Avert your eyes. Blush. Go ahead. The steak salad is always a little embarrassing to look at. Nobody is to blame for this. Like the pitterpat of a Geisha’s geta sandal across the parquet, the modesty of the salad is betrayed by its inescapable voluptuousness. But this needs to be greeted in the spirit in which it is offered, which is to say, with deference and respect.
So often the architect of the steak salad indulges in the natural inclination to use the steak itself as the seasoning for the entire dish, salting the heck out of the steak–and in effect utilizing the steak in much the way we use bacon bits and gorgonzola on a cobb salad, or anchovies and parmesan on a Caesar salad—taking advantage of an ingredient’s natural saltiness to season for the dish. This is a perfectly normal impulse. After all, for millions of years we got most of the salt we ate from red meat, so if some part of our reptile mind still thinks of meat as salt, the modern steak salad maker can surely be excused for thinking of salt as meat.
But the missed opportunity to enlist a good salt with steak makes this confusion tragic nonetheless. Shinkai Deep Sea Salt: taught, brilliant, bitter-sweet, immaculate. Sprinkled over the steak on this Japanese steak salad, Shinkai Deep Sea Salt brings grace and definition to the meat, deliciously integrating its carnal succulence into the civilized bed of gleaming garden greens.
Makes 4 main dish servings
1/4 cup soy sauce
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced gingerroot
1 small fresh red chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 pound flank steak
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 lb oyster or shiitake mushrooms
2 baby bok choy, halved lengthwise
1 quart mixed baby greens, cleaned
3 stalks Chinese celery, or 1 stalk Pascal celery, thinly sliced
2 scallions, root end trimmed, thinly sliced
6 grape tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
8 sugar snap or snow pea pods, sliced crosswise
Julienned zest of 1 lemon
4 three-finger pinches Shinkai Deep Sea Salt
Mix the ingredients for the dressing/marinade in a small bowl.
Put the steak in a zip-lock bag. Add ¼ cup of the dressing/marinade to the bag. Seal the bag and massage the dressing into the meat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and as long as 12 hours. Cover the remaining dressing/marinade and refrigerate.
Heat a charcoal or gas grill for high direct grilling. Remove the steak from the bag and wipe off any excess marinade. Coat the steak with 1 tablespoon oil, the mushrooms with 1 ½ tablespoons oil, and the bok choy with the remaining ½ tablespoon oil.
Grill the mushrooms until well marked and almost tender, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Set aside and toss with 2 tablespoons reserved dressing.
Grill the bok choy halves until grill marked on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Set aside and toss with 1 tablespoon reserved dressing.
Grill the flank steak to desired degree of doneness, about 4 minutes per side for very rare, 5 minutes per side for rare, 6 minutes per side for medium rare, 7 minutes per side for medium, turning 90 degrees halfway through the grilling of each side to create cross-hatched grill marks. Set aside to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
While the steak is resting, gently toss the baby greens, celery, scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, and sliced pea pods with 1/3 cup of the remaining dressing. Mound on 4 plates.
Slice the steak against its grain into thin slices. Arrange several slices steak, some grilled mushrooms, and grilled bok choy on the salad. Scatter the lemon zest over all. Drizzle with the remaining dressing. Sprinkle a pinch of Shinkai deep sea salt over each portion, rubbing fingers together gently as it falls to scatter as evenly as possible. Serve.