Michael Rossi has been a culinary star in Orange County for years, and he recently joined me in my kitchen. His career has boasted heading up kitchens in much-revered restaurants including Napa Rose and The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon in Anaheim. Now he’s the District Chef for the Specialty Restaurant Corporation, a coast-to-coast group that includes Orange Hill Restaurant in Orange.
Sharing the secrets to grilling skirt steak, he teamed the flavorful beef with two tasty sauces. He paired the mix with patatas bravas, irresistible fried fingerling potatoes that were boiled and then partially smashed before they deep-fry in hot oil. Deeply browned, the exteriors were crisp and crunchy, while inside the texture was baked-potato flakey. The spuds seemed the perfect partner.
We agreed that skirt steak is a cut that often doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Cut from the steer’s plate, skirt steak is long and flat; it’s prized for its flavor rather than tenderness. Rossi used a prime skirt steak, rich in marbling and marinated in a combination of oil, garlic, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. It hit the hot iron grill pan with a sizzle scream.
Part of his training and work experience took place in Italy, but he mastered New World dishes with the same finesse as those with European roots. He prizes the cuisine and wines from the Guadalupe Valley, a wine producing region nestled in the Ensenada Municipality of Baja California, Mexico. Baja Med cuisine is near and dear to his heart. He appreciates the mixing of Mexican flavors with European techniques, vibrant dishes along with beautiful wines. He calls it a match made in heaven, noting that the wines blend varietals that aren’t traditional.
His skirt steak recipe is below. Enjoy the color and brilliant flavors of the sauces—rusty-red romesco and bright-green chimichurri—along with the richness of the meat, as well as the allure of the hash-brown crispness of the patatas bravas.
Restaurant Fave: I really like Bello (Newport Beach). It’s authentic. It feels like you are eating Italian food in Italy.
Home Freezer Fare: I’m feeding my kids, so there are pork racks, ground lamb, and shrimp. Lots of frozen fresh pastas. My boys are my test kitchen.
Next Big Thing: Zhoug (also dubbed Zhug): a spicy sauce (generally cilantro, garlic, chiles, spices, and olive oil) that has great flavor, can be used in many, many dishes.
Drink of choice: Mezcal … prized for its smokiness.
Collections: I probably have 800 cookbooks, both hard copies and digital versions. “The Flavor Bible” (by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen A. Page) is a favorite. It’s inspiring, providing information on which ingredients go well with other ingredients.
Biggest influencer: When working with chef Andrew Sutton (Napa Rose), he taught me so many organizational skills. And he brought out good things in me—pushing the envelope to make dishes better and better.
Appreciated Luxury: Travel. I love learning about cultures, the culture behind the cuisine.
Eat O.C.: It’s so gratifying to see Orange County become a culinary destination. Now there are plenty of chef-driven restaurants.
Skirt Steak with Chimichurri and Romesco Sauces and Patatas Bravas
Yield: one 8-ounce serving, with enough sauces and potatoes for about 4 servings
Cook’s notes: At Orange Hill Restaurant, Rossi uses a prime hanger steak or flat iron steak in this recipe. Feel free to sub in that cut if you prefer. He squeezed a couple of small dots of aioli as a final garnish; you can add it if you like just before serving, but it certainly isn’t mandatory.
- One 8-ounce prime skirt steak
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 -2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves chopped
- 2-3 sprigs fresh Italian parsley, leaves chopped
- 2 tablespoons oil, vegetable oil
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Romesco Sauce (about 2 cups):
- 3 to 4 Roma tomatoes
- 3 stalks green onions, roots trimmed off
- 8 garlic cloves
- 1 1/2 ounces Marcona almonds
- 5 canned Piquillo Peppers, skin removed if present
- 1 Fresno chili, stem and seeds removed
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Chimichurri Sauce (about 2 cups)
- 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro
- 1/4 bunch fresh mint
- 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 pounds fingerling potatoes
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 64 ounces vegetable oil, or a cooking oil of your choice
- Optional garnish: a few baby arugula leaves
- Marinate steak: Using a paper towel, pat the skirt steak dry and place in a medium sized tray or baking dish. Rub steak with vegetable oil; add chopped herbs and garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper; cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight. Bring to room temperature before grilling.
- Romesco Sauce: Preheat oven to 400 degrees (we turned my home oven to 450). Place all ingredients (except vinegar) in single layer in a medium roasting pan. Roast until charred, about 20 minutes. Working in batches, whirl in blender (high speed blender is best) wiping down sides as needed. Add vinegar and blend. Taste and add salt as needed, blending to combine.
- Chimichurri Sauce: Roughly chop parsley leaves, cilantro leaves, and mint leaves. Place in blender (high speed blender preferred). Add remaining ingredients. Pulse (on and off) until all ingredients are well combined, scraping down sides as needed. It’s ok if the Chimichurri is not fully emulsified.
- Patatas Bravas: Fill a large saucepan with enough water to cover potatoes (once they are added) and bring to a boil on high heat. Add Kosher salt to water. Add potatoes and allow water to come back to a boil. Boil the potatoes for 1-2 minutes or until almost fork tender, then drain the potatoes in a colander. When potatoes are cool, press down on the potatoes, one by one, pressing just enough to smash slightly. Place oil in large, deep pot and bring to 350 degrees. Next to the stove, place a plate with a couple of paper towels on top. Working in batches, fry the smashed fingerling potatoes until deep brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels and season with kosher salt.
- Grill steak: Heat grill pan on high heat. Grill steak on high heat for roughly 2 minutes per side for medium rare (130 to 132 degrees). Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut into diagonal crosswise slices.
- Plating: On large plate, swirl a circle of Romesco Sauce on one side and top with some potatoes. Fan steak slices on opposite side and spoon some Chimichurri sauce around the steak. Season steak with kosher salt. If you wish, garnish with a few baby arugula leaves.
Cathy Thomas is an award-winning food writer and has authored three cookbooks: “50 Best Plants on the Planet,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.” For more than 30 years, she has written about cooking, chefs, and food trends for newspapers. She was the first newspaper food journalist to pioneer taping how-to culinary videos for the Web. CathyThomasCooks.com