Coffee-Rubbed Flank Steak With Porter-Molasses Pan Sauce
Coffee isn’t just for your morning cup, or your favorite ice cream flavor. It can also lend a boost to savory dishes, working especially well with red meat and pork. In the spectrum of tastes, coffee technically falls into the bitter category, but the right application can easily tip the balance to umami. Coffee has hundreds of chemical compounds that work to transform whatever they’re applied to. They impart flavor, act as a tenderizer, and contribute antioxidants. There’s so much you can do with coffee in savory dishes - add it to chilies and stews, balance the bitterness of sautéed greens, and kick up gravy.
In this recipe, the rich, deep flavors of coffee, caramelized sugar, salt, and cinnamon combine to enhance the delicately meaty flavor of flank steak. Cinnamon may seem like an odd inclusion, but its warm spice works well with red meat. Although we typically associate cinnamon with sweet flavors, but it can also be spicy and bitter. In this application it offers balance to the bitter and sweet, and lends a subtle spice.
For the pan sauce, I was inspired by the folks over at Serious Eats. They’re definitely working on my wavelength most of the time. They paired a beer-and-molasses pan sauce with their Coffee Rubbed Steak Kabobs and it sounded so mouth-watering I had to try something similar here. The ability to make a delicious pan sauce is one of the great benefits of pan-roasting. You take advantage of all the flavorful drippings in the pan, and it gives you something to do while you wait for the meat to rest (because patience is hard when you’re waiting for dinner). A pan sauce certainly isn’t make-or-break for a good steak, but it doesn’t hurt, and this one is well worth the few extra ingredients. Plus, who doesn’t like an excuse to cook with beer, too?
I used Muddy Water Ethiopian coffee and Kennebunkport Brewing Co.'s Porter for this recipe, but any good quality medium to dark roast coffee and porter or stout beer will work well. This recipe serves 2, but you can easily scale it up to make more. Increase the cooking time to reduce the sauce accordingly.
1. Combine coffee, sugar, salt, pepper, coriander, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Rub evenly over both sides of steak, cover, and let sit for 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat oil in large oven-safe skillet until shimmering. Add steak and sear both sides until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer pan to oven and roast until center registers 120 to 125 degrees (for medium-rare), 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the meat. Carefully remove skillet from oven and transfer steak to cutting board, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.
3. Meanwhile, return skillet to stovetop, keeping a pot holder or kitchen towel on the hot handle at all times. Over medium-high heat, stir in the stout and molasses, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to simmer and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, keeping handle covered, and stir in cold butter until melted. Sauce should have a glossy, thickened consistency. Slice steak and serve with sauce.