cuts of beef around, and it responds well to marinating and quick cooking. And despite its tough guy reputation, as long as you don’t overcook it and do slice it thin, across the grain, it’s wonderfully tender.

Flank steak is also much less fatty than most other cuts of beef. That means fewer flare-ups when you’re grilling right over the coals—I had none while cooking these steaks.

To see just how versatile flank steak can be, check out these recipes for Flank Steak with Watercress Salad, Cumin/Chili Powder Flank Steak with Spicy Sesame Cilantro Noodle and Flank Steak Tacos.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan June 4, 2011 at 1:54 am

Flank Steak is great to use in all kinds of recipes with marinade and/or rubs. I like to use espresso and rub it down before putting it on the grill.

I can’t wait to try this recipe though. Thanks!

Cynthia Fox-Giddens June 4, 2011 at 4:49 pm

This flank steak looks so yummy and bet the ingredients made it so. Crank up the grill for this one!

Terry B June 4, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Ryan—That’s one of the great things about flank steak, isn’t it? Your espresso idea has me intrigued. Although I don’t drink coffee, I’ve been looking for ways to include it in a beef grilling recipe.

Thanks, Cynthia!

Ryan June 5, 2011 at 3:05 pm

The espresso doesn’t give a coffee taste. It becomes this wonderful savory additive. I love when two or more foods transform when cooked together and “become” something else.

2 tbsps is enough for 2-4 steaks and should be added about an hour before grilling and after traditional salt and pepper.

I like to sauté mushrooms with the steak trimmings and create a little sauce to drizzle over the steaks for a nice “presentation”.

Terry B June 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Thanks for the follow-up, Ryan! Marion adds espresso to her chili, and as you said about the steaks, you don’t taste the coffee—instead, it adds depth to it. We’ll have to try this for grilling steaks. And you’re right about it being very cool how ingredients interact to create something new, completely unlike the individual ingredients.

So Very Domestic June 7, 2011 at 6:59 pm

This is definitely getting bookmarked for this summer! Great recipe!

Brooke June 10, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I stopped eating meat (land dwellers) about a year ago, but this makes me REALLY miss red meat:) I give in every once in awhile, and I think this will be my next indulgence. My husband and son will devour this! Thanks.

Kasey June 12, 2011 at 9:45 pm

I’m giving this a try for dinner tonight!

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