Balsamic, sage and brandy beef “straccetti di manzo”, a delicious Italian stir fry

Should someone ask you what is a famous Italian meat dish that is not a sauce, you would probably mention Florentine steak, ossobuco or Pollo alla cacciatora (hunter style / chicken cacciatore).

Please don’t be surprised, but I have never eaten ossobuco, which is a dish from Lombardy. Also, I have never eaten a Florentine steak, as we have our version of as delicious steak (tagliata) in Umbria. Italy is so rich in regional dishes that a lifetime is not enough to taste everything, I taste a lot, but I’m not even halfway!

There is however a category of meat that is quite ubiquitous across the country because it makes a quick, easy and flavorful weekday dinner. We call it fettine, “the thin slices”.

Scaloppine, straccetti, piccata, saltimbocca are all made with thinly cut slices of meat and poultry which are quickly pan fried and enriched with a light coating of sauce. The sauce is generally obtained by deglazing the cooking juices with an acidic liquid such as wine, balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.

how to make Italian saltimbocca
Umbrian style saltimbocca: another favorite recipe made with thin slices of pork, guanciale and sage

The term straccetti, meaning “rags”, refers to paper thin slices of meat cut into small irregular squares. Straccetti di manzo, topped with arugula, cherry tomatoes and shaved Parmigiano is a popular trattoria dish, served all over central Italy.

Beef straccetti is made with paper thin slices of beef, typically silverside (sottofesa), sirloin or other slightly marbled cuts which are suitable for rapid cooking.

It is essential to cook the straccetti over high heat and to serve them immediately and very hot, like an Asian stir-fry.

NB: You might want to test the cooking time which will vary depending on the cut and thickness of the meat.  Heat 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil, add 1-2 “rags” of meat and count the seconds needed for them to just change color to light brown.

Recipe

Ingredients:

    • 300 g (10 oz) beef sirloin sliced as thin as carpaccio
    • 1 teaspoon corn starch
    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1 clove of garlic
    • 2-3 tablespoons brandy or white wine
    • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    • 3 sage leaves (as an alternative use a sprig of rosemary cut into 4-5 pieces)
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • approx. 100 g (3 oz) fresh arugula or other salad with small leaves

Directions

Toss the salad with your best extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange on your serving plates.

Bring the meat to room temperature, mix thoroughly with 1 teaspoon corn starch, then with one tablespoon of olive oil. Should you have time to do this in advance, add one crushed clove of garlic and refrigerate overnight.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the olive oil, butter, and sage and sauté until fragrant, no more than  1/2 minute.

Add the thinly sliced beef to the skillet, spreading it out in a single layer. Cook on maximum heat for 15–20 seconds, stirring occasionally, until the beef is just starting to brown.

Deglaze with the brandy or white wine while scraping the caramelized bits, allowing the alcohol to evaporate, this should take just a few seconds as the meat will otherwise overcook.

Deglaze when 25% of the meat straccetti are still pink

Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Serve the beef straccetti on the bed of arugula, accompanied by crusty bread, roast potatoes or potato purée. In Italy, this dish would never be served on pasta or rice.

Serves 2

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