Tuscany’s Bistecca Fiorentina!

..
“Beef . . . it’s what’s for dinner” is a famous advertising slogan that most Americans are familiar with.  Grilling beef is part of the American culinary scene, but most Amercians do not associate beef and the process of grilling beef with Italy.  Now when most people think of Italian meat, they immediately think of pork and/or veal, but never beef.  But sure enough beef is king in Tuscany as exemplified in the carnivore lovers’ dream-of-a-steak ‘Bistecca alla Fiorentina‘!  There is even a grilled steak ‘fair’ held every summer in Tuscany where ‘thousands of steaks are cooked on grills in the main park to feed the multitudes’ (Flavors of Tuscany, 1998).  
Do Italians really eat steak? We thought pasta was their thing.  Italians are definitely about more than pasta. Not only do they eat and prepare steak with the same simplicity and respect for ingredients that you see in their other dishes but their preparation is given the same attention. Nowhere do they do it better than in Tuscany, home of the infamous Bistecca Alla Fiorentina or Florentine Steak, among the most classic of all Italian dishes(Fiorentina – means in the style of Florence)

Grilling the Florentine way is what makes the difference in an average grilled steak to an incredible grilled steak.  This method is all about simplicity.  As most Italians do, Tuscans use very simple methods of preparation and always with the finest of ingredients. 

Recently I re-watched “Under The Tuscan Sun”, film that allows those of us who can’t get to Italy to experience a few blissful hours of imaginary life in the rolling hills of Tuscany.  This is my retirement dream . . . at least for a few weeks every now and then!  

If you’d like to prepare something Italian or Tuscan that might slightly parallel the American carnivore tradition of grilling steaks than this post is for you!  After watching the movie my culinary fairy hit me on the head with the reminder of what I watched on TV recently from Tuscany:   two foodie/travel shows featuring the famous beef steaks from Tuscany.  The first show was Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” and the second show was David Rocco’s “Dolce Vita”.  Both of these chefs, on separate occasions, went to Tuscany to visit Italy’s famous butcher, Dario Cecchini, in his shop in the 900-inhabitants village of Panzano in Chianti.  This butcher’s specialty is native to Tuscany:  “Bistecca Fiorentina”.   A very meat-obsessed man, he even has his own web-site and is on youTube for your curiosity and pleasure.  Here is a brief clip of Anthony Bourdain’s Tuscany episode with Cecchini of Tuscany {link} 
.
It’s also about the breed of cattle that makes this steak so unique.  Even though Italy has less cattle raised due to the lack of land to graze on, there is one of nature’s finest breeds in Tuscany’s Val di Chiana near Arrezo:  the highly prized Chianina (kya-NEE-na) an ancient breed of white cattle.  A proper and authentic Tuscan bistecca is either a T-Bone or Porterhouse steak cut from Chianina beef, a more tender, flavorful, juicy and closely grained beef which is superb for grilling.   In addition to the rule of using Chianina beef, the cut needs to come from the vitellone or young steer, not a baby calf.  
Another differentiating factor of Bistecca Fiorentina is that the steak must be cut at least 2-1/2 inches thick (or three to four fingers thick) and cut from the rib.  The famous Tuscan butcher says that the width should be no less than 4 fingers thick, which is the perfect size for two people to enjoy.  While in the market, he meat butcher cut the steak for us as my husband and I watched.  It is so obnoxiously outrageous in size that we laughed when he handed it to us; we were almost a little embarrassed!  We only purchased one steak, it was so big!   This is one giant-sized monster of a steak!  Size really does matter for this steak!  Below you can see that it is nearly the entire size of a dinner plate.  My husband and I could only eat a fourth of it because it was just too much for us.  So we have some great left-overs to use tomorrow.

Finally, it is also the tradition of how the steak is cut that sets this apart from other steaks and makes it an authentic Tuscan bistecca:  The filet is cut out first, the the center or strip steak portion is removed.  Each section is then sliced.  The bone is remains in place.

How did it taste?  Well, let’s just say, that the beef was not corn-fed, which is not only our preference, but is also the only beef used for the famous steaks at Ruth’s Chris Steak House.  We can’t compromise on that rich flavor and it was certainly missing from this beef that was the best that we could find in our little town.  So sadly, all we can sum this up with is:  it was just one big huge steak, period.  And that’s about all that was special and unique about it.

Note:  I prepared this several weeks later according to another recipe that called for a pool of olive oil, minced garlic, and rosemary on which to place each steak, followed by another drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of shavings of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/4 pound for two steaks) on top of the steaks.  I cannot tell you how incredible this was and what a huge difference in flavor that ook place!  However, the recipe below is the “purist” version of this entree.
.
Bistecca Fiorentina
T-bone or Porterhouse steaks, cut 3 – 4 (man-sized) fingers thick, if possible dry-aged
Extra Virgin Olive OIl 
Freshly cracked Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon Wedges (optional)
Take steak out of refrigerator for one to two hours before grilling and bring down to room temperature.
Generously sprinkle with Sea Salt and fresh pepper to form a crust when grilled.
Prop the steaks up with chopsticks for these few hours to allow the air to flow around the meat.
Using either a charcoal or wood fire, heat up the grill to VERY HOT and nice and smokey
Place the steaks on a very hot grill 4 inches from the fire.
Cook for approximately 4 – 6 minutes per side for rare to medium-rare steaks. 
Never overcook a Tuscan steak which is traditionally served rare.
The thicker the cut of steak, the longer you need to grill it.
Caution:  the tenderloin side will cooks faster than the strip or center filet side, so move the steak around on the grill to place the tenderloin further away from the heat when necessary. 
The exact time will depend on how well done you like your steak, 7 – 8 minutes on each side for medium-rare to medium steaks, etc.  Remember that the steak will continue to cook during the final resting period.
Be sure to flip the steaks over only once.
Note:  After grilling the other side, you may want to place the steak on its side on the side with the bone and grill for an additional 3 – 4 minutes which evens out the grilling more.
Remove the steaks from the grill.
Allow the steaks to rest for 5 to 10 minutes after removing from the grill, again propping them up with chopsticks to allow air flow.
Prior to serving, drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkle with freshly cracked sea salt and black pepper again.  
Slice the steak the traditional and authentic way:  Cut the filet out first, then cut the centre out and slice each section.  Keep the bone in place around the slices.

Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
Your comments make me smile and I promise to get back to you. I may be slow at it because I get easily distracted by something brewing in the kitchen or hummingbirds in my gardens.

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog today! If you’ve enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to my blog to receive e-mail notices of any new posts and recipes! I would love to follow your site back as well!

Subscribe to Updates!
New subscribers will receive a FREE, PRIVATE, never-before published family recipe.

Comments

  1. just got home from work… omg I am drooling… amazing detail in your picture … wow is this making me want to eat this right now! love it! got to make something quick now~ wish I had this~

  2. Oh yeah baby, my husband would love this on his plate…ok, me too.

  3. Four Man Fingers! Holy cow, that is a monster…I can’t imagine. Too bad it wasn’t as great as you’d hoped, but it really looks gorgeous, Roz. I have that same dream…only I want to get there before retirement ;) I’m so glad that you joined in Food ‘n Flix this month (perfect month for you, huh?)!! Delicioso!

  4. That steak is very photogenic; sorry it didn’t live up to your expectations taste-wise. My recipe for bistecca Florentine had olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. The hardest thing is getting the right doneness on such a thick cut. You did it perfectly.

  5. Oh my! This is sooo appetizing! So juicy! You always makes me hungry! Thank you for posting!

  6. Looks fantastic, sorry you were disappointed. It looks perfectly done to me.

  7. Hi Roz, Happy Memorial Day! Hubby says he’ll be right over to eat that steak you didn’t care for ;)

    Looks superb anyway. your photos are always fabulous!

  8. I guess it’s hard to get really good steaks where you live, but the photos sure looked great. you’re just going to have to put Tuscany on your radar the next time you have a yen for a good steak.

  9. I am planning a taste test in Tuscany – because in the good old USA I have had mighty fine beef – my brother-in-law raises good old corn-fed cows – well treated and all that jazz – which I hugely subscribe to. The photos of the beef certainly entice!

  10. I wish I were your neighbor so I could partake of those leftovers..haha! Great post! Thanks for all your nice comments. I had been away and have nbeen trying to reorganize the look of my site :-)

  11. beef is what my husband wishes was for dinner every night! Love this. Love the flavors and the simplicity. Might just do this for father’s day for him!

  12. I’ve never had a real bisteccha Fiorentina, although I lived in Tuscany for five years. But the whole story and greatness of this steak is definitely in the quality of the meat used. Chianina cows are grown and fed in particular way following strict rules. So I really believe that, as well as the grilling method, is what makes it famous. Me and my husband still prefer tagliata more. Tagliata is prepared similarly, only this thick steak is sliced thinly after grilling and then served with arugula and shaved parmigiano

  13. What a beautiful steak! Way nicer than the one I had in Florence.

  14. My meat and potatoes husband could put that steak away easily without barely a blink!

    Love that movie too.

  15. Very tempting, I hope one day you will be able to follow your dreams Roz.

  16. Now that’s a chunk of meat! One of the best steaks we ever ate was outside of Lucca in a small restaurant, served atop a bed of arugula…the bitter green went so well with the steak!

  17. That was one big man steak-it’s the kind of steaks my dad likes, and when the edges hang over the plate, he likes it even more.(laugh).

    I really enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for sharing.

    Velva

  18. That looks fabulous! Thank you for all of your kind comments! I was overwhelmed with work last week and just when I thought I would have the weekend to catchup with my bloggie friends, my computer needed to go to the ER–stat! All’s well now, have a great day!! anne

  19. All I can say is “now that’s a steak”

  20. Your blog is gorgeous! I just love it. One of my clients is the hamlet where Frances Mayes stayed while writing that book. It’s called Borgo di Vagli. You should check it out on a vacation some time.

  21. Oh my ! That looks delicious. That looks exactly how i like my steak. It’s very early in the morning and i haven’t even had my breakfast yet you got me craving this now. :)

Please leave a comment

*

CommentLuv badge