Yeah, I know, we don't eat as much red meat as we used to. Still, when something as delicious as a thick, pound-anna-half T-bone turns up for 5 bucks in what we indelicately call the "dead meat department," the bargain bin end of the meat shelf in our favorite store where they dump about-to-expire items at fire-sale prices, it's hard to resist.

Given the well-aged (but still very palatable) quality of this particular chunk, I decided to go with a potent wine sauce, and stuck fairly close to the procedure for "Bistecca alla Diavola" outlined in Marcella Hazan's first book, "The Classic Italian Cook Book".

As with Chinese stir-frying, this is a procedure that moves very rapidly at the end, so it's best to prepare all the ingredients and set them out in a row before you fire up the skillet.

In this order, you'll need:

    1/4 cup dry red wine and 1/4 cup Marsala (I subbed a sweet Sherry without ethnic qualms). It's OK to mix them in one cup.
    1 or 2 large garlic cloves, minced fine
    1 teaspoon fresh fennel seeds (they're in season in our back yard) or 1/2 teaspoon dried
    1 tablespoon tomato paste thinned with 1 tablespoon water (I subbed 2 tablespoons thick, homemade tomato sauce)
    1 fresh hot pepper (I used a jalapeno), ribs and seeds removed, sliced thin
Paint a heavy, black-iron skillet with a small amount of olive oil and heat until it almost starts to smoke. Slap in the steak, sear on both sides, and keep cooking, turning occasionally, until it's crunchy on the exterior and done to your liking. Remove the steak to a heated platter, pour off the excess fat, and pour in the mixed wines, stirring over high heat for a minute or so to deglaze the pan and mix in the crunchy bits. Add a little water if it reduces too much. Stir in the garlic, then the fennel cloves; reduce heat to low and add the tomato sauce and hot peppers; cook for a minute or two, until the sauce thickens, then return the steak to the pan and turn it once or twice, then return it to the serving plate with the sauce that sticks to it. Use the rest of the sauce to top pasta; a salad or vegetable course (I braised the chopped fennel bulb [finocchio] with chopped celery, onions and garlic) makes it a meal.

A Rosso di Montalcino, a dry, fruity Italian red, made a fine companion to this hearty autumn meal.