Bistecca alla Pizzaiola

bistecca-1

So, in a previous entry that I wrote, I said that I was disappointed in a steak that I had ordered at an Italian restaurant.  I also said that I would make it at home myself, the implication being that I knew I could make it better.  This is normal for me.  I often think this about ordinary dishes from run-of-the-mill restaurants, not just because I think of myself as a decent cook, but because I am an asshole.

So, because the steak I had at Andrea’s restaurant in Metairie, Louisiana was so disappointing, I made my own bistecca alla pizzaiola for revenge.  The results were much improved, if I do say so myself.

For the record, I hope I’m not angering anyone out there, especially any Italians.  I’m not trying to be an asshole about these restaurants.  I’m just trying to pursue good food.

Anyway, for those who are interested in making this classic, rustic Italian dish at home, you will need:

– A heavy gauged pan, preferably a clad, stainless steel pan, although a well seasoned cast iron pan will do (A lot of people are afraid of cooking acidic foods in a cast iron pan.  As long as the cast iron is well seasoned, I don’t see any problem with occassionally cooking mildly acidic foods in it.  The flavor might be altered, but for this dish, it won’t be a very big deal)

– oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper

– a steak (Andrea’s used rib-eyes)

– tomatoes (fresh plum tomatoes are great when they are in season — summer to early autumn.  If they are out of season, it is best to use canned plum tomatoes rather than using the pale red, fresh, bland, flavorless, hydroponically grown tomatoes from Mexico or Canada.  Since it is November, I used the canned variety.)

– red chili flakes, 1 tbsp finely chopped onion or shallot, 1 tsp minced garlic, and some [preferably] fresh oregano, basil, and thyme.

– (optional) a shot of chicken stock and a shot of wine (red or white.  Doesn’t really matter.  Depends on your taste, and/or what you have on hand.)

You will also need to know how to properly sear a steak, and it wouldn’t hurt to understand why searing is important for your food.

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Begin by salting and properly searing the steak over medium-high heat.  Again, instructions for how to sear a steak can be found here.  Remove the steak to a plate, grind some black pepper onto it, and cover it with foil to keep the steak hot while you prepare the tomato sauce.

What a properly seared steak looks like

What a properly seared steak looks like

Turn the heat down to about medium-low to low.  Pour off any excess fat in the pan, add the onion or shallots first, followed by the garlic and red chili flakes (to taste.  Use your best judgment when dealing with spice).   Adding garlic after the onions can help prevent the garlic from burning and tinging the dish with the bitter disgustingness that is burnt garlic.

Sweat these aromatics for a couple of minutes until they turn translucent or until the pan is dry.  At this point, water, wine, or chicken stock may be added as needed if the pan gets too dry.  Otherwise, use the tomato.

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Add anywhere from 2 – 4 plum tomatoes, depending on how much you like tomato (dice them if they’re fresh.  Otherwise, canned tomatoes can be mashed with a wooden spoon or a spatula).  Turn the heat back up to medium, medium-high, and cook until the tomato mix has been reduced to a cohesive sauce-like consistency.  You don’t want your sauce to be runny and watery, since the flavors will be diluted.

Speaking of flavors, taste the tomato sauce and adjust for seasoning (you’ll probably need to add salt and some black pepper at this point).

Throw in the herbs shortly before you’re finished cooking the sauce.  You can chop, tear, or bruise the herbs — it doesn’t really matter.

Now, you can either return the steak to the pan to finish cooking (if you like your steak a little more done), or you can simply top the steak with the sauce if you like your steak on the rare side.

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That’s it.  Bistecca alla pizzaiola.  Simple, rustic, and you only need one pan.  I served mine with steamed broccoli and carrots, simply because I have too much of those two vegetables laying around.  At Andrea’s, I had a watery mound of spaghetti squash and I think some mashed potatoes.  John Mariani had his with a side of angel hair pasta with garlic and olive oil.  Whatever side you choose, this steak is a winner.

Cooking at home is great.  You save both time and money in this case, since this dish is so easy to make.  What more could you ask for?

A steak knife, perhaps.

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3 Responses to “Bistecca alla Pizzaiola”

  1. all links work, maybe add a link in the part about sweating the aromatics to that other blog about sweating. thats all i can think of for tags/crosslink stuff

  2. This is a great-looking dish.

    A note though, as an editor. You’ve grown fond of these footnotes, which break up the flow of reading quite badly. In most cases the footnote is an integral part of the article, and you could probably put them in right after the sentence you footnoted without much trouble or rewording.

  3. restaurantouring Says:

    noted. editted. thanks! 🙂

    still waiting on that rickroll. . . .

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