When I was in college, my best friend had been an exchange student in Italy while in high school. She described a dinner she had with her host family that translated as Pizza Maker's Steak. It was right around the time that I was starting to experiment with my great love, food, in tandem with studying French literature. And the chance to set food on fire was just too much! Over time, we settled into this recipe as being as close as she could remember to her Italian favorite. And it's remained one my favorites ever since.
A note about the steak: we used flank steak because it was relatively inexpensive at the time. A flatiron works wonderfully also, as does bison because of its natural sweetness which pairs beautifully with the cream and contrasts with the tartness of the olives.
And a note about the olives: we used plain old green olives stuffed with pimentos probably in the smallest jar possible. Use whatever your favorite is. I love a blend of French olives from my local deli-wine store; it comes packed in a heady vinaigrette heavy on the olive oil and scented with thyme. Remember, this is likely what the pizza maker made for dinner at the end of the night with his favorite flavors, when he couldn't face the thought of another pizza, so don't be afraid to improvise.
Serve the steak slices over your favorite rice, or greens (chard is wonderful), even steamed fingerling potatoes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. But by far my most favorite way to serve it is over a generous slice of sourdough bread brushed with olive oil and oven-toasted. Drop the bread on a plate, sauce it generously, then fan the slices of steak over it and sauce it all again. Trust me, you'll love it! - boulangere —boulangere
Test Kitchen Notes
Wow! This is good and it was easy. The briny creamy sauce would taste good on shoe leather, but I put it over a toasted slice of sour dough and sliced flank steak like boulangere suggested. I think any cut of steak would work here. Make sure to let your meat rest before you slice it for about 10 minutes. This should be your go-to recipe when you have had a long day, like the pizza maker himself. The sauce was easy to put together and olives, vermouth, and cream make it seem like a well-deserved treat. Bravo! - MyCommunalTable —MyCommunalTable
flank or flatiron steak to serve 2 with leftovers
Olive oil to film the skillet
Kosher or sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
handful of your favorite green olives, rough chopped
cloves garlic, minced
red pepper flakes
basil leaves, chiffonade
In This Recipe
Remove steak from refrigerator an hour before you plan to cook it so that it can come closer to room temp. It will be less shocked when you toss it into a hot pan, and therefore more tender. Salt it generously. The salt will be absorbed by the water in the steak, and will result in the meat retaining moisture when cooked, and will be very tender for your efforts. It may sound counterintuitive, but come along with me.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough olive oil to film. When it shimmers, place steak in pan. Season with fresh ground pepper, but not salt. Sear to brown nicely on both sides, 4 minutes per side. Remove to an oven-proof plate and place in oven while you prepare the sauce.
Add a bit more olive oil to the skillet. When hot, add the olives and sauté until very fragrant. Add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes and again sauté until fragrant.
Raise heat to high. Add white vermouth, stand back, and flambé with a match or fire starter. When flames subside, reduce heat to medium low and add cream. Simmer until resulting sauce is slightly thickened and reduced by half.
Remove steak from oven. Slice across the grain in 1/2" thick slices. Fan them on plates and spoon sauce over. Garnish with chiffonade of basil.