Italian Steak Sandwiches

No utensils to get in the way of enjoying a juicy steak, creamy cheese and peppery greens. No one will look askance at you for using your fingers with this hearty meal on a roll. Our roll of choice is ciabatta. This chewy Italian bread will be able to stand up to both the steak and the cheese dressing that tops this grinder.

Not only will we season the steak perfectly, but after it’s cooked, it gets sliced and tossed again in olive oil and fresh chopped herbs. The heat from the meat slightly wilts the herbs to release their volatile and fragrant compounds without the risk of burning their delicate surfaces. Burned herbs are second in their repugnance only to burned garlic.

We’ll be using sirloin for this steak, and it needs to be completely free of connective tissue and fat. Since it only gets a short heat treatment on the grill, there won’t be time to melt the fat surrounding the meat. And as a sandwich, you won’t be able to cut around or cut out the rubbery tendons as you eat. No one wants inedible bits in a sandwich much less a whole piece of steak that refuses to surrender under normal mandibular force. This is a sandwich, so odd looking or odd shaped pieces of meat won’t matter much once it’s all put together.

We’ll need to properly balance this sandwich with some greens that can compete both in flavor and in texture. Lettuce, in all its sundry forms just doesn’t have the flavor we need. Aside from some initial crunchiness, its contribution would be lost almost immediately. Likewise with baby spinach, escarole and other greens. We need something with some flavor as well. Watercress, which is part of the mustard family, will work just fine. It’s sharp, peppery flavor easily goes toe to toe with both the beef and the creamy Gorgonzola sauce that tops it all.

With that being said, we have one other alternative, possibly hanging out in your flower garden. Nasturtium leaves (and their blossoms) also have a distinctive peppery flavor that can serve as your greens. Their lily pad shaped leaves will rest perfectly atop the split ciabatta roll. A nasturtium blossom or two can adorn the top of this sandwich if left open-faced for serving. Let those you are serving know that the blossoms are edible and don’t need to be removed. If asked, they taste distinctly like radishes as do their leaves.

If steak is in the cards for dinner, try serving it up as its alter ego in a sandwich.

Italian Steak Sandwiches with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce

 For the sauce

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ¾ cup roasted bell peppers, peeled and seeded, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup creamy Gorgonzola
  • ¼ shallots, rough chopped
  • ½ cup fresh parsley leaves
  • salt and fresh ground pepper to taste 

In a food processor fitted with the knife blade, combine all the ingredients and pulse until the sauce very slightly chunky. Do not process until it’s smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Transfer the sauce to a bowl, cover and refrigerate up to a week.

In a large bowl, combine:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • ¼ – ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 

Grill trimmed and cleaned sirloin (1-1½ pounds) that has been well seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper on a very hot grill 2-3 minutes a side for medium rare. Remove the meat from the grill and slice the meat into thin strips. Transfer the slices and any juice to the bowl with the oil and spices and toss to coat. Set aside.

Split each ciabatta roll and brush the inside with olive oil. Grill the ciabatta rolls, split side down, for a minute or two to brown and toast them, if desired. Assemble the sandwiches with the greens on the bottom, the steak next and a generous helping of the creamy gorg sauce. Garnish with nasturtium blossom if desired.