When it comes to steak, most people argue for simplicity. Buy the best beef you can afford—preferably prime, dry-aged, or grass-fed. Season it liberally with coarse salt and cracked black pepper, and grill over a hot fire (preferably wood) until the outside is just this side of charred and the inside is rare but warm. You’ll let it rest for a few minutes, of course, before digging in.
Other grilling cultures around the world see steak differently. They don’t hesitate to stuff it with bold compatible flavors. This works especially well with tough cheap cuts, like top round or flank steak.
Maybe I’m suffering from turkey fatigue in the wake of the Thanksgiving weekend. What I find myself craving most right now is steak. (How about you?) Which brings me to one of my most pleasurable discoveries in my travels across Planet Barbecue: stuffed steak. Any one of the following global variations—guess I’m tired of turkey, not stuffing!—will definitely satisfy your craving for beef.
All you need is a little imagination and some good steak knives.
Italian Braciole: When I was the restaurant critic for Boston magazine, a butcher in Little Italy on the North End introduced me to braciole (pronounced with a Boston accent as “brash-ohl”). Imagine a thin slice of top round or sirloin rolled around Italian cold cuts, such as prosciutto, salami, and mortadella, plus hot peppers and provolone cheese. Sort of like a hoagie, with steak standing in for the roll.
Croatian “Cheesesteak”: Most food lovers come to the seaside resort town of Split, Croatia, for the impeccably fresh Dalmatian coast shrimp, lobster, and finfish—all served hot off a charcoal-burning grill with little more than salt and lemon for seasoning. So why am I writing about steak? Because I discovered a sublime stuffed steak there—top round pounded and tenderized with a mallet, stuffed with smoky ham, Croatian cheese, and mushrooms, and seared on the grill. It takes just a few minutes to assemble, but the flavors will linger long in your mouth.
Brazilian Matambre (“Hunger Killer”): The name says it all: “hunger killer,” literally. You find this colorful mosaic of sausage, cheese, and vegetables wrapped and roasted in a butterflied flank steak throughout Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. It’s traditionally served as an appetizer and it will definitely lay your hunger to rest. The prep time is 30 minutes. The wow power is off the charts.
“Cheesesteak” Filet Mignons: Relax, Philly. There were always be people who think your grey griddled beef topped with orange Cheez Whiz on a roll from Amoroso’s is the sine qua non of cheesesteaks. I’m just not one of them. For years, I’ve been taking my cheesesteaks in a different direction. Upgrading the beef. (Filet mignon in this case.) Firing up the flavor with grilled poblano chiles and chipotle sauce. With garlic bread standing in for the roll. On second thought, Philadelphia, maybe you should be worried.
Strip Steaks Stuffed with Gorgonzola and Caramelized Onions: Everyone loves strip steak. This one comes dressed to impress. You give it the umami treatment by cutting a pocket in the side and stuffing it with caramelized onions and gorgonzola cheese. The perfect cocktail to launch your meal? Smoked Manhattan, of course.