This weekend I took a shot at the as-close-as-I-can-get-to American version of the Bistecca Fiorentina, Florence’s signature steak introduced a century ago and made famous by Italy’s greatest food writer, Pellegrino Artusi.
Prepared with rigorous and religious guidelines, the true Bistecca Fiorentina is a large steak from an Italian beef (cattle), well aged and with superb marbling, called chianina. The beef cut is known to the American continent as the T-Bone (or Porterhouse).
The Silver Spoon cookbook mentions that there are actually certain laws of Bistecca Fiorentina set by the Florentine Butcher’s Association’s Florentine T-bone Steak Academy. The Law states that the steak HAS to be of the highest quality Chianina beef, well aged (hung for roughly 6 days?), etc. to begin with.
Of course my expectation were set very low, knowing for a fact that trying to reproduce authentic ethnic cooking in America is a VERY BIG CHALLENGE.
My mission started out full of hope, by going to our favorite grocery store Valli Produce (interesting eclectic, native imported foods), for the hunt of the “Perfect Cut” that at least will slightly resemble the traditional three-fingers thick T-Bone cut used for the Bistecca Fiorentina.
My heart started sinking as I was rummaging among yet beautiful slices of Porterhouse cuts but not finding the one with the right thickness.
Just when I was ready to give up and change my dinner plans, the smiley butcher with a mustache walked by to bring more supply to his meat display, so I dropped my question:
“Dear smiley butcher with a mustache, is there any miraculous way to get a thicker T-Bone cut than the ones in your display?”
Still smiling, he asked me how thick of a cut I wanted, disappeared, and then came bake with what I thought was a nice T-bone cut, with nice marbling. Mission accomplished!
Found a nice Chianti to go with, got some Canellini beans and hurried back home to start the charcoals, as the recipe calls for a very hot temperature.
The How To:
As the coals reached full incandescence, I set the grill rack on top, and let it sit so for a couple minutes to heat up. The rules are calling for oak charcoal, and a height of the grill of about 8″ above the charcoals. The ingredients are very simple and if one wants a garnish of some sort, then a simple arrugola-tomato salad would be a great and proper addition.
Make sure your steak is at room temperature first, then place the steak over the hot grill. You should hear a sudden sizzling as the steak touches the hot grill. That’s a good thing. Then just leave it there for 5-6 minutes.
DO NOT PRE-SEASON!
That’s a important rule in The Law. You will add the salt and pepper (if preferred) AFTER you turn it. There are many arguments about the fact that the salt will not stick to the caramelized side, etc., but that’s exactly the point. You should not salt the steak BEFORE you place it on the grill as the salt will suck some of the moisture out of the steak and that’s a BIG NONO in this case.
After the 5-6 minutes on the first side, I turned it and that’s when I added the kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. The steak looked happy. Now, depending on your preference for meat doneness (rare or medium-rare), you can alter the grilling time by adding 3-4 minutes per side, but don’t go more than that. Again The Law calls for a single turn and leaving it untouched.
Also I am not covering the grill. In fact the covered grill is only an American thing as Weber introduced it. In Florence, outside grills have no covers.
And lastly, after grilling, it is important to leave the steak rest for approximately 10 minutes. This will helps the steak relax and “close up” trapping the juices inside. At this point you can drizzle extra virgin olive oil to dress steak.
Even if I would be probably sent to prison in the Florentine Butcher’s Association’ dungeons for breaking so many of the Bistecca Fiorentina recipe, my steak turned out to be a beautiful juicy piece of beef! I was so impressed that I called it Bistecca Chicagolina!
I might start forming the Chicago Butcher’s Association and pass strict laws concerning Chicago style made T-Bone steak! Why not since we already have our own Chicago-style hot dog!
One main rule would be that the steak should be cooked mid winter, while snow shoveling.