Thu May 12, 2016
A lack of ability to get my totally ideal arepa here in Durham led me to throw a Venezuelan Meatwave a few weeks ago. While areapas were the inspiration for that event, I felt like having arepas alone would not offer my guests the diversity they're accustomed to at my meat-filled feasts. So that got me into researching what other Venezuelan staples could be taken to the grill, and I was instantly taken by pepitos. These are sandwiches that seem to be pretty ubiquitous in Venezuela, but have no real hard and fast rule for fillings and toppings. This latitude made me feel comfortable making my own interpretation of this sandwich, and what came out of that was this delicious Venezuelan steak pepito.
Since I haven't had a pepito myself, I took some shots in the dark in developing the flavors for these sandwiches. Well, not totally in the dark, I am familiar with some minimal Venezuelan cooking, which led me to start this recipe out with a marinade that had strong Worcestershire and cumin components—a sauce and spice I've seen commonly used in Venezuelan cooking previously. To that I added oil, salt, brown sugar, and garlic to create a full flavor profile.
I introduced this marinade to a couple pounds of skirt steak. You don't actually need that much steak to make these sandwiches, but I also used these steaks for some fancy pants hor d'oeuvres and a filling for areapas.
I let my steak marinate overnight, but since a marinade never penetrates much beyond the surface of the meat, just four hours would be sufficient if you don't have as much time on your hands. When it was time to cook, I lit up a full chimney of charcoal, arranged the coals in a big pile on one side of the charcoal grate, then seared off the steaks over this blazing hot fire. This created a beautifully browned crust on the steaks in no time while leaving the center nicely medium-rare thanks to the short cooking time.
As the steaks rested, I toasted my hoagie rolls. My biggest problem with this pepito was not finding quality rolls, and bread can really make or break a sandwich. So my hope was a little heat will give my somewhat spongy rolls a better soft and crunchy texture. If you have some good rolls already, you can skip toasting them if want, although what bread isn't better a little toasty?
Next I sliced my steak into a bite-sized, half-inch dice. Normally my instructions for skirt steak clearly states to cut it against the grain—a requirement to create shorter muscle fibers, resulting in more tender steak. Since I was dicing this small though, there was no need to pay attention to the grain, all pieces would be sufficiently tender when diced this size.
Then came the assembly, which began with a layer of shredded lettuce followed by slices of roma tomatoes. Then I piled in a generous portion of steak and topped that with grated parmesan and crispy potato sticks—two toppings I saw commonly put on pepitos. Then the sandwich was finished with both mayo and ketchup, although you can add whatever sauces your heart desires.
Now isn't that one awesome looking sandwich? It had the taste to back up its looks too. Luckily toasting the bread made my sub-par rolls serviceable, but the real attraction was the steak, whose beefiness was amped up by the Worcestershire-heavy marinade, and the potato sticks, which created a salty crunch you don't normally get in a sandwich. The rest was fairly normally sandwich fodder that added the fresh and saucy components you want in a standout sandwich, which this steak pepito definitely was.
Venezuelan Steak Pepito
- Prep Time:
- 15 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 4 Hours
- Cook Time:
- 10 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 4 Hours 25 Minutes
- 4 servings
- For the Steak
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (about 1 medium clove)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 lb skirt steak
- For the Sandwiches
- 4 hoagie rolls
- 2 cups loosely packed shredded lettuce
- 2 roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2" slices
- 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup potato sticks
- To make the steak: Whisk together oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt, brown sugar, garlic, and cumin in a small bowl. Place steak in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in marinade. Seal bag, removing as much air as possible, and place in refrigerator and let marinate 4 hours to overnight.
- 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 entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill steak over high heat until deeply browned on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Remove to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice into a 1/2-inch dice.
- To make the sandwiches: Place hoagie rolls on grill, cut side down, until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Remove rolls to plates or serving platter.
- Assemble sandwiches by spreading lettuce along each roll, then top with tomatoes, steak, parmesan cheese, and potato sticks. Squeeze on ketchup and mayo to taste and serve immediately.