Surf n’ turf makes me think of Outback Steakhouse or Olive Garden – not that I’ve ever been to either place; I can only surmise. As much as I like steak and shrimp, I have to ask: isn’t it kind of over the top having them both at once? And yet, it was Sunday and we had a too small steak in the freezer and coming back from a soccer game, we just happened to pass Mutual Fish where they always have something I want. Right in front in a big plastic tub of ice chips were a heap of rosy pink shrimp. Surf and Turf? I guess so.
Sometimes Sunday is a good day to make a huge elaborate meal like spaghetti bolognese – the 4 hour long Marcella Hazan version – or a Roast Chicken with Bread Salad, like the one Judy Rogers makes at Zuni Cafe. Today was a napping Sunday – a day where the weather threatens to rain but it never quite does and it’s too warmly muggy outside. I fought it all afternoon and then at about 4:30 I just wanted to go to sleep and I did. Waking up on the couch bleary eyed and sleepy at 5:15, I dreaded pulling dinner together.
I was fortunate though in two ways: 1. I had that small thick steak and a pound of large shrimp waiting in the refrigerator. Also a bag of arugula – that was key. 2. I fell asleep perusing Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. When I woke up at 5:15 I began flipping through hoping for easy and wonderful and I found something right away – lucky me. Although it’s hardly surprising. Somehow Ms. Hazan always perks me up. I get curious. I want to do the right thing. I hope she would approve. I want to get to work. Not too much work in this case. We were eating by 6:15.
Here is what I found:
Grilled Shrimp Skewers & La Fiorentina.
Shrimp and steak? It could be predictable and pedestrian. Here – I don’t think so. I haven’t ever seen shrimp prepared with breadcrumbs on the grill. The breadcrumbs became wonderfully crisp and the large shrimp were moist, flavorful and tender. The recipe is so straightforward, and because the shrimp were large they took no time to clean. I do have to admit the Fiorentina was just for inspiration. My humble steak was no Chianina T-bone. The truth is, salt, pepper and olive oil are all a good piece of beef really needs. For this menu, aside from the shrimp and the steak, all of the other ingredients you might reasonably have on hand. It’s the method that kicks it. That is what I love about Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. There aren’t any culinary acrobatics. Although the meal was composed of simple ingredients using simple techniques – I made something we all loved - there wasn’t a scrap left!
- Grilled Shrimp Skewers
- Grilled Beef
- Arugula with olive oil and lemon – as a bed for the beef and shrimp
- Grilled Asparagus
- Red Quinoa with Sea Salt, olive oil and garlic (If you didn’t have quinoa, a rustic loaf of bread would be perfect. If I had had one in the house – that would have been my first choice. Less messy too.)
Grilled Shrimp Skewers
- 1 lb large shrimp – about 15-18
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/3 cup dried bread crumbs (I make these when I have a few heels of soft sandwich bread and dry them out on a sheet pan in a 200 F oven for about 1/2 an hour)
- 1 small clove of garlic chopped very fine
- 1 heaping tsp parsley, chopped fine
- Salt and pepper – freshly ground
- A lemon sliced in eighths for squeezing
- 5-6 short skewers – soaked in water
- Remove the shells from the shrimp and slice down their backs to remove the dark line. Leave their tails on – they look pretty.
- Rinse the shrimp in cold water in a colander and dry thoroughly with a towel.
- Place shrimp in a medium sized bowl. Pour the olive oil over the shrimp – just to coat. Don’t go overboard. You don’t have to use all of it.
- Sprinkle on the bread crumbs, evenly but lightly all over. Toss with a spoon. You may not need all of the bread crumbs depending on the size of your shrimp. Don’t make them look breaded with a gloppy coating. Sprinkle with a light hand.
- Add the garlic, parsley, salt and pepper and toss until evenly distributed. Let them sit on the counter now for at least 20 minutes – you could leave them there for up to two hours.
- Set the grill to direct medium (or heat the broiler in your oven) 15 minutes before you want to cook the shrimp.
- Thread the shrimp on the skewers in even curls, piercing each shrimp twice, as seen in the photo below:
- Cook the shrimp on the grill for a few minutes per side – until they feel firm. In the oven set them close to the heat. 1 1/2 or 2 minutes per side.
- Serve hot. The small squirt of lemon made this dish just right.
Steak in the Style of La Fiorentina
Somebody somewhere in Tuscany would certainly want to have words with me after this Fiorentina travesty. I know Tuscans take this steak preparation very seriously and would hate me throwing around “La Fiorentina” on some random cut of meat. Also the idea that I would serve something so rare, luxurious, and symbolic of Tuscan cooking with…shrimp!?!?! You’ll just have to bear with me. Anyway, even if I wanted a Chianina T-bone, they’re few and far between even in Tuscany. Today I went with a steak that Martin picked up, which the butcher at Whole Foods called “chateaubriand”.
I am not nearly as knowledgeable as I would like to be about these matters, but even I know that Chateaubriand refers to a preparation of beef, not a cut. Whatever it was, it was not a T-bone – maybe it was a sirloin. It was fine. Since I can’t tell you what exactly the cut was that I grilled tonight, I will tell you how to make a flank steak in the Fiorentina style. (I have done this before and I know that it tastes wonderful.) To prepare a flank steak Fiorentina-style, grill the meat over very hot coals to get a deeply caramelized exterior and keep it rather bloody inside. Salt and pepper are the only flavoring before grilling and olive oil dresses the meat afterwards. I suppose I am committing further heresy as I serve mine on a bed of lightly dressed arugula with olive oil and lemon. The arugula wilts just enough under the hot grilled beef and is completely delicious – bitter, salty and lemony with the mineraly meat juices further dressing it. The flavors remind me of the first time I had carpaccio.
Grilled Flank Steak in the Fiorentina Style
(with a nod to my good friend Lee, who introduced me to the arugula salad underneath!)
- 1 – 1 1/4 lbs flank steak, about 1″ thick
- kosher salt or coarsely ground sea salt
- coarsely ground black pepper
- fruity-sharp green olive oil – for dressing afterwards not before
- 3-4 big handfuls of washed and dried arugula – I get the bag of wild arugula from Trader Joe’s when I am too tired to wash a real bunch.
- 1 lemon cut in half
- a very hot grill
- Bring the beef to room temperature by unwrapping it and letting it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
- Heat the grill on high.
- Generously salt and pepper the steak.
- Grill for 8-10 minutes flipping once half way through the cooking time.
- While the meat is grilling, toss the arugula with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a large serving platter.
- The meat is done when it reaches 145 F on a meat thermometer. Allow the beef to rest uncovered for 5 or 10 minutes on a cutting board. Slice thinly and lay over dressed arugula. Squeeze the lemon half over the top.
- While the meat is resting grill the shrimp and the asparagus – the asparagus takes 6-8 minutes unless you have pencil-slim ones – which you should start checking after 4 minutes.
If Ms. Hazan were here she would certainly give me a talking to. Oh well.