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Vines & Vittles: Ignore the weather and fire up the grill

By John Brown

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two weeks ago, when it was 75 degrees outside, I was grilling animal flesh over charcoal and toasting the emergence of spring with a flagon of purple elixir. Now it's late March, 32 degrees and there is snow on the ground.

What happened to the weather and that groundhog's prediction for an early end to winter? I hope that phony rodent prognosticator -- Punxsutawney Phil -- has burrowed himself deep underground because there are lot of folks who would like to turn him into roadkill about now.

But what the heck. I've decided to ignore the weather and prepare one of my favorite go-to picnic dishes anyway. So who cares if there's a blizzard raging outside? That's why L.L. Bean invented the slicker, Weber invented the covered grill and someone (God bless them) invented the flask.

The recipe I am about to divulge today transforms a boring, tough piece of inexpensive beef into a luscious, tender, mouthwatering steak that can become the repository for an otherworldly stuffing.

Sounds a bit hyperbolic, right? Well, after you give this dish a try, I think you'll understand my enthusiasm. And when you open a full-bodied red wine to accompany it, you'll be one step closer to becoming the gourmand you never knew you could -- or would want -- to be. Let me elaborate.

There is a big difference between a gourmet/connoisseur and a gourmand. A gourmet is discriminating and exhibits exemplary self-control while a connoisseur is defined as one who has expert knowledge and keen discrimination, especially in the fine arts. Together, this combination is a formidable, if stiff, "gourmanseur."

A gourmand, on the other hand, is defined as one who enjoys good food and wine, often to excess. In other words, a gourmand will eat and drink everything in sight and ask for more. A gourmand will also ignore the disdainful looks of the gourmanseur.

So, heed this disclaimer: if you consider yourself a gourmanseur, you may not want to risk devolving into a gourmand by trying the recipe below.

Flank Steak Gourmand

     1    to 2 pound flank steak (see note below)

     1/2  cup of cooked brown or white rice (can substitute quinoa)

     1/4  cup of extra-virgin olive oil

     1    cup of shredded mozzarella cheese

     1    link of Italian sausage, cooked and chopped (optional)

     2     garlic cloves finely chopped

     1     sweet red pepper, chopped

     1     small onion, chopped

     2    cups of fresh spinach or half-box of frozen spinach

     1     teaspoon Kosher salt

     1     teaspoon dried mustard

     1     teaspoon black pepper

     3     tablespoons of red-wine vinegar

     1     gallon-size plastic storage bag

COMBINE olive oil, vinegar, one chopped garlic clove and dried mustard to make marinade.

PLACE meat in storage bag with marinade overnight or for at least six hours.

SAUTÉ garlic, onion and pepper; add sausage, spinach, rice and cheese. Cool.

PUT stuffing inside the flank steak. Note: Ask your butcher to cut a small opening in the flank steak and then hollow out the inside. You can try this yourself using a sharp knife. Or you can cut the steak horizontally into one or two pieces and then roll the meat with the stuffing inside and tie with butcher twine.

PREPARE a charcoal or gas grill and cook meat indirectly for about 20 to 30 minutes. Allow to sit for 15 minutes then slice and serve.

Wine recommendation: 2011 Château Saint-Roch Côtes du Rhône ($15). This southern Rhone red has a nose of leather and tea with flavors of black cherries and cola. A blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre, the wine is full-bodied and rich with just enough tannic backbone to marry seamlessly with this gourmand's delight.

For more on the art and craft of wine, visit John Brown's Vines & Vittles blog at thegazz.com.


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