Awaze. Pronounced Ah-wah-zay. Awaze is an Ethiopian chili paste, a staple in the cuisine, made with one of their more famous spice blends, berbere. It’s a sauce, it’s a condiment, it’s a marinade. And that last function is exactly how I used it here, to infuse flavor into some gorgeous, marbled skirt steaks in time for a bit of Sunday (almost) summer grilling.
And awaze IS full-flavored in all its multi-function glory. First, the base of it, the spice blend berbere, is made from aromatics like red onion, chilies and garlic, spices like fenugreek, cardamom and ajwain, and even an herb called sacred basil. For awaze, berbere is traditionally mixed with Ethiopian honey wine (called tej) to form a paste or diluted a bit for more of a sauce consistency.
I only have one bottle of tej left and am saving it for a rainy day, so I approximated with some red wine and honey for the marinade. I also threw in a bit of lime juice for acidity, fresh garlic for flavor, and a pinch of cayenne for heat. The steaks took on the flavors beautifully and grilled up to perfection. It doesn’t take long for the marinade to kick in, so even if you only have a few hours to marinate, it’s worth the trouble (trouble being mixing a few items together in a bowl and pouring it over the steaks!). Rich, an intoxicating mix of spices, a touch of heat and sweetness from the honey…Enjoy!
6 tbsps berbere
generous pinch of salt
pinch of cayenne
juice of 1 lime
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 ½ tsps honey
1 ½ to 2 cups dry red wine
2 lbs skirt steak, trimmed cut into 4 pieces
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the berbere, salt, cayenne, lime juice, garlic, honey and red wine. Place steaks in a ziploc bag and pour marinade over steaks. Remove as much air from the bag as possible before sealing. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours and up to 24.
Remove steaks from bag, pat dry with paper towels, and let them come up to room temperature. Season both sides of each steak generously with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill steaks 1 to 2 minutes per side for medium-rare and longer if you prefer them well done. Rest for about 7 to 10 minutes tented with foil before serving.
*To serve with the steak, I like to cook red onions down in olive oil and use some of the remaining awaze marinade to season them.