Simple Art Of Cooking: Tuscan Steak and Spinach Potato Gratin

Through the late 70s and 80s, I had the good fortune of escorting cooking groups to Giuliano Bugialli’s cooking school in Florence, Italy on multiple occasions. Although my taste for steak seems to fade somewhat these days, I will never forget my first taste of fresh rosemary garlic scented Tuscan steak a la Fiorentina, where, if I remember correctly, the steak was porterhouse. No doubt, the porterhouse is considered premier in the realm of steaks. For the recipe below however, I opted for the firm-textured, well-marbled boneless strip steak.

I grilled the steaks to springy perfection, as I tested with the poke of a finger for medium-rare doneness. They emerged crusty with a deliciously juicy pink center. The steak was left to rest for at least five minutes before serving. I remember staring at a partially filled bottle of wine in my fridge for a number of days and thought I’d prepare a quick shallot red wine butter sauce. While the sauce is an option, and can stand on its own, it is a delicious embellishment.

With spinach locally available and a husband who loves a good baked potato (as do I), I seasoned the spinach and baked potato slices with garlic and nutmeg and baked the gratin until the potatoes were crisp and the spinach sweetly tender. With Father’s Day close at hand this manly meal update may be just the celebratory ticket.



Boneless strip steaks are marinated in an olive oil based rosemary crust that may normally be reserved for porterhouse. This juicy, well-textured meat is a popular steakhouse cut that can successfully be prepared at home.


Serves 2 to 4

For the steak

2 to 4 boneless strip steaks, about 1-inch thick

2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


For the sauce, optional

4 tablespoons cold butter, divided

1 large shallot, finely chopped

1/2 cup dry red wine

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Trim steaks of excess fat and wipe clean with paper towel. In a small bowl combine garlic, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper and spread over both sides of the steaks. Let marinate for about one hour. Have steaks at room temperature before grilling.

2. Prepare coals for grilling or heat a gas grill to medium-high until you can hold your hand about 5-inches above the surface for 4 to 5 seconds before it becomes necessary to pull away. Allow at least 30 minutes for the grill to become properly hot. Brush grill grate with oil. Give the steaks another shot of coarse salt just before grilling. Using tongs, put the steaks on the grill and sear them about 4 to 5 minutes on one side and about 4 minutes on the other side for medium-rare. Allow steaks to rest for five or so minutes before serving.

3. To prepare the sauce (if using), melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan and put in the chopped shallots. Stir the shallots over medium heat about 3 to 4 minutes to caramelize. Add the wine, bring to a boil and reduce mixture until most of the liquid evaporates. Add the remaining cold butter, one-half tablespoon at a time, stirring to emulsify the mixture. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon desired amount alongside the steak and serve.


This is a winning vegetable dish, with or without the steak.

Serves 6 to 8

1 pound fresh spinach

3 russet baking potatoes.

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

4 to 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 to 4 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F

1. Cut heavy stems from the spinach and discard. Soak spinach leaves in several changes of lukewarm water until completely free of any sand and drain. Cook spinach in 2 to 3-inches salted boiling water for 3 minutes and drain. Peel potatoes and slice about 1/8-inch thick. Add to spinach with the seasonings and olive oil. With a large rubber spatula toss everything gently to mix and coat with the oil.

2. Layer the contents with the cheese in a lightly buttered shallow baking/serving dish. Bake gratin for one hour or until potatoes are tender and slightly crisp. Serve hot.

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