See How a Chef Turns a Vintage Pizza Swiss Steak Into a Modern Dinner Entrée
When you think of food fusion, it's likely you imagine the blending of cuisines from different parts of the world—Korean tacos, a sushi burrito—your mind probably doesn't go to something like pizza and steak. In this episode of Then & Now, a video series celebrating Better Homes & Garden's 100th anniversary, chef Alexis deBoschnek whips up a Pizza Swiss Steak from our 1963 New Cookbook. (To clarify, it's a steak with pizza-like flavors.) She then recreates the recipe with her own modern interpretation. Watch to find out whether she goes the pizza or steak route, and see what she would serve again.
Then: Pizza Swiss Steak
"I'm pretty intrigued by this Pizza Swiss Steak," Alexis says before getting started. "I've never made anything like it, and the recipe is really simple." It calls for a 2-pound round steak, which is a large, affordable cut. "I think that's kind of the idea behind this: making a whole meal for your family with this pretty massive piece of meat," she ponders. You won't find this kind of steak mentioned in many recipes today; most use a roast or brisket instead.
First, Alexis mixes together flour, salt, and pepper. She dusts each side of the steak before pounding it out to ¼-inch thick (an estimate she makes because the recipe doesn't specify). This process of tenderizing the meat is referred to as swissing, which she guesses is where the "Swiss" part of the name comes from. After the steak is coated, Alexis browns it slowly on both sides in 3 tablespoons of fat. "If we were in the '50s, it would be fat that the cooks have saved," Alexis says. "Economical and creative, which is the name of the game of '50s cooking."
She chooses lard to cook it in and estimates that it should take about 10 minutes total. Next, the remaining ingredients (except the onion) for the sauce are combined: pizza sauce, tomato sauce, oregano, sugar, and water (to help thicken). If you're wondering why the recipe needs both tomato and pizza sauce, Alexis is right there with you.
Once one side of the steak is browned, its flips to get a crust on each side. After that, the tomato sauce mixture tops the meat along with onion slices. The steak finishes browning, and she pops it in the oven for an hour. "I don't think it's gonna [be braised], but with the sauce, the meat should become pretty tender," she says.
It finishes cooking, and Alexis feels optimistic when she takes it out. The meat shrunk to half its original size, and the onions look cooked. She transfers everything onto a plate and spoons on a healthy amount of extra sauce until it's "floating" in it.
Overall, she thinks the Pizza Swiss Steak looks festive, and she can imagine a 1950s family feeling "so excited to come home to this." However, it takes quite a bit of effort to cut into the meat—she has to move it over to a cutting board to do so. After finally getting a bite, she concludes the flavor of tomato sauce is delicious but she'd choose a different cut of steak; this one was a little tough and needed longer in the oven. "It does taste like pizza," she says.
Now: Steak with Charred Tomatoes
Not surprisingly, Alexis considers going the pizza or steak route for her "now" version. She decides that making a dough is too far off from the original recipe and comes up with a ribeye and tomato-based sauce. And most excitingly: She'll be flambéing it with cognac.
The steak is seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides and the cast-iron skillet is heated until very hot (almost smoking). The steak goes in the pan and it automatically sizzles—a good indicator it's ready. After a few minutes, Alexis flips the steak to make sure it's getting golden brown. Because the steaks have a big fat cap on its sides, searing helps to render it down. Just like the original recipe, she finishes the ribeye off in the oven—her favorite method of cooking it. "It's just really easy to get it right," she says. How long you cook it depends on how you prefer your steak (Alexis likes hers medium rare). When it comes out of the oven, she lets it rest on a cutting board to let the juices seep back in and capture more flavor.
As a nod to the Pizza Swiss Steak, Alexis makes a charred tomato pan sauce in the leftover steak fat using grape tomatoes, shallots, and capers. "The brininess should go well with the fat of the steak," she says. She cooks everything down in a skillet down until the tomatoes get saucy and then adds a little salt.
To flambé (aka to light on fire), Alexis adds cognac to the pan and uses a lighter. "It looks really exciting, which feels like something in the '50s they would do a lot," she says. "You know, a lot of show stopping moments." If you try this at home, be careful: The flames cook off themselves, so don't add water to them. Use a lid to extinguish. To make the sauce more "glossy," Alexis incorporates a few tablespoons of butter.
Once the sauce is done, the steak is ready to cut. It's still pink in the middle and has a nice crust. Alexis serves it on a big platter, worthy of a dinner party. She spoons the sauce on top, and it's time to taste. As she takes a bite, she does a little dance. "This recipe really exceeded my expectations, just because of the flavor, the texture, the contrast of it all," she says. The sautéed tomatoes go perfectly with the melt-in-your mouth steak, and you can taste the flavor of cognac. "It feels like there's a lot going on even though it's a simple recipe."
Even though she'd make some technical tweaks to the Pizza Swiss Steak, Alexis decides that overall both recipes were better than she imagined.