Italians enjoy going out for a good steak, but a steak in Italy isn’t necessarily an individual slab.
Yes, there is the famous Florentine bistecca, a large T-bone steak served blood rare. But just as often, restaurants offer a sliced steak, called tagliata, essentially a nice thick piece of beef that is grilled, then carved.
It’s simple and delicious but impressive nonetheless, and you really don’t have to go to a restaurant to enjoy it. In fact, it is quite easily prepared at home. Tagliata is what I make for dinner whenever a fuss-free meal is required.
As far as what cut of beef to use, there are several choices.
Flank steak is especially good and not prohibitively expensive. Other cuts, like hanger, or what butchers call London broil (usually sirloin), are good options, too.
If you’re feeling flamboyant, go with a thick-cut rib steak.
Purists season tagliata only with salt. I am inclined to make it highly seasoned, using lots of coarsely crushed black peppercorns, as well as garlic and rosemary.
Grilling over coals is always nice. Otherwise, a stovetop grill pan is fine. But it’s far easier (and less messy) to grill the steak in the oven. That way, there is no spattering and the stovetop is left free for other things. If you have a powerful broiler, you can use that. I prefer to do my oven-grilling on hot cast iron, which gives a better sear.
Put a large, wide iron skillet on the top shelf of the oven and let it heat for a half-hour.
Then put in the seasoned steak and let it cook with the door closed for about five minutes, until the bottom of the meat is browned.
For a rare steak, flip the meat and cook the other side just until juices appear on top (an instant-read thermometer will read 120 degrees); cook it longer for medium or well.
Then remove the meat and let it rest on a carving board for 10 minutes. Retained heat will cause the meat to cook a bit more, and the resting allows the interior juices to stabilize.
Slice the steak on the diagonal, against the grain, no thicker than half an inch, preferably a bit thinner.
Arrange the meat on a platter, surround it with arugula and lemon wedges, and anoint it with the best fruity olive oil you have. To garnish, use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to make shavings of cheese. Parmesan is traditional, but I like the sharper flavor of pecorino. Either will work.
Your guests may applaud when you bring the tagliata to the table, since it looks so appealing and attractive. Only you will know how effortless it really was.
For a printable copy of the recipe, click the link:
LAY flank steak on a baking sheet and season on both sides with salt. Put a handful of peppercorns on a cutting board and crush them by pressing firmly with the bottom of a saucepan (or use a spice mill or mortar and pestle to obtain a very coarse grind). Measure 1 tablespoon of crushed pepper and sprinkle on both sides of steak. Strip leaves from rosemary. Sprinkle meat evenly on both sides with rosemary and garlic slices. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons olive oil, then massage with your hands to distribute, pressing pepper, rosemary and garlic into surface. Leave at room temperature for an hour (or refrigerate for several hours and bring to room temperature before proceeding).
MEANWHILE, heat oven to 450 degrees. Place a cast iron skillet large enough to hold the steak (or a heavy roasting pan) on the upper rack. Let skillet heat for at least 30 minutes.
CAREFULLY put flank steak in pan and close oven door. After 5 minutes, flip the steak (it should be well browned on the bottom) and cook just until juices appear on surface of steak, 3 to 4 minutes more for medium-rare meat. (Alternatively, cook steak under broiler about 2 inches from heat.) Remove steak and let rest on a carving board for 10 minutes.
CUT meat on a diagonal, against grain, into thin slices. Arrange slices on a large platter and surround with arugula. With a vegetable peeler, shave about 2 ounces of cheese over arugula. Drizzle with a little olive oil; garnish with lemon wedges.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings