Not Parma-John, Parma-Bruce

Since I never eat (or write about) meat, I have felt pangs of guilt. So, I present to you, my carnivore friends, my carnivore husband, David. He is a grill master and above all else a true foodie.

While checking out my wife's blog the other day, I was studying the list of recipes and came to realize there was only one beef entry out of well over 100 and merely two poultry dishes. What came as no surprise was that there were more than 20 desserts and almost 20 vegetarian dishes.

As a CERTIFIED CARNIVORE, I mentioned to Heather that the meat-eaters must be feeling left out, so I suggested a steak item. Of course, as you know, this comes with a story as do all of my entries.

This is a tale of a man who would drive five hours to eat a steak prepared in a special way at a restaurant in Manhattan. His name is Bruce Sysyn and he lived in Manchester, New Hampshire. By the way, this story is circa 1975.

Bruce was a friend of mine from the post-ski racing days when I worked in the ski industry and helped with the U.S. Ski Team and the Winter Olympics. I was living in New York at the time and frequented a restaurant on 63rd Street known as Il Vagabondo. The restaurant is still there today and was recently noted on the Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate show as Emeril Lagasse's (aka Large-Assee) favorite veal Parmigiana.

Il Vagabondo was quite a quirky place full of celebrities, sports figures, etc., but back then had no menus and the Italian waiters spoke very little English. I happened to take Bruce there for dinner one night and when I inquired as to what he would like to eat he said, "I want a big steak."

"Bruce," I said, "this is an Italian restaurant. I don't know if they have steaks, but I'll ask."

When the waiter came to the table, I told him in half English and half bad Italian that my friend wanted a steak. A big steak. And he said, "No problema," and off he went.

Twenty minutes later he shows up with one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Probably a 2-lb., 3" thick New York strip covered in tomato sauce and melted cheese oozing over the top. Bruce had the biggest smile on his face I had ever seen and proceeded to eat the monster. I had a bite and it was fabulous!

Anyway, from then on, Bruce would call me from time to time and ask me what I was doing that night because he was "ready to drive five hours from New Hampshire to Manhattan for another steak." For whatever reason, this whole scenario popped into my head when I thought about making a meat dish for my fellow carnivores and so here's the recipe.

Buen provecho!

Note:  Having been a regular at Il Vagabondo, I walked over to the open kitchen to inquire about the cheese which tasted so much better than the usual mozzarella. I couldn't speak Italian, but I did look around and realized they were using Muenster cheese to top the Parmigiana dishes. I asked, "Muenster?" And they nodded and replied, "Si." From that day forward, I have kept their little secret secret, until now.
In the foreground is the Steak Parmigiana
and in the background the Eggplant Parmigiana.
Steak Parmigiana
The Cowgirl Gourmet's husband has recreated this recipe from his memory of the steak Parmigiana at Il Vagabondo in Manhattan

Print recipe

Start with the best quality steak, preferably grass-fed beef, you can find. I would suggest a 1-pound New York strip that is at least 1 1/2 inches thick. You'll also need the best quality tomato sauce or marinara, preferably homemade or at least Rao's in a jar. An easy vegetarian version of this recipe is to grill thick slices of eggplant.

Serves 1-2

1 New York strip steak (or for a vegetarian version slice eggplant into thick 1" slices lengthwise)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Tomato sauce or marinara sauce, homemade or Rao's in a jar
1 or 2 slices of Muenster cheese, deli sliced
Freshly chopped parsley and oregano, for garnish

Splash a little olive oil on both sides of the steak (or eggplant) and sprinkle some salt and pepper as well.

Grill over a hot charcoal fire or gas grill to your desired doneness.

Spread a little tomato sauce on top of the steak and top with the Muenster cheese. Close the grill hood and allow the cheese to melt.

Remove the steak (or eggplant) from the grill and sprinkle with some chopped parsley and oregano. Serve immediately over a bed of tomato sauce along with a side of sketti topped with more tomato sauce.

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