Tuscan Taste

Savoring Tradition: The Art of Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Behold the bistecca alla Fiorentina, a symbol of culinary pride in Florence! “And you know what — they say in Florence — outside of Tuscany, they don’t even know how to cut it. It’s thin, without fillet… look at those boneless steaks! You know what they are? chops! But for us, steaks… three fingers thick, they have to be! They don’t even know how to cook it. Here’s how to make a steak: sear, turn and … and off you go!”

Florentines are proud people, deeply connected to their city and its culinary heritage. Their traditions, especially in cuisine, are sacred – and among them, the bistecca alla Fiorentina stands tall.

La Fiorentina isn’t a dish confined to seasons; whether it’s Winter or Summer, you’ll always find it in restaurants and local butcher shops. Its history stretches back to the times of the Medicis, rooted in centuries-old traditions.

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Photo by mali maeder from Pexels

Legend has it that on the 10th of August, the day dedicated to San Lorenzo, Florence would roast copious amounts of meat to share among its people. During one such event, British visitors dubbed the meat they received “beef steak,” contributing to the origin of the Italian “bistecca.” Another version ties the term to a 19th-century encounter with Englishmen and the phrase “beef steak.”

Bistecca alla Fiorentina, whether from young beef or scottona sirloin, always of the Chianina variety, is a culinary treasure. It must be thick, including its bone, and prepared by grilling or barbecuing, always served rare. The Chianina livestock, native to Tuscany’s Val di Chiana, has ancient roots, cherished for its quality and flavor.

The meat’s quality is paramount, regulated by stringent parameters. Chianina meat is identified through specific branding, ensuring origin and quality. Their diet, consisting solely of natural, local grass, is strictly controlled, free from genetic modification, estrogen, or antibiotics.

Despite a temporary ban during the “mad cow” scare, bistecca alla Fiorentina returned to Tuscany’s tables on January 1, 2006, much to the delight of its aficionados.

To craft the perfect Fiorentina, it must be at least two fingers thick, weighing between 900 and 1250 grams. Rested, then brought to room temperature before grilling, it should be cooked over oak, holm oak, or olive charcoal. The steak is grilled without marinade, ensuring the Maillard reaction locks in its juices, creating a delicately seared exterior.

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Photo by Gonzalo Guzman from Pexels

After grilling, let it rest to enhance its flavors. Cooked between 3 and 5 minutes on each side, turned only once, with care to handle it properly. The bone side is cooked until no more blood remains, resulting in a tender, juicy steak.

Traditionally served with cannellini beans in Tuscan extra virgin olive oil or a simple salad, bistecca alla Fiorentina is a piece of culinary history, savored with every bite.

In conclusion, a steak without a bone is merely meat, but a steak with its bone intact is a journey through time, savored with reverence. While preparing bistecca alla Fiorentina at home might be challenging, its essence can be captured in various dishes, each a tribute to Tuscan tradition.

And so, with every bite of bistecca alla Fiorentina, one not only tastes the flavors of Tuscany but also experiences a connection to centuries of tradition and heritage, making it a truly unforgettable culinary experience.

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