Every man needs to be able to cook something solid and manly — a go-to meal or slab of meat that’s more interesting than spaghetti but still easy enough that you can find the ingredients at most any grocery store.
I can follow a recipe, and pretty much get through it, but what I’m talking about is something you can remember in your head and whip it out at the appropriate occasion. I can make enchiladas at a moment’s notice, and if you slather anything with enough melted and crispy cheese, people will eat it. But I don’t consider it a go to stomach buster.
So what’s a stomach buster? Anything that is a little different, is served up in copious quantities, and is so good that pretty much everyone wants to eat more than they need.
I had a buddy in college whose go to man meal was barbecue grilled fajitas. He would slice up some green, red, and orange peppers, onions, as well as chicken and beef in 3-to-4-inch chunks and throw it into gallon size Zip-loc plastic bags with some secret marinade. Was the marinade secret or something he bought out of a jar? I have no idea. But after grilling it over charcoal and slapping it inside a tortilla with a little sour cream and fresh guacamole, along with a cold beer pulled from a cooler full of ice . . . it didn’t matter. It was freaking awesome.
Plus, chicks really dug his barbecue grilled fajitas.
(And the excuse to drink margaritas.)
I know another guy whose specialty is slow smoking some serious meats over 24 hours. It takes a heckuva lot of effort, including waking up every two hours to do some mysterious basting or charcoal stoking or apple-wood burning adjustments. But the results? Absolutely astounding. The guy is a smoking genius, clearly at a level far above most men. He’s in high demand around the holidays, as you might guess, and along with that comes some real pressure.
Another guy I know liked to hunt pheasant and quail. He would save most of the breasts over the course of the season, breaking them out during his annual Super Bowl party. The go to meal? Stuffed Jalapeños wrapped with pounded-thin pheasant and quail breast wrapped in bacon.
Focus on the Protein
Most guys, though, can make a big leap forward by just figuring out one way to cook a slab of meat. They don’t even have to come up with the side dishes.
For me, it’s a London broil or a flank steak — a big slab of beef that will be marinated over night, ideally, then grilled on the barbecue. Served? Sliced up alongside some dipping sauce.
It’s crazy easy, and the large slab of meat is usually cost-effective, can feed quite a few people, and when you find a good flank steak, it’s something less ordinary. The dipping sauce is just the marinade brought to a hearty boil just before the slab comes off the grill.
The thing is, most everyone responds to a dipping sauce.
Here’s the basics for the flank steak marinade, which you’ll just unceremoniously dump into a gallon-size plastic zip bag:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
less than a 1/3 cup of honey (I usually just grab the plastic bear-shaped honey container and give it a man squeeze)
a few splashes of red wine vinegar, sometimes apple cider vinegar, about 2 tablespoons — something you can eye-ball when it pools up in the olive oil
several cloves of garlic, chopped or minced or squished with a garlic press
lots of pepper (and fresh ground is always more satisfying)
And now the flank steak:
lightly score it (with a knife) across the grain of the meat in thin slits about a half-inch apart (both sides)
place the meat in the bag
seal the bag
place in the refrigerator over night, turning it and sloshing the marinade around every now and then
pull it out 45 minutes or so before you plan to cook it (so the meat isn’t so cold going right onto the grill with a sludgy marinade)
toss it on a hot grill: if you’ve got a thinner cut of flank steak, you won’t have to cook it long, but a thicker, denser London broil type of cut can benefit from searing both sides over high heat for a couple minutes before turing the grill down and cooking it more slowly
When you pull it off, let it rest on a cutting board for a few minutes then cut it into thin slices and serve.