To pick up where we left off, the drive from the Grand Canyon to Sedona was very beautiful, and we stayed in an equally lovely B&B overlooking the red rocks. We were a bit tired of road food by then and had high hopes for a good meal that night. The Barking Frog was highly recommended, and while it had the pretensions and prices that would indicate a great meal, it did not live up to its promise and Ann found herself emulating Gordon Ramsay, as she surveyed each kitchen nightmare they served up. One of the specialties of the house was guacamole made to order at the table, so of course we ordered it, assuming they must take great pride in a really kick-ass recipe. Sadly not. In fact they seemed to the have no opinion of what guacamole should taste like at all, given that they left all of the ingredients (aside from the avocado) up to us. This was Ann's first Gordon moment. "Shouldn't they have some conviction about what a great guacamole tastes like?" she wondered. "Why are they leaving it up to us?" And indeed, Ann makes it much better with half the fuss, even if she does say so herself.
It got worse. Jack ordered the flash fried tilapia, which arrived sitting upright on its belly, having been skewered on a pike (of the sort one normally sees receipts impaled upon). To add injury to the visual insult, the poor fish had been slashed right through in multiple places on each side and was a bit more than "flash fried." The strips of exposed flesh along each unnecessary slash were chewy and dessicated. Ann had the goat cheese chili rellenos, which could have been wonderfully innovative-- she did really like the goat cheese filling. However, the peppers were soggy, the batter was soggy and the enormous amount of roasted tomato sauce (which tasted far more Italian than Mexican) did not help matters.
Not surprisingly, we were very glad that our next stop was Tucson, where we knew that Ann's mother would feed us well. As you can see, MaryAnne is a serious collector of cookbooks in addition to being a fine cook.
Ann had asked MaryAnne to tutor her through the preparation of her world renowned flank steak-- a dish Ann has never managed to get quite right, despite numerous attempts and phone consultations. The recipe is some forty years old and comes from The Brave Bull in Los Altos and was originally made with New York Strip steak. MaryAnne developed a more economical way of making it with flank steak (those of you old enough to have watched the Watergate Hearings live will know that flank steak was once a very inexpensive cut of meat), and served it often for company and to the delight of all who tasted it.
Pepper Flank Steak
It's a simple recipe and all about timing and confidence, really. As MaryAnne says, "flank steak is tough if it's not served rare, so once the bacon topping is on and it's under the broiler, make sure you take it out before the bacon starts to look too crisp. Just serve it as-is and if it's too rare you know to cook the first side a little longer next time."
A few notes from our observations: the bacon gets cooked alone, in spite of what the recipe says. Then it should be drained before adding the scallions, peppers and parsley. You should make sure your flank steak is of an even thickness from one end to the other. You need a really sharp knife to cut the thin slices across the grain and on a slight diagonal.
After a few days of damned good home cooking and fine company we were back on the road and headed off to see The Thing, and on to New Mexico. And no, we couldn't possibly tell you what "The Thing" is. You need to go pay the dollar and see for yourself.