Experiment: Steak Sandwich with Arugula

finished sandwich

Tuesday nights are pretty standard at the Linn Household. Most weeks, I’m off playing Magic cards and Danielle is at a trivia night. This time, we were both going to be home and I wanted to make a fun meal. Danielle usually gets a Penn Station cheesesteak sandwich because I don’t really care for them (so oily) so I made a riff on a steak sandwich for her.

I also happened to have a bumper crop of arugula in the cold frame. I’m going to have to tear out most of the overwintered veggies in it soon so I can use it to start seeds – now was the time to seriously thin it down. I’d imagined a steak salad with arugula, but captured in a sandwich. It would have that all-important melted cheese in it, plus enough green things to make sure we felt healthy. The peppery rocket flavor of the greens would offset the richness of the sandwich.

It started with slicing an onion along its latitude (follow the equator, not pole-to-pole) and cooking it on low heat to caramelize it. Then I picked a big bowl of arugula.

arugula bowl

Back inside, I sliced up the beef. I’d picked up two small sirloin tip steaks for about $5.50 total from the store. I cut them against the grain so they would not have long muscle fibers – this is the key to a tender thin steak. I also mixed up a small amount of beef stock, salt and Maggi seasoning. Let’s unpack that. I made it in the first place because you add it in after the beef is done cooking to add a little more flavor and crucially, coat the pieces evenly with salt. This means you use less salt since you aren’t sprinkling it on top after it’s cooked. Think of how much less salad dressing you use when you toss the leaves instead of pour it on top.

Next, I used Maggi seasoning. It’s a flavoring sauce kind of like soy sauce, but you don’t want to use anywhere near as much. Maggi has a distinctly celery flavor, deep and rich. Several Germanic European languages call lovage the “Maggi herb” because the sauce and the herb share such a similar flavor. It’s the key to a good banh mi and I put a few drops into salad dressings for that can’t-place-it flavor. It’s a vegetable alternative to anchovy-containing Worcestershire sauce, too. My one caveat is this: when you first get a bottle, you’ll put it on everything and you’ll get burnt out from it. This is natural, this will happen. Let it happen. Come back to it in a few months and you’ll be glad you saved the bottle.

sliced beef

I removed the onions from the pan and heated up the cast-iron skillet until screaming hot. I put in some more oil and tossed all the beef in. Kind of bad move. I should have done it in two batches to get a good brown sear on it. It didn’t harm the beef, but I know I’ll do it in batches next time. I added in my stock at the end of a few minutes’ cooking and let it evaporate off. Then, it was off to plating.

sandwich assembly

I wanted the full arugula salad effect, especially since the steak would wilt down the leaves a bit with residual heat. This is no mere garnish! With the arugula and provelone in place, I topped with steak and made the sandwich you see in the header.

What worked: The arugula-steak combo really was great. It was fun to eat and felt filling but not decadently rich. Further, this was a cheap dinner – under $10 for the two of us because I had the greens already growing. It took less than half an hour from packing away groceries to eating, so this definitely earned its “fast food” tag.

What could be improved: I used a French baguette (ok, bâtard). It was CRUSTY. It was chewy. It was the wrong loaf to buy. I should have gotten an Italian loaf with a softer crust and crumb. That would have made it a little more easily manipulated and much easier to chow down on. Next time, I’ll make the swap.