A couple years ago I got to experience an awesome dinner of beef cooked in chocolate and white wine vinegar at my god parents house. During the dinner, I got to yapping with their son-in-law Matt who is the co-owner of Black River Roasters, a high quality organic coffee company that gets its name from a river near the town I grew up in. Matt talks as passionately about coffee as I talk about food, and I feel as strongly about coffee as he feels about food. We went together like peas and carrots.
Anyhoo, Matt checks in on the blog regularly and I enjoy a cup of Black River Roasters coffee any chance I get. With a bag of beans in the fridge, seemed like high time these worlds collided.
When trying to figure out a good use for coffee in food, I remembered seeing coffee crusted steaks on a couple menus over the past few years. Apparently the coffee doesn’t add too much flavor, mainly just gives a little crunch and a touch of bitterness. Works for me, so let’s breakout the $10 coffee grinder that is infuriatingly small and completely unworthy of the quality of beans we put in it.
With the (poorly) ground coffee beans, I planned to make two preparations of steak tips; a marinade and a dry rub. The marinade was made of 2 tablespoons of coffee, a few tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 4-5 ounces of white wine, chopped garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, salt, and onion powder. I also added a good splash of white wine vinegar at the end for a little bite. The rub was just coffee, salt and black pepper since I wanted to keep one simple to ensure I could taste the coffee flavor clearly.
For the beef, there was no doubt what I was going with; good old trusted sirloin flap meat, or steak tips if you are a New Englander. The meat is cheap ($6 a pound!), well marbled, and comes from the sirloin so it tastes like beef should.
As usual with tips I cut each sirloin flap into cubes that will be about 3-4 bites once cooked. A little over half were thoroughly coated with the rub.
And the rest of the tips went into the marinade for about an hour. Didn’t want to risk doing it any longer.
With the food all prepped, I fired up the grill and let it get well in to the 600 degree range before throwing the tips onto the grate. After around five minutes with the lid down, the tips had enough of a char to flip.
The grilling process would have been the first time I could tell that the crust on the steak was coffee and not pepper. The smell of coffee was clearly present as these cooked. Also, I started to get very worried that I had made the marinade too spicy since the smell of the cayenne pepper cooking on the grill made me sneeze and cough every time I opened the grill hood. Never a good sign.
The tips came off the grill and I started to sample a few pieces. First reaction was how well the crust worked on the dry rub version, but the second reaction was that I put waaaayyy too much salt in the rub. On the flip side, I was psyched that the marinated version wasn’t chokingly spicy.
The marinated tips picked up the most flavor from the Worcestershire and cumin but you could definitely taste a little bit of coffee in there as well. The combination reminded me of a molé sauce with the heavily spiced flavors and the bitter contrast, but not quite as strong or overpowering as a molé. I would definitely add brown sugar, less Worcestershire, and a little more white wine vinegar next time.
The dry rubbed tips were very salty. Like, borderline complete bust salty. However, we figured out that if they were eaten with a bite of the other tips or the yellow squash they were completely fine. The crust was almost identical to a black pepper crust but without the punch in the face of black pepper flavor that overwhelms the meat. The coffee also had a noticeable bitter flavor that was matched by the slight spiciness form the black pepper. The most important thing was that the meat flavor wasn’t lost in the rub, it was just nicely complimented by it.
For the next three days these tips made for a perfect lunchtime salad topping since the saltiness was fine when tossed with lettuce and vegetables. Watch out for coffee grinds in the teeth if you try this at home, though.
Been planning a mixed meat grill fest for some time, hopefully it shows up next week.