Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fiore Sardo Crusted Ribeye

This recipe is another one that I just thought up at the last minute.  Seeing a small chunk of Fiore Sardo cheese at my local grocery store, and, really wanting to make a steak, my mind wandered about what I could do to combine the cheese with the meat.   Of course, I could just eat the cheese on the side, but, I thought about dishes that I've had or seen in restaurants where steaks were served with cheese.  Most often, it is a blue cheese. But why not Fiore Sardo?

Fiore Sardo is a hard pecorino cheese made from the milk of sheep native to three provinces of Sardinia, which are Nuoro, Sassari and Cagliari.  It has its own DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta), which specifies certain rules for the production of this cheese.  The rules require Fiore Sardo to be made only with whole sheep's milk, curdled with lamb or kid rennet.  After a brief stint in a brine, the cheese is dry salted and aged.  The rules also require that the crust be yellow to dark brown, while the interior is white or pale yellow. 

All of these rules and requirements lead to some differences between Fiore Sardo and other pecorino cheeses, such as Pecorino Romano or Pecorino Toscano, because the Fiore Sardo is richer and more mellow, with less salt than either the Romano or Toscano. When the cheese comes to room temperature, the oils are released and the grassy, flowery smell of the cheese is amazing. 

My thought was to take this great cheese and use it to make a "crust" on the ribeye.  I have not made cheese crusts for cuts of beef like ribeyes before.  This is because, the general rule is that great cuts of meat like strip steaks and ribeyes do not need such flavor enhancements.  This is especially true with respect to grass fed meat, whose cherry red meat is very flavorful and good enough by itself.  Nevertheless, there is always room for experimentation and, in this case, the experiment was a great success.  The cheese provided an interesting, grassy flavors that complement and contrast with the flavor of the beef, which is quite an amazing feat. 

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-3

1  bone-in ribeye of about 1.5 to 2 pounds
1/4 to 1/3 pound of Fiore Sardo, grated finely
1.5 tablespoons of dried thyme
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns, freshly ground
1 small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Extra virgin olive oil

1.  Prepare the Fiore Sardo topping.  Combine the Fiore Sardo, thyme, pepper and red pepper flakes.  You could add salt, but I think the salt in the cheese is sufficient for this dish.

2.  Add the topping to the ribeye.  Coat the entire ribeye with a little olive oil.  Maybe about two tablespoons of oil at most. The oil will help the cheese stick to the meat.  Use about 2/3 of the crust mixture and apply it to all sides of the meat.  

3.  Cook the ribeye.  Turn on the broiler.  Cook the meat for about fifteen minutes on each side.  About ten minutes before the steak is finished, put the remaining 1/3 of the crust mixture on the top of the meat.  

4.  Let the ribeye rest.  Remove from the heat and let it sit for five to ten minutes.  Cut the meat into slices and serve immediately.

I really liked this recipe and it is one of the better steak recipes that I have done recently.  It is always a great experience to combine two foods that you like, such as, for me, Italian cheese like the Fiore Sardo and grass-fed beef.  Just as following the rules can create an amazing cheese, breaking the rules by using that cheese with a ribeye can also create an amazing eating experience. 


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