Tiny Test Kitchen: Sean Brock’s Grilled Hanger Steak with Vidalia Onion Gratin
Welcome back to our new column at PEOPLE.com: the Tiny Test Kitchen. Here, we test recipes from the latest and greatest cookbooks and let you know how it went. Why Tiny Test Kitchen? Because we whip up these dishes in our very own (very tiny) New York City kitchens to show you just how easy or difficult, tasty or terrible the food turns out to be.
THE BOOK: Heritage
THE DISH: Grilled Hanger Steak with Vidalia Onion Gratin
THE TESTER: Ben Trivett, PEOPLE photo editor, @bentrivett
I’ve been a huge fan of Sean Brock for some time now. I love his take on Southern and home-style cuisine. Giving classic dishes a modern twist and breaking stereotypes of Southern food is an amazing concept that deserves all the recognition it can get. Being from the Midwest originally, I have a serious affection for hearty, satisfying food that still challenges your taste buds.
One of my favorite parts of this experience was the book itself. It’s one of the most beautifully photographed cookbooks I’ve ever seen. The images, combined with Chef Brock’s words, give you the feeling that you’re actually down in the low country enjoying these amazing ingredients.
I chose this dish (out of the many amazing dishes discussed in Heritage) based on availability of ingredients as well as prep and cooking time. My first pick would have been roasted pork shoulder — I love it more than almost anything, but in New York City, 14 hours of uninterrupted cooking time isn’t easy to come by. After a few different grocery store stops, I was able to accumulate the ingredients to get this done.
MARINATE THE STEAKS
To make the marinade for the steak, I roughly chopped the chives, parsley, tarragon and garlic. Then I tossed the herbs into the blender with the olive oil and blended to a nice, fine texture. I poured the mixture onto the steaks and put them back into the fridge. The smell of the marinade totally overtook my kitchen and instantly put a smile on my face. Using fresh herbs really did make a difference.
PREP THE GRATIN
Once the steak was marinating, I started on the Vidalia onions, slicing them as thinly as possible. Once they were sliced I got them into a hot pan with the butter to cook them down. While the onions were cooking I thinly sliced the potatoes. After about an hour on low heat, the onions got to the perfect opacity and texture. I added the cream to the onion mixture and brought it to a simmer before pouring into my blender. A few bursts in the blender gave the onion mixture a very silky texture.
I put the mixture back into the pan and added the sour cream, Gruyère, and Parmesan and brought the mix back up to a bubble. I poured the onion and cheese mixture onto the sliced potatoes and tossed them in a bowl to fully coat. Finally, I put the gratin in a casserole dish and put it in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
GRILL THE STEAKS
Once I put the gratin in the oven, I took the steaks out of the fridge to bring them back up to room temperature. As I was heating up my grill pan (I’m in an apartment after all) and adding the steaks to the piping hot pan, the smell of the herbs again took over my whole home. I seared the steaks on the first side for 3 minutes, then flipped for another 3 minutes before moving them onto my cutting board to rest. It was right as I was finished searing the steak that I could really start to smell the Vidalia onion gratin baking in the oven. Combined with the smell of the herbs, my mouth was starting to water.
TIME TO EAT
I took the gratin out of the oven and stared in awe at the perfectly crispy top as I set it next to the resting steaks. After 5–10 minutes of resting, I sliced the steak and added to my plate along with a scoop of the very tender potatoes and topped with a sprinkle of the leftover chopped chives. First bite: Juicy, delicious heaven.
Herb-Marinated Hanger Steak with Vidalia Onion Gratin
Makes 6 servings
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup chopped tarragon
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ cup chopped chervil
½ cup chopped chives
2 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Six 7-oz. hanger steaks about ¾ inch thick
Homemade steak sauce
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
2 large Vidalia onions (about 1 pound each), sliced paper-thin
½ cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. kosher salt
½ cup sour cream
1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 large Idaho potatoes (about 1 ½ pounds each)
1 ½ cups fresh bread crumbs, seasoned with kosher salt and black pepper
1. For the Marinade: Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth, about 3 minutes. Pour the marinade into a large baking dish or other container, add the steaks, and turn to coat them well. Cover and marinate the steaks in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably 12 hours, turning them once or twice.
2. Meanwhile, about 3 ½ hours before you will be serving, start the gratin: Heat a large saucepan over high heat and add the butter. When the butter foams, add the onions. Reduce the heat to low and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft and totally translucent, about 2 hours; add a little water as needed so that the onions don’t scorch.
3. Add the cream to the onions and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
4. Working in batches if necessary, transfer the mixture to a blender and blend on high until very smooth, about 5 minutes. Return the puree to the saucepan, add the salt, and mix well.
5. Place the saucepan over low heat and bring the puree to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the sour cream, ½ cup of the Gruyère, and ½ cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. The mixture will be very thick. Cover and keep warm on low heat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8-inch round baking dish or a gratin dish with butter.
7. Peel the potatoes and slice them paper-thin on a mandoline. Being careful not to break up the potatoes, gently combine them with the onion cream in a large bowl, then spread in the prepared baking dish. Combine the remaining ½ cup each Gruyere and Parmigiano and the bread crumbs and sprinkle the mixture over the top of the gratin.
8. Bake the gratin for 1 hour, or until the potatoes are fork-tender.
9. Meanwhile, remove the steaks from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking to come to room temperature. Prepare a very hot grill; allow the grill grates to preheat so that the steaks won’t stick.
10. Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper. Cook the steaks on the hottest part of the grill, with the lid open for 2 to 3 minutes on one side. Using tongs, turn the steaks over and grill them for 2 to 3 minutes on the other side for rare. (Or grill for 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare.) Transfer the steaks to a platter and let rest for 3 minutes before serving so that their juices settle.
This is a family-style meal, serve the gratin in its baking dish and the steaks on the platter, with the sauce on the side.