Let's say you wanted to land a luxurious rib-eye steak at the center of your Fourth of July picnic, but worried about being able to afford it. Here's a simple way to make it happen: Instead of serving every guest a huge slab of steak, slice up a smaller portion, fan it out on the plate to make it look more substantial, then pair the steak with a hearty dressing and some salad topping so that it is actually more substantial. It's all in the presentation. At the end of the day, nobody is going to notice a 12-ounce brick of meat.
In this case, we're teaming up the steak with all the elements of a Caesar salad. The creamy dressing boasts the usual all-star cast: lemon, garlic, oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano and anchovies. (Yes, anchovies. Please do not leave them out. Anchovies add powerfully to the savory flavor of this dish in a way that no one's going to identify as “fishy.” In fact, my fish-hating daughter scarfed down a whole plate of it without even suspecting there was an “enemy” lurking within.) I've used low-fat buttermilk to make it slightly less rich, but if you don't want to buy buttermilk for this recipe alone, you're welcome to swap in plain yogurt.
The recipe calls for grilling not just the steak, but also the romaine lettuce. Doing so gives the greens a tasty char around the edges, adding more depth of flavor. Afterward, the romaine is chopped and tossed with the dressing and topped with sliced cherry tomatoes. (By then, we've enhanced the sauce by whisking in the juices from the resting steaks, which marries the meat to the sauce.) Finally, we've replaced the crunchy croutons with grilled bread – the perfect tool with which to soak up all the yummy dressing on the plate.
Are you convinced this presentation is worth a whirl? Try it and see if your guests don't tell you that the fireworks on this great day weren't confined to what they saw in the sky.
Grilled Caesar Salad Steak
11/2 pounds 11/2-inch thick boneless rib-eye steak
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1/4 cup if grated on a microplane)
2 anchovy fillets, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
11/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Olive oil for oiling the steak and romaine
3 hearts of romaine, cut in half lengthwise, leaving the leaves attached to the stem
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
Grilled sliced rustic bread for garnish.
Sprinkle salt on all sides of the steak and set it aside for 1 hour at room temperature.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, cheese, anchovies, mustard and garlic. Add the buttermilk and lemon juice; whisk until combined well. Set aside.
Preheat the grill to medium. Pat the meat dry, brush it with oil on both sides and season it with pepper. Put the steak on the grate over direct heat. Cover and grill for 5 minutes. Turn the steak over and grill, covered, until the internal temperature registers 120 degrees on a meat thermometer (for medium rare), about 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer the steak to a platter and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. While the steak is resting, brush both sides of the romaine with the oil and grill the romaine on direct heat until it is lightly browned, about 1 minute a side. Transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop.
To serve: Pour all the juices that accumulate on the meat plate into the dressing and whisk well. Slice the steak about 1/4-inch thick and arrange on a platter. Top with the lettuce and tomatoes and drizzle with the dressing. Serve the rest of the dressing in a pitcher on the side. Serve with grilled bread. Makes 4 servings.