One of my favorite things about food and cooking is the way it forms a connection with all of us. The communal enjoyment of tastes and flavors while sharing it with friends can be a lasting memory.
Case in point, a few years ago while participating in a cooking demo and chef discussion at Epcot Center in Orlando, I met Bill Orben, who was a writer for the Orlando Business Journal at the time. The recipe I made that day was a Grilled Beef Tagliata, and Bill says it has become a family favorite in his house.
“With some tweaks of my own, (I left out the capers because my family is not a really big fan), it is one of those dishes we likely will fix at least once a month.
My son, who was 22 at the time, attended the event at Epcot with me, and it has become a favorite in his household as well. Although he calls me each time he prepares it, asking me how long he should leave the balsamic vinegar on the stove to reduce.
The dish, served with a simple side of roasted new potatoes, is enjoyed by anyone I serve it to. I’ve cooked it at my home in Kissimmee, Fla., at my sister-in-law’s in Chattanooga, Tenn., with friends in Austin, Texas, and at a beach condo in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
I have thought about the experience of cooking with you and recently came across your card and the original recipe and thought I would send you a note to let you know how much your dish is appreciated. When me and my son get together and jointly prepare the dish, we both think back to those memories of cooking with you.”
I was really touched by this thoughtful letter, and really happy to know that recipe has become a staple for Bill Orben and his family. It is one I love too. Here is a copy of the recipe, in case you’d like to try it for your family.
GRILLED BEEF TAGLIATA WITH ROSEMARY, CAPERS AND LEMONS
This is one of those very simple dishes that epitomizes the best of Italian cooking to my mind – - perfectly grilled meat, spicy greens all bathed in a fragrant flavorful oil. Like all Italian recipes there are infinite variations. Tagliata comes from the Italian tagliare, which means “carved” or “cut”. It’s a technique in which the meat is cut into thin slices which produces a lot more surface area to drizzle on seasoned oils or condiments. The cheese is an important component in the overall flavor and texture of the dish.
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons fragrant extra virgin olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
1 ½ pounds New York strip steak or sirloin, about 2 inches thick, excess fat removed
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
6 cups lightly packed tender young arugula
Reduced Balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons Fried capers
Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a gas or stovetop grill. In a small saucepan over low heat, cook 2/3 cup of the olive oil and the garlic until the garlic is lightly browned and beginning to crisp. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the rosemary and cracked pepper. Set aside and keep warm.
Rub the steak liberally with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season liberally with the salt and pepper. Grill the steak over high heat until rare to medium rare. (If you do this on a stovetop with a ridged grill pan, you’ll need plenty of ventilation!). Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes or so. This allows the juices to “retreat” back into the meat and redistribute themselves.
Spread the arugula on a serving platter. Slice the steak thinly across the grain. Arrange the meat on top of the arugula and pour the warm seasoned oil over the meat. Drizzle with Reduced Balsamic Vinegar and scatter Fried Capers over all. Serve with lemon wedges.
Reduced Balsamic Vinegar
Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for and a useful restaurant trick well worth knowing. Boil some balsamic vinegar, uncovered, over high heat, until it is reduced by a little more than half—say 60 percent. As it cools, it will thicken into a syrup that can be drizzled over all manner of things. Its advantage over straight-out-of-the-bottle balsamic is that in this state, it “stays put.” It can be stored at room temperature almost indefinitely.
When capers are fried, they take on a different flavor and texture that I really like. Drain the capers well, pat dry with paper towels, and then fry them in small batches in about ¼ inch of hot olive oil until the buds begin to open and are lightly browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Can be done a few hours in advance.