This is the way my Mom cooked steak for us when I was growing up. Bistec de Palomilla or Cuban Fried Steak is a traditional way of preparing steak in Cuba, and it is very different from the way thick, juicy filets, ribeyes and other expensive beef cuts that are popular here in the U.S. -- so much so, that I was shocked the first time I encountered an almost-1-inch-thick "bistec Americano" (American style steak) on my plate while on a high school trip. My Mom would never have served such a hunk of meat to a single person, but instead would have stood that steak on its side while raw and carefully sliced it into four thin steaks, one for each of us in the family, pounded each steak as thin as possible and then cooked the steaks according to the following recipe -- which, of course, she knew by heart with no need to measure anything.
Most Cuban cooks will use top sirloin, top round, flank or other relatively inexpensive, lean and flavorful cut of beef to make Cuban Fried Steak. If you can get cube steak from a butcher, it's an excellent choice -- and, in fact, that is what I use. Instead of trying to cut a thick steak into thinner slices, I recommend starting with a relatively thin but large steak that you can pound out to a thickness of 1/4" or less, and then cut it into 3 or 4 steaks the "normal" way rather than through the sides. The amounts below can be multiplied if you need more than 3 or 4 servings.
Traditional side dishes to serve with Bistec de Palomilla include white rice and fried sweet ripe plantains (maduros). I also like adding a green vegetable such as the Cuban-inspired Roasted Cabbage shown here, or a simple tossed salad with avocado chunks and a lemon or lime vinaigrette.
Ingredients (for 3 to 4 servings)
1 lb steak
3 Tbs bitter (sour) orange juice ("naranja agria") OR 1 Tbs each of orange juice & lime juice
4 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 Tbs Spanish olive oil (or other olive oil if you don't have Spanish)
Optional garnish (my Mom didn't use): Chopped fresh parsley or snipped chives
Use a meat mallet or the dull side of a heavy kitchen knife to gently pound steak on both sides to a thickness of 1/4" or less, then cut into 3 or 4 steaks. Combine the juice, garlic, salt & pepper in a shallow non-reactive lidded container for marinating, then place steaks in the marinade. Cover and marinade in refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.
When ready to cook, heat the olive oil in a very large, heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal) over medium-high heat until very hot. Remove steaks from marinade, shaking off excess marinade back into the container -- reserve the marinade and do not discard -- and patting dry with paper towels. Carefully place steaks in hot oil, leaving room between the steaks. Fry for 2 to 5 minutes on each side to desired doneness (ideally the oil is hot enough to get the steaks lightly golden brown within 2 to 3 minutes per side).
Transfer steaks from pan onto a serving platter and keep warm while you fry the onions: Add the onions and reserved marinade (including all the bits of garlic) to the pan juices and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.
To serve, drizzle the onion and pan juices over the steaks, then sprinkle with chopped parsley or snipped chives if desired (shown in photo at top of this blog post).
Carolina Sauce Company
PS: I recently made this recipe while Greg was out of town, which means I had leftover cooked steak. The leftover steak was perfect for the simple Beef, Broccoli & Pepper Stir-Fry that I made the next day -- and because there is a small but significant Chinese-Cuban immigrant population in my home town of New York City, I suspect I'm not the first cook to come up with that Cuban-Chinese "fusion" recipe!