La bistecca Fiorentina

La bistecca Fiorentina

By
From
Tuscany
Serves
6-8
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

The Italians call this cut of beef steak Fiorentina, the English call it a T-bone, the Americans call it a Porterhouse. Whatever you call it, it is a huge slab of tender fillet and hunky sirloin surrounded with creamy fat that keeps it juicy as it is grilled on all sides. It is grilled briefly and served rare on wooden boards with grooves around the edges to catch the juices. In Tuscany’s capital city of Florence, the smell of chargrilled steak wafts out of restaurants and the huge cuts are usually shown to the customers before they are cooked. A Fiorentina is large enough for two or more people to enjoy, and as the edges are seared brown and the centre is blue rare there is something for everyone.

Much of what gives flavour to meat is the breed of cattle from which it originates. In this case, the huge white cattle, the Chianina (named after the Chiana Valley in Tuscany where they have grazed for centuries, where Chianti wine is made) is the breed typically used for bistecca Fiorentina, which is traditionally grilled over an open fire. The Chianina are one of the oldest breeds and feature in Roman sculpture and artwork. Their meat is both tender and flavoursome, its well-marbled fat making it succulent and flavourful. Because of the size reached by the animals the steaks can easily exceed 2 kg. Each restaurant has a certificate to prove their steaks are Chianina; if they don’t, it is likely they are not serving genuine Chianina.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1.2kg fiorentina
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Let the steak come to room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, fire up your grill or barbecue to hot and set a grill rack around 10 cm away from the heat source. Season the meat generously all over and use a good pair of tongs to hold the steak.
  2. Cook each side for 4 minutes for rare, or 6 minutes for just off rare. Then use the tongs to hold the steak upright on the grill and cook the edges for 5 minutes all the way around, including the bone side. This will help to drive the heat inside. Rest the steak for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Season generously

  • If you are going to cook your own Fiorentina (or any cut of steak), season it well, massaging salt and pepper into the flesh just before cooking. Many chefs prefer to salt after cooking or searing, but having done tests we’ve concluded that seasoning before or after cooking makes little difference to the finished steak. On my cooking courses many people ask why their steak doesn’t taste like one cooked in a restaurant. Apart from the quality of the meat and hanging time, it is the fact that the hand of a chef will be more generous with the salt than that of a home cook. Simple as that. So don’t spare the salt, this time.

How to tell when a steak is done

  • To tell when a steak is done to your liking, press the top of it while it is still in the pan or under the grill. The resistance to touch will demonstrate how it is cooked. You can compare the feeling to various parts of your hand, using this simple guide. Press your thumb and index finger together and prod the soft fleshy area at the base of your thumb with the index finger of your other hand. It will be soft to the touch like a ‘rare’ steak feels. Next, move your middle finger to touch your thumb and feel the point again – it will feel like a ‘medium-rare’ steak. The third finger will make it feel like ‘medium’ and the little finger like ‘well done’.

Resting steak

  • Ideally, cooked meat should be rested for the same amount of time as it takes to cook. This is because when meat is cooked the blood rushes away from the surface to the inside of the meat, causing the outside to be dry. Allowing meat to rest means that the blood can become evenly distributed through the meat again, removing any dryness.

What to serve with your bistecca Fiorentina?

  • Lemon wedges, roast potatoes with spring onions (scallions) or freshly boiled cannellini beans with sage, olive oil, salt, and pepper and – of course – a good glass of a super Tuscan red wine.
Tags:
Italy
Italian
Caldesi
Tuscany
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