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When people think about steaks, they imagine an elaborate dish that might take days to prepare. And while most of these dishes aren’t heavily spiced, the Palomilla steak is different. Not only is this Cuban delicacy heavily spiced and marinated, but it’s also cooked for a very short time on the skillet before it’s served.
If you’re looking to try some meat dishes from across the world, this is a fairly simple but flavorful option.
As someone who is a fan of pineapples on pizza (I don’t care if it belongs or not, I just like the sweet and savory combination!) and citrus notes in her food, I love the marinade on this steak. I seriously recommend this steak to anyone who has a habit of squeezing lemons on their Indian food for some extra oomph.
Bottom Line Up Front
Palomilla steak is a Cuban steak dish and not exactly a specific steak cut. It’s made by cutting Sirloin steak into thin pieces upto 1/4th of an inch thick, marinating them with a combination of lime juice and spices, and then cooking it in a skillet until medium-rare.
This dish is traditionally topped with caramelized onions and served with white rice and black beans.
If you want flavorful, unique steak, this dish is definitely worth a try.
Want to Try Bistek de Palomilla? Here’s What to Expect
The first thing I want you to do before trying Bistek de Palomilla is to forget everything you know about how a steak is supposed to taste.
This steak is thinner, crispier, heavily spiced, and a Cuban dish to boot – you won’t find the delicate undernotes and rich, subtle flavor you would in other steak dishes that are just lightly spiced with things like salt, pepper, and a dash of rosemary. No. Over here, you’re getting the full Cuban experience.
While the steak itself is done cooking in just a few minutes, you don’t need to worry about it not being tender enough. The thin cut of the steak itself marinated in lime juice before cooking makes it very easy for the meat to be soft and juicy on the inside, and crispy on the outside.
As far as the taste is concerned, it will once again be nothing like traditional beef steaks.
The steak has citrusy, spicy notes that I am personally a big fan of – the lime in Bistek de Palomilla reminds me of the lemons my mom used to slice and sprinkle on top of the biryani she made for us, and you know it’s great food when it reminds you of home. I finally understood where the dude from Ratatouille was coming from!
Where Does the Name Come From?
Well, Palomilla steak is actually called Bistec de Palomilla, with bistec being the abbreviated version of “beef steak”. In Spanish, Palomillo means butterfly or moth, and this steak is named that because of the butterfly-like shape it makes when the Sirloin steak is cut in half to make this one.
I think it’s pretty neat that the name Bistec de Palomilla quite literally translates to “butterfly-shaped beef steak”. What doesn’t give me good thoughts is how they’ve associated the name “butterfly” with something they’re going to beat with a meat mallet at one point in the cooking process.
If you want to know how to make this steak, keep reading. I’m going to talk about that later in this article.
Palomilla Steak Looks Like a Butterfly
Don’t ask me, that’s what the experts say! As I just said, the phrase “Bistek de Palomilla” means “butterflied steak”, and I think that’s absolutely beautiful (one step in the cooking process aside). Even with something like food, we’re always taking inspiration from nature, and knowing the meaning behind the name made me like Bisteak de Palomilla even more.
Of course, it doesn’t look exactly like a butterfly, even if it’s vaguely shaped like one. When cooked, it’s a thin slice of dark brown meat that might be a little charred on the edges. It’s served with onions that are fried until they’re golden brown on top, and accompanied by a variety of side dishes.
Uncooked Palomilla steak is simply top sirloin steak sliced thin, so it will have the same shape.
Palomilla Steak Packs a Punch – You Won’t Forget the Taste
I remember the first time I tried beef steak. As a young South Asian girl, I wasn’t really allowed to go out a lot, and my first experience was at this nice little steak house with a special someone.
Since I was mainly used to South Asian food, the Medium Rare fillet mignon with mushroom sauce took a little getting used to – the taste was subtle and definitely there, but I was used to Biryani and curries that have a lot more flavor.
I think that if you’re used to steaks being subtle in flavor, you’re in for the same kind of surprise. This dish is heavily seasoned and served with side dishes that mellow out the flavor.
It contains garlic, lime, and a combination of spices, and that hint is offset by the sweetness of the onions served on top. That being said, it tasted much more like the food I was used to growing up.
While people usually eat Palomilla steak with white or yellow rice and black beans, some sides like potatoes and plantains are also often served with it.
Getting Quality Steak for Your Bistek de Palomilla? I Got You
Bistec de Palomilla isn’t a very common steak dish. Unless you’re dining at a Cuban place, chances are you might not be able to find it on the menu, but you can always make it yourself. Preparation for this steak dish is simple if you have the right ingredients, and here are some online butcher shops you can order some great Sirloin steak and other cuts from:
Rastelli’s has been highly reviewed by a lot of food experts and publications, and their customers seem to agree with them. If you’re looking for some good quality, responsibly sourced meat, Rastelli’s is a good option. All of their meat is free of antibiotics, hormones, and steroids.
I think Rastelli’s is also a good option for people who want to order all kinds of meat at once. Not only do they have a lot of good beef options, but they also have pretty great chicken, pork, sausages, and even shrimp.
With their bulk order option, you can get a lot of good stuff delivered to your place all at once and have meat around for the next two weeks of cooking. Ordering all your meat from the same place will certainly save you a lot on delivery charges, which are often high enough that people would rather order in bulk than pay that money again and again.
If you’re picky about the meat you get, Chicago Steak Company has one of the widest varieties of cuts you’ll find online. They have all sorts of cuts, they have dry aged beef, they have grass-fed varieties, and much more. Even if you’re looking for something you haven’t been able to find at other stores online, you might be able to find it here.
The one thing I didn’t like about this place, though, is that, unlike other online meat stores, this one doesn’t really tell you where exactly it’s sourcing its meat from. If you’re someone who is careful about that sort of thing, there are a lot of other options that are much more transparent about their meat.
While it’s convenient to shop from a meat store that has a lot of options, a lot of people think that the best beef cuts can only come from places that specialize in it. Snake River Farms is just the place.
They have a lot of helpful resources on their website, and they also sell extras like spices to cure and dry age your meat with. Back when I was just starting out with my experimenting, I would have loved to have known about something like this where I could get all my supplies for my food experiments.
You will most probably be able to order meat from the virtual meat aisle on your local grocery store’s website, but you’ll need to be available at the time of delivery to receive the order and place it in the freezer as soon as possible.
Delivery from online meat shops though, is usually temperature controlled, and you can choose whether you want your meat vacuum sealed or frozen.
Frozen meat is better if you’re ordering in bulk (which earns you discounts and saves on delivery charges), but vacuum sealed meat is better if you’re cooking it on the same day – you don’t have to worry about whether everything will defrost in time for you to cook it or not.
How to Cook Palomilla Steak
Cooking Palomilla steak is easy and can take about one hour even when you’re marinating the beef. Though if you’re like me and want extra flavor in your dishes, marinate the meat overnight. Even then, the actual cooking time will be somewhere around twenty minutes.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
- ½ tablespoon of salt
- ½ tablespoon of pepper
- Dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- Juice from 1 squeezed lime
- 2 pound sirloin steak cut into 4 to 6 thin pieces
- One thinly sliced onion
The first step is to take the steak and tenderize it with the help of a meat mallet. Once this is done, you need to marinate it for at least half an hour and ideally one and a half hours. To do this, add olive oil, lime juice, garlic, and the spices to the meat.
After the steak is marinated, add butter to a skillet and sear the steak for 1-2 minutes on each side on medium flame. Make sure not to overcook the steak – since the cut is very thin, you will be able to get it to medium rare with just this.
Once the pan is empty, don’t clean it. You want to fry your thinly sliced onion in the same butter to make sure it’s full of flavor, and do it on a light flame for a few minutes so it’s soft and golden. Lay the onions on top of the steak on a plate and you’re done.
In the next section, we’re going to talk about preparing the side dishes that go with this steak.
Side Dishes to Serve with Palomilla Steak
The dishes I’m listing below are what’s traditionally eaten with Bistec de Palomilla, but you can always pair the steak with your own personal favorites.
I find that mashed potatoes and the right kind of bread can really make the steak pop. It might be an unconventional thing, but if you have the right sauce, the steak pairs really well with some roti bread or paratha – or maybe that’s just the roti-loving South Asian in me!
White rice or boiled rice is a very common side dish for Bistec de Palomilla. For two people, you will need to boil about one cup of rice with two cups of water inside. Make sure to put oil and salt in the water as well – without these two ingredients you run the risk of getting white rice that is too mushy or tasteless.
For the best experience, I like to use basmati rice. It’s long grain white rice that is very hard to mess up, and you end up with great tasting rice no matter how you cook it.
This is the second most common dish to serve with Palomilla steak. The combination of both these side dishes is so iconic that the white rice and black beans are often served together as a meal, minus the steak itself.
For this dish, you can either soak dry black beans overnight while the steak is marinating, or cook your beans from the can which will take less time. You’re supposed to soften the beans by soaking them with water and boiling them in a pot.
Once the beans are all soft, you add the rest of the ingredients and let the pot simmer until the beans are silky and the perfect black bean dish is ready.
The ingredients that go into the beans include various Cuban spices to taste, some red wine vinegar, and even some vegetables. Here’s a full list:
- Bell pepper
- Olive oil
- Red wine vinegar or white vinegar
- Bay leaf
A very common Cuban side dish for most meals is sweet plantains, and the Palomilla Steak is no exception. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, sweet plantains make the perfect accompanying dish for the savory and heavily spiced Palomilla steak.
Making them is simple, you peel and cut plantains into diagonal half-inch slices. The plantains need to be a little ripe for this recipe, so pick ones that are starting to turn brown if you want that sweetness kicking in.
Once you have your sliced plantains, simply fry them in a skillet or a pan, almost like you were making fries. Do this until the plantains are golden brown then take out of the pan and season with salt.
You can also make salty plantains in quite the same way, only in that case don’t wait for the plantains to ripen and cook them when they’re still green on the outside.
FAQs About Palomilla Steak
Answer: Palomilla steak is not the same as a Sirloin steak, even if that’s where the Palomilla steak comes from. One key difference is that while Sirloin steak is the name of a steak cut that can be cooked in various ways, Palomilla steak is the name of a steak recipe that you cook thinly sliced Sirloin steak with.
Answer: Palomilla is derived from the Spanish word Palomillo which means butterfly or moth – it stands for the shape the Sirloin steak makes when it is cut to make Palomilla steak.
Answer: The most common dishes to go with Palomilla steak are white rice, black beans, and sweet or salty fried plantains.
Answer: While the steak is actually made out of a cut with a bit of a rough texture, the meat gets really tenderized as you cook it. This happens because of the marination with the lime juice and the thin cut of the meat itself – all of this makes it very easy to tenderize the meat and end up with a very soft and juicy steak dish.
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