This dish epitomizes the best of Italian cooking — just a few great ingredients treated simply, but the result is unforgettable. I still remember the first time I had this at a roadside trattoria. Like all Italian recipes, this has infinite variations, so here’s my version. Tagliata, from the Italian tagliare, means “carved” or “cut.” The meat is cut into thin slices, which produces a lot more surface area on which to drizzle seasoned oil or condiments.—John Ash
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 (see Notes)
1 1/2 pounds New York strip steak or sirloin, about 2 inches thick, excess fat removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups lightly packed tender young arugula
Reduced balsamic vinegar (see Notes)
3 tablespoons fried capers (see Notes)
1. 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.
2. Rub the steak liberally with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and generously with salt and pepper. Grill the steak over high heat until rare to medium rare. (If you do this on the 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.
3. 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.
Cracked peppercorn: To get the right consistency, put the peppercorns in a clean envelope or fold of waxed paper and smack it with something heavy.
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.
Fried capers: 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 1/4 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.
Recipe © 2004 John T. Ash and Amy Mintzer. All rights reserved.