So…our oven is broken. (In case you were scratching your head at the sporadic nature of recent posts, now you know.)
Today I called Hubby from work and asked him to defrost some meat and light the grill before I got home with the kids for the evening. As I spent my day thinking about the barbecue, however, I just couldn’t seem to get myself in the mood for a big old charcoal-grilled steak.
One reason was that steaks always make me crave coffee with dinner, and let’s face it — the weather’s not that cool yet.
The other reason was that I’ve really been on a fresh Caprese salad kick lately. I’ve been craving them daily.
So as I sat there weighing the options in my mind as the day dragged on, I began to formulate a beautiful marriage in my mind — what about a grilled steak topped with Caprese salad?I knew it would be good before I even pulled into the driveway. A little while later, my confidence and daring were rewarded with a big, juicy hunk of dead cow perfectly seasoned and smothered in authentic Italian flavor. Mmm, mmm, mmm!
And here we go:
Light the grill and let it burn down for a bit while you go inside and do some prep work.
First, stab two thick, raw steaks (I used top sirloin) with a serrated knife, making several 1/4″ score marks along the surface.
In a bowl, cover the raw meat with about 2/3 cup Italian dressing OR a heavy coating of olive oil and vinegar. (Did someone say Misto?)
If you’re low-carbing it, you’ll obviously want to go the oil/vinegar route. I was out of vinegar because the kids both wet the beds over the weekend and all the vinegar in the cupboard wound up in the washing machine with a heavy sprinkling of Borax, so…I used a bottle of Italian dressing I scored at Save-a-Lot for less than a buck. No harm, no foul.
Sprinkle the steaks with about half a tablespoon of basil or oregano (or a mixture of the two). Allow the steaks to rest in the marinade while you prepare the topping.
If you have a mandoline slicer, now is a great time to whip it out. Kitchen Aid recently sent me this über-snazzy freestanding box grater with a mandoline blade on one side. (It also RULES because the bottom of it is a removable plastic storage container, so you can store leftovers in the fridge right away and also have a clean countertop when you’re finished grating and slicing. Awesome.) If you do not have a mandoline slicer, you can just use a sharp knife and make a mental note to start dropping some Christmas present hints for one of these.
Thinly slice two Roma tomatoes (they’re great because the slices won’t come out wider than your cooked steak) and about five or six ounces of fresh mozzarella (which ALDI frequently has on cheap sale).
When the grill is nice and smoky, put the steaks on. You can cook them to whatever temp you prefer. I prefer mine rare. Really rare. To quote Sheriff Pappy (William H. Macy) from the movie “Happy, Texas”:
“Give me the meanest steak you got! Rare, and I mean rare! Just de-horn it, wipe its butt and send it in!”)
Soon after turning them on the grill, start layering your toppings. Because you’re using wet tomatoes and fresh cheese, you don’t want to wait until the last minute to pile them on, or you’re liable to get a sloppy steak with the topping sliding off into your charcoals. And that would make me cry just thinking about it. (Sniff!)
Give the toppings at least ten minutes to get cozy on there. If you’re worried about the steaks overcooking in that time and you’re using a charcoal grill, make sure the steaks are not directly over the warmest part of the grill. This will buy you some extra time.
(It’s probably also a good idea to orient the steaks this way, anyway, if you marinated with Italian dressing instead of the oil/vinegar option because the sugar in the dressing can scorch if you give it too much direct heat, causing your steaks to get stuck to the grill and make a mess when you try to lift them off later with toppings piled on them.)
Add the tomato slices first (as many as will fit overlapping each other). Follow with a generous amount of the sliced cheese, adding on the little pieces on wherever they’ll fit. Sliced cheeese always melts so much more prettily than shredded cheese, all firm and drapey. It makes me happy.)
Finally, give the topped steaks a good extra sprinkling of basil to lock that flavor in all the way up. (It also makes it look gorgeous later.)
Cover the grill back up and let the steaks finish cooking. Remove when cheese is uniformly softened all over the tops. Plate ’em up, serve ’em up, and gaze longingly at an old postcard from the Mediterranean while stuffing your mouth with your delicious, melty, extra-special bites of Italian steak.