By contributing writer Mary Cressler

The holidays are filled with parties and gatherings which can offer heavy (and often unhealthy) foods. There are lots of cheese platters, puffed pastry dishes, sweets, and bread galore. Not that there’s anything wrong with those delights in moderation, but it’s nice to offer an alternative. This marinated steak appetizer is filled with protein and flavor without being heavy on carbs, sugar, or fillings.

This marinated steak appetizer is filled with protein and flavor without being heavy on carbs, sugar, or fillings, making it perfect for a holiday party. At Wine4.Me/blog

These beef skewers are loaded with savory flavors, a touch of holiday sweetness, a small bit of spice, a good dose of protein, and they won’t weigh you down. The best part is that they’re super easy to make, and they’re a great appetizer for any party, year-round. They can be made on your outdoor grill, or if the weather is too uninviting, then they can easily be cooked on an indoor grill pan. The later will actually offer your guests some delightful aromas that fill the house as they arrive (Who can resist the smell of freshly seared steak? Okay, maybe a vegetarian!).

I like to use a flank steak for this recipe. It is a lean cut of meat that takes to marinades well. Plus, it cooks quickly so you can focus on entertaining your guests, not hiding in the kitchen. The marinade and the cranberry bourbon sauce can be prepared early in the day, and you can skewer your meat all in advance of your guests arriving so that all you need to do once the doorbell starts ringing is turn on your grill and cook the meat a few minutes on each side and top each piece with a dollop of the sauce. Then you have a hot and savory appetizer with holiday flavors to offer without any hassle or heaviness. All you need now is the wine.

Wine Marinated Steak Skewers with Cranberry Bourbon Sauce
For the Marinade and Steak:
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 ½ pounds flank steak
For the Cranberry Bourbon Sauce
  • 7½ ounces fresh cranberries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 ounce bourbon
  • 1 ounce water
  • ½ small orange, juiced
  • ½ teaspoon orange zest
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
For the Marinade:
  1. Place all ingredients (except the steak) in a bowl and mix together to combine.
  2. Lay the flank steak in a large dish (a large casserole dish works well) and pour the marinade over it. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes. Remove from the fridge, flip the steak over, and re-cover for another 45 minutes.
For the Cranberry Bourbon Sauce:
  1. Place the cranberries in a small saucepan on medium heat. Add additional ingredients to the saucepan and stir frequently. As the cranberries begin to simmer, you’ll see them liquefy.
  2. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes or until your desired consistency. You’re looking for a thick chutney-like consistency.
For the Skewers:
  1. Remove the steak from the marinade and discard the liquid. Pat dry the flank steak and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Cut the flank steak in half against the grain and then cut into approximately ½-inch thin slices along the grain in roughly 2-inch long strips.
  3. Insert a small bamboo skewer lengthwise into the thin slice of flank steak (so that there are two flat surfaces for the meat to cook once placed on the grill).
  4. Preheat your grill and set up in an indirect cooking layout. If using an indoor grill pan, set to medium heat and wait for it to be hot all around.
  5. Place the skewered meat on the grill for approximately three minutes per side, or until done to your likeness, with nice grill marks on both sides. Don’t walk away as you want to avoid burning. (If you’d like you can soak the skewers in water prior to skewering the meat.)
  6. After you remove each steak skewer from the grill, place it on a serving plate (with the bamboo skewer still attached) and top with a dollop of the sauce (about ¼-1/2 teaspoon, depending on how big your meat slices are).

This marinated steak appetizer is filled with protein and flavor without being heavy on carbs, sugar, or fillings, making it perfect for a holiday party. At Wine4.Me/blog

Wine Pairing

For a party, I look for something crowd-pleasing and affordable to buy in bulk. And with the mix of the seared savory steak and sweet cranberry topping, I can’t think of anything better than a Malbec from Argentina to fit the bill. Grilled steak and Malbec is a match made in heaven (or at least Argentina!).

The best examples can have rich red and black berry fruit, a bit of smoke and spice, and some leather – a great match for meat. They tend to have some power, but are not as heavy or tannic as say a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. And for a lean cut of meat like flank steak, you don’t need much in the way of a tannic wine. The following wines, which are found on the Wine4.Me app, would all be among my choices this holiday season for both value and flavor.

  • Kaiken Malbec Reserva (Argentina) ~ 11
  • Luca Malbec (Argentina) ~ $30
  • Dominio del Plata Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec (Argentina) ~ $14
  • Bodega Colomé Estate Malbec (Argentina) ~ $20
  • Trapiche Broquel Malbec (Argentina) ~ $15

What is your favorite easy appetizer for holiday parties? And more importantly, what’s your favorite party wine?

Mary Cressler | Wine4.Me/blog/Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier, a Wine Location Specialist, and the proprietor of Vindulge: Wine Education & Consulting. She conducts wine classes and events and offers consulting for individuals, restaurants, and event planners. She writes about wine, food, and travel on her blog Vindulge. Mary resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, twin boys, and two Chihuahuas.

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