Flat iron steak with roasted marrow

Because we’re always looking for different things to put on the restaurant menu we frequently sit down with Joe Simpson of Simpson’s the Butchers in his kitchen in Cockfield, County Durham. Joe’s been butchering all his life and inherited the business from his father, Fred. Because of that legacy, Joe’s forgotten more about the subject than I’ll ever know. As a result, the kitchen sessions at Joe’s are never dull; not least because of his incredible enthusiasm for the subject.

Sessions often start with me asking if there’re any cuts of meat we tend not to use these days but maybe should resurrect and one such that Joe’s taught me about is the flat iron steak. Well, that’s the American name for the cut but I prefer it to the name blade steak. However, the quintessentially British butler’s steak has a romance about it.

Cut from the shoulder, the flat iron or butler’s steak is from one of the cow’s harder-working mussels. As the cow moves around a field and lifts its head to chew, the shoulder mussel gets more use than, say, the fillet which is high up on the cow’s back. As a result it’s much tastier than a fillet but, because it’s been worked, it will be tougher if cooked too much. Therefore, if you see a flat iron steak in the butcher’s or in a restaurant – and they are coming back into fashion – never seek to have it cooked any greater than medium. If you ask for it well done, you might as well sole your shoe with it. But at medium rare? This may be my favourite steak.

At Oldfields we’re currently serving it with a short piece of roasted bone marrow; another forgotten delicacy that shouldn’t be reserved just for the dog. Ask your butcher to cut the bone into a two inch lengths for each portion. Soak them in cold water for an hour before sprnkling with salt and roasting in the oven for 20 minutes at 200°C (Gas 6). The marrow’s also lovely spooned out and spread on toast.

Despite seeming easy, I find cooking steaks more of a challenge than I many expect. Meat changes from animal to animal, we all like steak our own particular way and there’s not really a fixed formula. Gauging whether a steak’s cooked to your liking takes a little experience and I find it easier to seal my steaks in a frying or grill pan on the top of the cooker and then finish off in the oven.

For a medium rare steak, pre-heat the oven to 200°C (Gas 6) and place a heavy-based frying pan on to heat. When hot, add a little oil and a knob of butter. Fry the steaks on both sides for 30 seconds and then place in the oven for five to six minutes or, for a medium steak, about eight minutes. Remove from the pan and put on a plate and cover to allow the meat to rest before serving with any resulting juices spooned over, the marrow bone alongside and accompany all with a little watercress salad.

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