Miso-marinated Beef and Shishito Skewers
I'm all in on the prevalence of shishito peppers in recent years. I love these long, fruity Japanese peppers, but for years they were relegated to restaurant eats, then they started to be a seasonal summer treat when they began being sold at the farmers' markets, but now I can procure them at my local grocery store year-round. This ability to get shishitos anytime has me thinking about eating them more often, leading to them becoming a common part of recipes. They made for tasty fodder in a sandwich with grilled halloumi last fall, and now they've crept into these miso-marinated beef and shishito skewers, which is cementing these peppers in my mind as not only continually delicious, but also incredibly versatile.
I've been on a quest to use up ingredients that have been sitting too long in my fridge lately, and one of those things is a tub of white miso. I always need to be reminded that I really do like this super savory fermented soy bean sauce because years of dislike of miso soup has created a mental block for me. It's really not the miso part that doesn't agree with my taste buds though, but the dashi—seaweed flavor is one thing I have not been able to come around to enjoying.
Miso served as the foundation for this marinade, starting it off with a ton of depth and savoriness that was only built upon with some rice vinegar for acidity, brown sugar for sweetness, scallions and garlic for fresh bites, and additional saltiness and savoriness by way of soy sauce and sake. I tasted how the marinade came together as I was making it, adjusting the quantities of ingredients as needed, and in the end it was damn delicious, but I also worried that all that good might diminish too much during cooking because I had never made a miso-based marinade before and wasn't sure how it would hold up to the heat of the grill.
For the steak, I chose a favorite of mine for skewers—flank. I cut the flank on a bias to create long, flat strips about 1/4-inch thick. Since I wanted to intersperse shishitos with the beef on the skewers, I then cut the long pieces of steak into sections roughly three inches long so I would have shorter segments for skewering.
I then placed all the steak strips in the marinade and used my hands to mix it all together and ensure the beef was all well coated in the sauce. Then I covered the bowl and placed in the fridge for a couple hours. Since this marinade isn't highly acidic, you could do this the night before and let the beef marinate longer if you wanted to.
For the shishitos, I had to make a decision on how these were going to best be prepped for life on a skewer. I thought about keeping them filly intact, but then you'd have to take the pepper off the skewer to eat it and also be left with the stem, which kind of defeats the purpose of the one handed nature of eating food off a stick. Instead, I stemmed the peppers and then cut any long ones in half so each pepper segment was just a little bit wider than the strips of beef, which would make for a nice presentation and allow for ease in consumption.
As I had a chimney of charcoal lighting, I skewered up the beef and peppers. I started with a piece of steak, which I threaded on so it would be as secure as possible. Then I slid on a shishito piece, and since I was using flat skewers, it stayed snuggly in place. I continued that process for all the beef and peppers and ended up with ten skewers that each had three pieces of beef and three pieces of pepper—rarely does my skewer fodder end up so evenly divided.
Flank steak is at its best when a great sear is accomplished with short cooking time, so the interior does not get overdone and tough. So once the coals were ready and dumped out, I wasted no time in getting these on the grill while the fire was at its hottest.
In almost no time—just a few minutes—the beef was browned and well caramelized in places. Luckily, this was also the same amount of time it took for the peppers to blister and blacken too, so everything seemed to be in harmony and I was having high hopes for how these were going to turn out. I had to wait a couple minutes to dig in after they were cooked to allow the skewer to cool down, but once I started into one stick of beef, I couldn't stop myself eating them all.
Any fear that the marinade would be diminished was unfounded as the beef had and incredibly deep savory quality with a nice touch of sweetness that stood out against the light beefy nature of the flank steak. The peppers provided the pops of freshness and fruitiness to balance out any heaviness in the steak, and I got a couple skewers with some spicy shishito segments that only added to the flavor party. There was nothing I didn't love about these skewers, and I thought I had mad enough for three to four people, but my wife and I housed them all in no time. She also was digging them as much as me, but she complained about the quantity of seeds in some of the pepper pieces. That didn't bother me, but if you think you might be in the same boat as her, you may want to take the one extra step of removing the seeds during prep. No matter what though, I can't imagine anyone biting into these amazing skewers and not falling in love like I did.
Miso-marinated Beef and Shishito Skewers
- Yield 3-4 servings
- Prep 15 Minutes
- Inactive 2 Hours
- Cook 6 Minutes
- Total 2 Hours 21 Minutes
- 3 tablespoons white miso paste
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sake
- 1 tablespoons finely minced scallion (about 1 small scallion)
- 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 lb flank steak, thinly sliced on a bias against the grain into 1/8-1/4-inch strips
- 8oz shishito peppers, washed, stems removed, long peppers halved
- 8-10 metal or bamboo skewers
- In a medium bowl, whisk together miso, vinegar, brown sugar, oil, soy sauce, sake, scallion, garlic, and sesame oil. Cut any long pieces of beef in half so all strips are roughly 3 inches in length. Place beef strips in bowl and toss to thoroughly coat meat in marinade. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator for 2 hours to overnight.
- Thread beef and shishitos onto skewers, alternating each. Each skewer should hold about 3 pieces of beef and 3 pieces of pepper.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all 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. Place skewers on grill and cook until beef is well seared and peppers have blistered and started to blacken, about 3 minutes. Flip skewers and continue to cook until second side is well seared, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer skewers to platter and let rest until cool enough to handle. Serve immediately.