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Grilled Steak with Charmoula

Charmoula, a traditional North African sauce, contains a full palette of herbs and spices, from the green of cilantro to the red of paprika and cayenne to the gold of turmeric. This bright, heady paste is delicious slathered on roasted potatoes and omelettes or used as a dip for warm pita bread. Here, it’s used as an exotic finish for simple grilled steaks.

Ingredients:

For the charmoula: 

  • 2 cups lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems 
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems 
  • 1/3 cup olive oil  
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice  
  • 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped 
  • 2 tsp. peeled and grated fresh ginger 
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika 
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin  
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt 
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric  
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper 
  •   
  • Peanut or olive oil for brushing  
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lb. boneless rib-eye or strip steaks, at least 1 1/4 inches thick 

Directions:

To make the charmoula, in a blender or food processor, combine the cilantro, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, paprika, cumin, salt, turmeric and cayenne. Process until the herbs are finely chopped and the sauce is well blended, stopping the machine and scraping down the sides of the jar or work bowl as needed. (Or, combine the ingredients in a mortar and pulverize with a pestle.) Taste and adjust the seasonings. Set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.

Prepare a hot fire in a grill. Brush the grill grate with peanut oil.

Pat the steaks dry and arrange them directly over the heat on the grill. Sear for 1 to 2 minutes, then turn them over and sear for 1 to 2 minutes on the other side. Take care not to let the flames flare up; if they do, move the steaks to the side of the grill until the flare-up subsides, then return them to direct heat.

After the steaks have cooked for 4 to 6 minutes total, turn them over again and move them to the cooler edge of the grill. Cover the grill and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a steak registers 125°F for medium-rare, about 3 minutes more, or until done to your liking. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Pour the charmoula into a small bowl. Cut the steaks against the grain on the diagonal into thin slices and arrange on a platter along with the charmoula. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Change the method: Instead of grilling the steaks, you can pan-roast them: Preheat an oven to 400°F. Choose a cast-iron or other ovenproof fry pan large enough to hold the steaks in a single layer without crowding. Place the pan on the stovetop over high heat. When the pan begins to smoke, arrange the steaks in the pan and sear for 1 minute per side. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast until the steaks are browned underneath, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the steaks over. Return to the oven and cook for about 3 minutes more for medium-rare, or until done to your liking.

Make ahead: You can make the charmoula up to 3 days ahead of time. Pour a thin layer of olive oil on top, cover tightly and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Good Food to Share, by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan (Weldon Owen, Inc., 2010).