Friday, August 07, 2009


Hot sauce, seem to come and go, yeah.
The chef, he flies from coast to coast

Knowing many, loving none,
Frank’s, Tabasco, either one,
But back home he’ll always run
To sweet Harissa... mmm...

- The Algerian Brothers

Harissa? WTF is harissa, anyway?

According to Wikipedia (“The encyclopedia you write, so it’s as full of shit as you are!”), harissa is “a North African hot red sauce or paste whose main ingredients are chili peppers (often smoked or dried) and garlic... it is a standard ingredient of North African cuisine.”

I used to keep a tube of harissa in the fridge, but somehow it got tossed in one of the Mistress of Sarcasm’s spring cleaning frenzies. Since I used it but rarely, I was never in a hurry to replace it... until last week, when Food Network broadcast the season finale of “The Next Food Network Star.”

Jeffrey Saad, who ended up as the runner-up, threw together a steak sandwich in his final challenge that had my mouth watering. The recipe, last I checked, has not been put up on the Food Network website or on Saad’s Facebook page, but it was easy enough to reconstruct by watching the show. Here ’tis:

Jeffrey Saad’s Kick-Ass Harissa Steak Sammitch

Start by taking a handful of mint leaves, a couple of cloves of garlic, and a few tablespoons of sun-dried tomatoes. Mince it all up and stir into about a half-cup of mayonnaise. (Sure, you can make your own mayo from scratch, if you’re a Bull-Moose Foodie, but I used Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise.) If you want a little extra kick, add a teaspoonful or two of harissa paste (available in exotic groceries and Middle eastern food stores). Stir well; set aside.

Slice up a yellow onion and throw it in a skillet with some olive oil. Cook over a medium-to-low flame until the onion is soft and caramelized to a golden brown. Be sure you don’t scorch it.

Take a nice piece of steak and coat it liberally with harissa, then throw it on the grill until cooked to your liking. Thanks to Costco, I had a few prime (!) ribeyes in the fridge, so I used one of those. Believe me when I tell you, prime ribeye is a whole lot different from choice - when you throw it on a hot grill, it’s like setting off an incendiary bomb. In a good way.

When the steak is done, take your bread - ciabatta, a hoagie roll, or a big honkin’ slice of some rustic loaf all work well - and spread liberally with the mayo mixture. Add the caramelized onions. Now, take your steak and slice it on the bias; pile the slices on your sandwich. Add a handful of arugula and a few slices of tomato (I used an heirloom yellow tomato), and you’re good to go.

The harissa lends a sweet, spicy note - not overwhelming, but just enough to leave a gentle degree of heat - and the overall combination of flavors is astonishingly good.

Kick-Ass Steak Sammitch

I made a couple of these bad boys today and enjoyed a pleasant lunch with the Missus. No: better than pleasant. Excellent. For how can I not enjoy lunch with the Love of my Life... eating prime ribeye steak, yet?

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