Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Colombian Creole Steak with Hogao Sauce

Creole steak, or bistec a la criolla, is a staple in Colombia, often accompanied by a thick, rich sauce called “hogao.” Hogao is a tomato and onion based sauce (heavy on the onion), seasoned with ground cumin and chopped cilantro or parsley. It’s commonly used as a condiment for meats, vegetables, or arepas (corncakes), or as a base for rice and bean dishes.

Sauce Ingredients
In Colombia, creole beef is typically made with a pan-fried skirt steak, and the sauce is prepared in the same skillet. Here, I used a flatiron steak, seared it first, then cooked the sauce in the pan while the meat rested. To combine the rich, bold flavors, cut the beef into thin slices and stir them into the finished sauce before serving.

Note: Flatiron steak, also sold as top blade, is tender and flavorful, but its drawback is a tough piece of connective tissue usually running through the middle of it. Most butchers try to remove most of it, so the shape of the steak will vary accordingly. The one I purchased had actually been cut into two pieces with most of the tough tissue removed. If you don’t have flatiron or skirt steak, try another lean cut that’s good for searing or grilling, such as strip or sirloin.

Also note: Marinating time is important in penetrating the meat with great flavor. A thick, aromatic mixture of spicy mustard, chopped garlic, and ground cumin is a Colombian staple—and a delicious one, at that.

Serves 4

  • 1 tbsp spicy mustard, such as Dijon
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped, divided
  • 2 tsp ground cumin, divided
  • 1 lb flatiron steak (or other lean steak, about 1-inch thick)
  • olive oil, for brushing, plus 1 tbsp
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 1 firm avocado, peeled, pitted, and coarsely chopped (optional)
  • fresh lime juice (optional)
Prepared Sauce Ingredients
  1. Whisk the mustard, 1 chopped garlic clove, and 1 teaspoon of cumin in a small bowl. Place the steak in a small baking dish and rub the marinade on both sides. Cover and refrigerate 3-4 hours.
Marinade and Flatiron Steak
Steak Rubbed with Marinade
  1. Heat a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium-high heat and brush with olive oil. Season the steak with salt and pepper and sear until lightly charred on the outside and medium-rare inside, 5-6 minutes per side, depending on thickness (or until desired degree of doneness).
  2. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest while the sauce cooks. 

Steak Beginning to Sear
Steak after Turning 
Seared Steak
  1. Re-heat the skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion, scallions, and remaining 2 chopped garlic cloves. Sauté 3 minutes, scraping up browned bits, until softened.
  2. Add the tomatoes and remaining 1 teaspoon of cumin and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes have broken down and the sauce is slightly thickened, 10 minutes.
  3. Cut the steak across the grain into thin slices. Add to the sauce and stir in the cilantro. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the beef is hot throughout, 3-4 minutes.
Onion Mixture
Tomatoes Added 
Cooked Hagao sauce 
Thinly Sliced Steak 
Sauce and Steak
To serve, divide the rice among 4 plates. Divide the steak and sauce on top and serve salted, chopped avocado drizzled with lime juice on the side, if desired.

Colombian Creole Steak with Hogao Sauce

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