2009 October: Udderly Delicious

steak pizza sliceIn a race to outdo the competition, there aren’t a whole lot of ingredients left that have not turned up on a pizza. The fact is there’s nothing new about all of this; it now simply becomes a matter of marketing and advertising to get the customers’ attention. In my book, The Ultimate Pizza Cookbook, published some 15 years ago, I was throwing all kinds of toppings –– pesto, potatoes, pancetta, chicken, shrimp, black beans, eggplant, eggs, apples and, yes, steak –– on top of a pizza crust.

The idea, however, is not so much what you do with a topping but how you make it work in relation to, say, the cheese, tomatoes, other toppings and the crust. For example, it wouldn’t be wise to load down a cracker-thin crust with a ton of toppings. All you end up with is a fl oppy, soggy mess that bears no resemblance to pizza as we know it. I have said this many times before: it’s all about balance and understanding how the style of a particular crust works with the toppings being used.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me get to the business at hand: steak on pizza. In theory you could use just about any cut of beef for a steak pizza; however, keeping food costs in mind, using, say, ribeye, New York strip or filet mignon for your steak pizza doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, nor would your customers expect such a luxury. Cuts of beef that I use for a steak pizza include boneless sirloin, flank steak and skirt steak. Now, I must qualify those cuts, because skirt steak and flank steak can be pricey at times; however, there is nothing more flavorful that skirt steak cooked on a grill, so having that for a steak pizza really rocks my world. Other inexpensive cuts of beef to consider are top sirloin and sirloin tip.

To grill or not to grill, that is the question. By all means — if you have a grill, use it to cook the steaks for your steak pizza. But, please, grill those steaks almost rare (or at the most, medium rare).

What about a roast? Sure. An inexpensive roast like chuck roast could be braised (with onions and carrots) as your prep. Cool, slice it thin and use as a steak topping. Roasting a top butt will work nicely too. What about marinating an inexpensive cut of beef to tenderize it and add fl avor? Yes, of course. Marinating beef is an ideal way to add fl avor and to loosen up the stringy fi bers found in inexpensive cuts of meat (remember a good bit of marbling in a cut of beef results in a more tender and fl avorful cut). Some marinades include MSG, but I prefer not to use it.

What other toppings should you consider with a steak pizza? Yep, steak and mushrooms is the simple answer. Throw in some sautéed onions, too, if you wish — or even an onion marmalade (chopped onions combined with sugar, olive oil and apple cider vinegar are cooked slowly in a large pot, covered, until it becomes a thick mixture) can be brushed across the pizza crust (instead of tomatoes).

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Cheeses that work nicely with a steak pizza include smoked mozzarella, mozzarella, feta, bleu cheese (crumbles of bleu cheese and chunks of beef make for a fi ne-tasting steak pizza), cheddar, and provolone. My favorite combination of cheeses for a steak pizza would be mozzarella and provolone (50-50 blend). Try this recipe to get started. It is a bit more ambitious than, say, a straight up steak and mushroom pizza, but both are loaded with good flavor.

Steak Pizzaiola Pizza

This steak pizza is a no-brainer because it uses most of the ingredients –– tomatoes, herbs, garlic, olive oil –– that you already have in house.

1 14-inch pizza shell
½ pound boneless sirloin or top sirloin or flank steak
1 cup tomato puree or all-purpose ground tomatoes
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ tablespoon (or to taste) crushed red pepper flakes
8 ounces shredded mozzarella and provolone blend

Grill or pan-fry the steak until it is a bit less than medium-rare (if you can, save any juices that the steak throws off). Slice 1/8-inch thick, then cube each slice. Set aside.

Combine the tomatoes, garlic, oregano, basil, olive oil and red pepper fl akes. Add some of the juices from the cooking of the steak, if available. This is your sauce. Spread it on the pizza crust.

Lay the slices of steak on top of the sauce. Sprinkle on the cheese blend. The deal here is to allow chunks of the steak to show through the cheese after the bake.

A variation to the steak pizzaiola recipe goes like this: Same size pizza shell. Same pizza sauce. Additions include thin slivers of roasted yellow and green bell peppers.

Chef’s Notes: proper slicing of any steak is important to a tender end result. Look for the distinct lines in cuts like fl ank steak and skirt steak. Those lines are fi bers running through the meat, and they are diffi cult to chew through. In these cuts of meat, slice so that the fi bers are cut through. The important rule to remember is slice against the grain and slice thinly.

Basic Marinade For Beef

This is a basic marinade that works for all types of beef.

¾ cup red wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

Combine the ingredients in a glass or non-reactive pan (stainless steel, for example). Add meat and marinate for six hours in the cooler or overnight. Discard the marinade. Grill or pan-fry steak as needed. 

Pat Bruno is Pizza Today’s resident chef and a regular contributor. He is the former owner and operator of a prominent Italian cooking school in Chicago and is a food critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.