Tue Aug 28, 2012
Reflecting back on this inaugural competition year for The Meatwave, I've been piecing together all of the highs and lows and examining scores to figure what worked and what didn't to pave a path of work I need to do over the off-season. In doing so, I realized one of those first highs had yet to make it to the blog, and thought sharing this recipe would be a good way to start my reflection. So here it is, these beef pinwheels are what sent us home with a first place trophy in the Chef's Choice category at Grillin' on the Bay, and rightfully so.
In competition, I often take measures I wouldn't at home. For example, I originally made these pinwheels for a friend's barbecue with flank steak—it's economical, meaty, and tender if you slice just right against the grain. For the comp though, I swapped out the flank for tenderloin to ensure the meat would be as supple as possible, but give me a choice, and I'll take the more flavorful flank any day.
While the choice of meat is important, it's really the killer stuffing that defines these pinwheels. I got the original recipe from Mario Batali's Italian Grill, where the stuffing is a genius mixture of garlic, scallions, breadcrumbs, parsley, salami, Fontina, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and olive oil. It's amazing the amount of flavor packed into here, spanning the gamut from fresh to salty to creamy to meaty.
Whether using flank or tenderloin, the beef must be butterflied open to around a half-inch thickness. Then the meat is heavily seasoned and the stuffing is spread across the entire flat surface of the beef, leaving about an half inch border around the edges.
The beef is then rolled and tied closed. A couple hours in the fridge firms up the roll, making sure it maintains its shape when sliced into one-inch pinwheels.
In the competition, I actually cooked the roll whole to medium rare, then sliced it into pinwheels to up our presentation, but I actually liked the original way I made them better—sliced, then grilled. This way, there is more surface area to develop a deep crust, which means more great flavor.
As far as stuffed meats go, this is up there as a top favorite, and the judges agreed. The two cheeses, salami, and scallions in the stuffing create a roll packed with a ton of flavor, which is only made better with the seared, beefy flank steak. It's exactly the type of complex, yet incredibly pleasing dish that judges are looking for. Looking back, I can see why this was such a hit, while some more simplistic offerings—like corn with chile-lime butter—fell a flat. So next year I can look to these winning pinwheels as a model of greatness to aspire to as I start to develop and test new recipes for another summer of competition.
Adapted from Italian Grill by Mario Batali.
- Prep Time:
- 20 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 2 Hours
- Cook Time:
- 10 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 2 Hours 30 Minutes
- 8-10 pinwheels
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 4 ounces thinly sliced salami, cut into 1/4-inch-wide matchsticks
- 8 ounces Italian Fontina, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 flank steak (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds), trimmed of excess fat and butterflied
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, scallions, parsley, salami, Fontina, Parmigiano, and bread crumbs and mix well. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil and mix well with your hands or a spoon. Set aside.
- Cut ten 15 inch-long pieces of kitchen twine. Open up the butterflied flank steak, arranged so the grain of the meat is parallel to you, and season exposed side with salt and pepper. Spread the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the beef, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the side furthest from you; press and gently pack the stuffing mixture onto the beef to keep it in place. Starting from the side nearest to you, roll up the meat like a jelly roll, pressing any stuffing that falls out of the ends back into the roll. Tie the beef tightly with twine, spacing the ties evenly about every 1 1/2 inches. Season the outside with salt and pepper all over, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least two hours, to overnight.
- Carefully unwrap the beef roll and cut between the ties to make the pinwheels. Brush both cut sides gently with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over the charcoal grate. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place the pinwheels on the grill and cook until well browned on both sides and cooked to desired doneness, about 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium. Transfer to a platter, let rest for five minutes, and serve.