True, the bamboo mat that’s part of a sushi kit is perfectly applied to its task, though so too is wrapping thinly-pounded steak around fresh vegetables in preparation for the grill. This forms an egg roll of sorts, though with flamed steak filling in quite nicely for the outer shell. Here’s a roll set on the mat, waiting to fulfil its cigar-shaped mission:
After things take shape, the rolls are secured with toothpicks and are seared over a medium-high flame while being basted with a savory reduction of soy sauce and sake. After the steak in turn bastes and cook the vegetables, the assembly is pulled from the grill and is sliced into bite-size pieces perfect for chopsticks…or fingers:
This is negimaki, a Japanese specialty that presents grilled steak and vegetables in a compact, neat little package that’s just made for dipping in even more of the luscious sauce, as represented in this week’s main photo. It’s ever-so-exquisitely-Japanese a preparation.
It’s what most appealed when Cook’s Illustrated featured instructions in the September/October 2018 issue. That, and the fact that it looked wonderfully delicious. It meets those expectations and more.
Steak is superlative, of course, and nothing more needs to be written about it. However, it soars even higher when the right vegetables accent it, and in this they do, and doubly so. For one thing, snow peas are served alongside. Steamed, then sautéed in soy sauce, grated ginger and grated garlic, they’re a crispy and subtly spirited companion.
Then there are the vegetables rolled up in the steak itself. As mentioned earlier, the steak bastes them with succulence as they both grill, and what emerges is tender, yet still crispy. In addition to the scallions the recipe specifies, carrots and white asparagus also are included. These add nice flavor and, nearly as important, they contribute a nice variety of colors. Just look at that cross-section!
Sure, the sushi kit is designed for a specific task, and serves it quite well, but when it’s pressed into service to help create negimaki, it realizes its full potential. A wonderfully delicious reward for elevating a tool beyond unitasking.
(Japanese Grilled Steak and Scallion Rolls)
- 2-pound flank steak, trimmed
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons mirin
- 3 tablespoons sake
- 8 scallions, trimmed and halved lengthwise (*1)
- 6 spears asparagus, optional (see Note 1 below)
- 4 ounces shredded carrots, optional (se Note 1 below)
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Place the steak on a plate and freeze for 30 minutes, until firm.
Bring soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar to boil in a small saucepan set over a high flame, stirring to combine. Reduce flame to medium and simmer until slightly syrupy and reduced to half a cup, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Place the steak on a cutting board and cut it on the bias into wide, thin strips running perpendicular to the grain. Pound the strips with a meat mallet until they’re roughly 1/8-inch thick. Lay three strips side-by-side, with their long edges overlapping by about 1/4-inch. This should form a square, approximately 7 inches on a side.
Lay each “square” on a plate, separating each with a sheet of parchment paper. Freeze for ten minutes. (*2)
Put a “square” on a bamboo sushi mat and lay a couple ounces of vegetables in a strip across the middle, as pictured above, with a little of the vegetables hanging over the edge. Roll steak around the vegetables and secure the “flap” with toothpicks, or tie with kitchen twine.
Place directly over flame on a grill set to medium-high. Turning a quarter-turn every two minutes to ensure even cooking, basting after each turn with a little of the sauce. (*3)
Remove the negimaki to a cutting board and cut it across the roll into 3/4-inch lengths. Place cut side-up on a platter and drizzle with a little more sauce. Serve alongside rice and the remainder of the sauce.
1 – The original recipe uses scallions only, and it merely halves them. This is fine, though I gave the scallions a broad “julienne,” into wide strips. Plus, as mentioned I added asparagus (halved lengthwise) and carrots, both for flavor and for color. If you prefer to stay with just the scallions, double the quantity to 16.
2 – Freezing the “squares” a second time isn’t in the original recipe, though it encourages the strips to meld together, making the rolls easier to handle.
3 – This grilling time is sufficient for medium-rare steak, which, as you can see, I prefer. For medium steak, give each side three minutes. For well-done, make it four minutes.