Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spring Forward with Brando's Steak!

It's time to spring forward! Oh wait, we did that last weekend. Call me old school, but didn't the time change used to happen at the end of April? We now have darker morns and lighter eves starting on the 2nd Sunday in March? It’s been a bit unseasonably warm in Nor Cal this week, but is it really spring, even with daffodils blooming? Does an hour difference in the time make it spring or just a darker morning? The Vernal Equinox makes it Spring, so it will be Spring come Thursday, March 21st.

I remember the change to DST in the dead of winter when I was in high school – 1975-ish. My locker was in the covered central corridor at La Habra High School, the Argyle it was called (all the hallways had Scottish names as we were the Highlanders). It was so dark on those cold mornings that opening a locker was impossible without a flashlight. Though somewhat romantic the first day or two, it became a pain in the neck by the end of the week. Almost 40 years later, we Highlanders now know that we were part of a plan, however misguided, to conserve energy.  I hadn’t really given this little blip in time change history a thought until I started researching time change history. It’s convoluted – the history of the time change - to be sure, so if you are really curious as to why we go through this bi-annual disruption in our sleep patterns, read all about the time change here. Spring Forward, Fall Back makes it sound so simple. It’s not.

Growing up, I always associated the time change with warmer temps and school spring break and all the neighborhood kids being able to play outside much longer due to the "Be home when the street lights turn on" rule. DST was Heaven's blessing on long games of “hide and seek” or roller skating for blocks on end or hiking through the orange groves that surrounded my neighborhood. As my friends and I got older, DST meant that it wasn't dark when we waited in the high school parking lot for certain male athletes to finish their practices, hoping we could all go out for pizza together, which may lead to some other activities – innocent ones, mind you!

Longer, warmer days also meant laid back family dining.  My mother loved spring cooking because of the simplicity involved, which usually meant grilling. To Mom, cooking was a means to an end: feeding her family every evening. She had a simple, limited repertoire and she did it well enough, though our dog Chloe ate more lima beans from our plates than my siblings and I. Mom’s one concession to “fine cooking” was patronizing the local butcher shop, Town and Country Meats. Meat and poultry in the Reilly household always came wrapped in butcher paper, taped with the price sticker. Never did a plastic wrapped flank steak on a piece of Styrofoam cross our threshold! We were not supermarket meat people! 

The butcher shop flank streak would be marinated in Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, thrown on a hot grill and served with boiled potatoes and those damned frozen lima beans, or canned asparagus (though she was an avowed butcher shop disciple, it took Mom a few years to embrace fresh vegetables). On the night that the grill was hot, Mom had managed to feed her 3 children once again and, since it was Daylight Saving Time, we were now free to continue playing outdoors until the street lights came on.

As homage to my mother and as a way to celebrate the coming warmer weather, I prepared my favorite version of marinated flank steak for my family. From Menlo Park Chef Jess Ziff Cool, I’ve been serving Brando’s Steak and Grilled Vegetables for years. I’d prepared this several times for my mother, and she liked it. Secretly, I think she preferred her simpler rendition. Perhaps it brought back memories of happy children eating their dinner and then playing in the street with other happy children until the street lights turned on.

Brando's Steak and Grilled Vegetables
Jesse Ziff Cool

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup hearty red wine (Zinfandel or Cabernet)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 garlic cloves -- minced
2 shallots -- minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3-4 lbs Flank steak or Chateaubriand
2 large onions -- sliced thick
4 red or yellow peppers -- sliced thick
1 medium eggplant -- sliced thick
1 head fennel, sliced thick

In a large measuring cup or bowl, combine oil, wine, soy, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic, shallots, brown sugar, salt and pepper.

Place steak in a resalable plastic bag and pour half the marinade over the steak. Place vegetables in another plastic bag and pour remaining marinade over them. Place both bags in refrigerator and let marinade for at least 1 hour or overnight.

 Prepare the grill. Remove steak from the plastic bag and cook for 15 minutes, turning once, until an instant read thermometer reads 145 degrees. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing.

Place vegetables on a grid grilling pan and cook over the grill for at least 7 minutes, turning frequently, until browned.

The marinade makes an excellent salad dressing, too.


  1. Hi Margie, I am not clear on the amount of beef your recipe calls for? It can't be 5 to 7 lbs!?

  2. I had copied in a doubled recipe. If you halve the liquid ingredients, 2-3 lbs of beef will be fine. I always make this in large quantities for my family because they are tremendous meat eaters and I always double it for parties as well. So sorry about that!