Yes, this article is about grilling meat, and lots of it, but we’re not setting out to upset vegetarians or to rally around some sort of red-meat/chicken-wing-only agenda. We just noticed that during these times of great struggle for restaurants — and during this especially precious time of Seattle weather’s prime loveliness — local places are offering big to-go boxes full of high-quality raw meat, ready for your household or socially distanced grill-out. To help you make the very most out of what we’ve got in 2020 for summertime fun, we checked out three local grill boxes and got recipes from the chefs, too. One is even for a salad because yes, we do also believe in vegetables. There are plenty of tips for more successful meat-making here, too (note: Don’t get distracted from the flames by arguing about Bob Dylan!?), but the main takeaway with a big ol’ box of primo to-go meat is that you can and should have it your way.
— Seattle Times food writers Bethany Jean Clement, Jackie Varriano and Tan Vinh

Getting the good stuff from Lark — and having your meat your way

952 E. Seneca St., Seattle; 206-323-5275; larkseattle.com

Confession: I’ve been grinding up really nice steaks into hamburger. We ate a lot of beef when I was growing up — a lot — seeing as my grandmother raised Angus cattle in Eastern Washington, out past Sunnyside. My parents were not well off, but our house in Seattle was rich with beef. And good beef it was, living the high life as far as cattle can, grazing placidly on 80 acres of impossibly scenic sagebrush range in the summertime, on pleasant pasture otherwise, and only ever having one bad day, as my dad used to say. 

By the time I left for college, I had become uniquely spoiled insofar as I was sick of steak. By the time I started eating it again, I realized that even the finest cut from elsewhere would never taste as good to me as the meat from the animals my grandma tended on her very modest ranch, with respect for the creatures woven into every day from dawn onward.

When a bunch of beautiful meat from Marx Foods landed on my doorstep for another COVID cooking story in May — back when we thought this thing would be over soon — I didn’t want steak, I wanted hamburgers. I do not regret leaving part of my heart in San Francisco, but what the hell was I thinking leaving my grandma’s vintage hand-cranked meat grinder with the heartbreaking person there? Luckily, the internet provides: A Facebook friend turned out to have maybe the exact same one, still in its heavy vintage cardboard box labeled “Universal Food & Meat Chopper No. 2,” and turned out to be graciously willing to lend it.

And it turns out that grinding up an excellent steak, forming it gently into big patties with a little divot in the center, then cooking them in a cast-iron pan on top of a grill while basting them with their own juices and a lot — a lot — of butter makes an incredible hamburger. 

If this makes me a philistine of meat, so be it. One thing that the contraction of the parameters of life during a global pandemic might teach us is to enjoy that life to the fullest extent possible. Eat less meat, but get the really good stuff, and have it the way you like it — there’s time, now, to do it just right, and a hamburger doesn’t have to be just a hamburger. 

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The Lark Grill Box comes loaded with meat-bounty, including (clockwise from left) two 10-ounce Painted Hills New York steaks; chipotle-marinated chicken; a pound of ground pork; a pound of ground wagyu beef; and Nicky Farms elk, beef and huckleberry sausage. That’s Gorgonzola-rosemary compound butter in the small containers and chef John Sundstrom’s corn, potato and shishito pepper salad in the big one (which we got the recipe for). (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)
The Lark Grill Box comes loaded with meat-bounty, including (clockwise from left) two 10-ounce Painted Hills New York steaks; chipotle-marinated chicken; a pound of ground pork; a pound of ground wagyu beef; and Nicky Farms elk, beef and huckleberry sausage. That’s Gorgonzola-rosemary compound butter in the small containers and chef John Sundstrom’s corn, potato and shishito pepper salad in the big one (which we got the recipe for). (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

The Lark Grill Box contains a meat-lover’s paradise of premium stuff, selected by chef John Sundstrom and prettily packaged for contactless pickup at the restaurant. Among other things, including chicken marinated in a smoky guajillo-and-chipotle sauce, there’s wagyu hamburger, which some say is a waste of such high-quality beef, but you can be the judge of that (while I’ll be grinding up the gorgeously fat-framed Painted Hills New York steaks). It costs $95, but if you can swing it, you’re supporting a local restaurant and the sustainable, humane local farms Lark’s sourcing from, and it’s plenty for the rest of the summer or for a socially distanced barbecue. Right now, it also comes with a quart of Sundstrom’s summery potato-and-corn salad (which does not contain meat).

— Bethany Jean Clement

Lark’s Corn, Potato and Shishito Pepper Salad

To maximize the grillage here, you could lightly brush the shucked corn with olive oil and grill until dark golden, allow to cool and cut from the cob. Likewise, instead of par- and then pan-cooking your potatoes, you could cut them into won’t-fall-through-the-grill-grate-but-vaguely-bite-sized pieces, toss with olive oil and a little salt and pepper, and grill until not quite burnt. Same with the shishito peppers, if they’re not too small (and if they are, the bored/maniacal might sear them in a cast-iron pan on the grill — why not?). — B.J.C.

Ingredients

1 pound local potatoes (purple or mixed)
4 ears yellow corn
12 shishito peppers
2 tablespoons red onion or shallot, minced
12 basil leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper

Steps

  1. Par-cook potatoes in salted water until fork-tender, then allow to cool. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Shuck corn and cut from cob.
  3. Heat a cast-iron pan and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add corn and peppers, sear to dark golden, then stir until evenly colored and cooked. Remove from pan and allow to cool.
  4. Wipe out pan and reheat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, add potatoes and cook until golden brown and crispy. Remove from pan and allow to cool.
  5. Toss corn, peppers and potatoes together with red onion, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Tear basil leaves and toss into salad. Serve.

Meeting and eating the excellent meat of MEET Korean BBQ

500 E. Pike St., Seattle; 206-695-2621; meetkoreanbbq.com

MEET Korean BBQ takeout: “BBQ Feast,” for two, comes ready for the grill. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
MEET Korean BBQ takeout: “BBQ Feast,” for two, comes ready for the grill. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

Geonbae! We toasted, my beer buddy and I, while social distancing in his garden in Bryant. We sneaked in some grilling before summer slips away. How can this be mid-August already? Where did the summer go? How did we fall into The Upside Down?

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Let me pause from my eternal groaning to bring you this: The grilling kit from MEET Korean BBQ is very good. Forty bucks gets you more than a pound of high-end cuts — from marbled beef to pork with a web of collagen and fat — banchan (in this case, that’s seven sides of salads and fermented root veggies), rice, bibb lettuce to wrap the meat and two dipping sauces. You won’t get this much variety of high-end cuts at a steakhouse at this price range.

This carnivorous Capitol Hill restaurant serves 10 different wagyu, Kurobuta and USDA Prime and aged cuts; it’s chef’s choice which four cuts you get in your kit. On a recent Saturday, my takeout tray included 20 ounces of kalbi-marinated strips of skirt steak, gochujang-marinated strips of Kurobuta pork shoulder, two Kurobuta pork collars and two wagyu sirloin caps.

A beer/soju pairing for MEET Korean BBQ takeout: “BBQ Feast” for two. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
A beer/soju pairing for MEET Korean BBQ takeout: “BBQ Feast” for two. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

I plopped the slabs of wagyu sirloin over the inferno center of the Weber, cooking them fast and hot, leaving a slight char with the interior bloody red. A smidgen of the sesame-oil-and-salt dipping sauce to taste. Nothing more. Revel in this melty, fat-dripping cut. Pair it with a crisp, clean soju. Geonbae!

Then the pork collar — a dense cut I grilled over medium heat for six minutes and then doctored with the garlicky, fermented soybean-paste Ssamjang sauce. Wash it down with a Hite beer. Geonbae!

Then came the ribbons of kalbi skirt steak and gochujang pork shoulder, essentially meats glazed in umami. They require 45 seconds per side, over medium-low heat; this brings us to the when-life-gives-you-lemons part of my story.

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During our festive drinking, we debated whether Bob Dylan can actually sing. Me: “No, he can’t” — and how the hell did he win a Nobel Prize? … In any event, I forgot to man the grill and burned the meat to a crisp.

Meet Korean BBQ takeout: “BBQ Feast” for two: wagyu beef fresh off the grill.  (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
Meet Korean BBQ takeout: “BBQ Feast” for two: wagyu beef fresh off the grill. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

No matter. Treat them like burnt ends from a smoker. I dropped the perfectly medium-rare pieces from the next batch along with the charred bits into a lettuce wrap along with kimchi and slivers of scallions, and I dipped and dipped again in the sesame sauces, a wonderful medley of flavors and textures.

To finish, I topped our soju with Hite lager to make Somaek, a beer cocktail. I may have poured more beer into my glass than my buddy’s. The sun was in my eyes that day. It was really hard to tell. Anyway, geonbae!

— Tan Vinh

MEET Korean BBQ-style Easy Gochujang-Marinated Pork
Courtesy of chef Heong Soon Park

Ingredients

Pork:
1 pound of pork shoulder (can substitute any cut of pork), cut into strips

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Marinade:
½ cup gochujang (fermented Korean chili paste)
¼ cup chili powder
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup honey
½ cup sugar
¼ cup sesame oil
¼ cup cooking wine
8 pieces of garlic, minced

Steps

  1. Combine marinade ingredients in blender (or mix well in a bowl with your hands).
  2. Dunk the pork strips in the marinade in bowl and store for at least 3 hours in the fridge.
  3. Grill the marinated pork over low to medium heat (glaze more marinade over meat if needed).

Just say yes to a butcher pack from The Shambles

7777 15th Ave. N.E., Seattle; 206-659-0074; delimeatsbar.com

Maple Leaf butcher shop and bar The Shambles offers butcher boxes with vintage wagyu steaks and burgers.   (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)
Maple Leaf butcher shop and bar The Shambles offers butcher boxes with vintage wagyu steaks and burgers. (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)

When Jerry Reeves of Pullman’s Bar R Cattle Company called The Shambles co-owner Matthew Brady to see if the Maple Leaf butcher shop and bar could use the beef from a 7-year-old wagyu cow he was about to slaughter, Brady says he responded, “Are you kidding me — yes!” The butcher at The Shambles processed the grass-fed-and-finished beef, then aged it for 30 days before packaging up “vintage wagyu butcher packs” featuring differing cuts and price points. The Baller Pack ($129) included a 13-ounce rib-eye cut, a 13-ounce New York strip, 32-ounce London and two 8-ounce burgers.

Butcher packs don’t come with any instructions, but Brady says at Shambles they use simply salt, pepper and a little oil before grilling steaks over applewood to get a good char on the meat, then finish things in a hot oven. He recommends always taking the time to let steaks come up to room temperature before throwing them on the grill or into a hot cast-iron — otherwise that extra time spent getting the temp up can result in overdone beef.

Don’t have a meat thermometer? Brady says long ago at an old job he learned to test steaks for doneness by padding the cushy part of your palm just below your thumb. A relaxed palm feels like raw meat. Touch your forefinger and thumb together, then press your palm again; that is a rough gauge for how a rare steak would feel. Middle finger to thumb is medium-rare, while the tightness of your palm when your pinkie and thumb touch feels like touching the surface of a well-done steak.

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Maple Leaf butcher shop and bar The Shambles offers butcher boxes with vintage wagyu steaks and burgers.   (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)
Maple Leaf butcher shop and bar The Shambles offers butcher boxes with vintage wagyu steaks and burgers. (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)

No matter how you test your steaks for doneness, Brady says doing a rest is critical. “You have to let a steak rest for at least five minutes — otherwise you’ll lose a lot of juices when you cut into it,” he says.

For a saucy accompaniment, Brady recommends an herbaceous chimichurri, combining cilantro, mint and parsley with garlic, sherry vinegar and preserved lime.

I followed Brady’s instructions for the rib-eye and New York; the results were an incredibly tender and wholly satisfying steak. The burgers were coarse-ground with good fat marbling, flavorful enough without needing a melty cheese layer. I’ve got plans for the London that involve a long marinade and a quick sear before slicing thin for fajitas.

Check in with The Shambles’ Facebook and Instagram pages for news on future butcher boxes. Brady says the goal is to be able to tell customers not only where the beef was sourced from, but what it ate and how it was raised — so don’t be shy when questioning origins before shelling out the big bucks for beef.

— Jackie Varriano

The Shambles’ Chimichurri Steak Sauce
Courtesy of chef Seamus Platt

Yield: 3 ½ cups

Ingredients

1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 cup mint, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
2 cups olive oil
½ cup minced garlic
½ cup sherry vinegar
1 cup garlic oil*
1 preserved lime, chopped**
Salt to taste

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Steps

  1. Place herbs, garlic and preserved lime in a large bowl.
  2. Pour vinegar and oils over and fold to combine.

*Garlic oil can be made by combining 1 cup oil with 4-8 cloves garlic, halved and warming over low heat for about 5 minutes or purchased at some grocery stores.

** If you can’t find preserved limes, substitute 1 preserved lemon or the juice from a fresh lime.

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