If you hear someone talking about la Fiorentina in Tuscany and they are not describing the famous football team, then they are surely talking about one of the quintessential dishes of Florentine cuisine: the thickly cut and very large Tuscan T-bone steak.
The name bistecca comes from the British term "beef-steak" and according to writer Maria Luisa Incontri, its history in Florence goes back to 1565, specifically March 23 in San Lorenzo square. To celebrate the wedding of Paolo Orsino and Isabella, daughter of the Duke of Florence, a whole ox was roasted in Piazza San Lorenzo and distributed to the people.
Florence at the time of the Medici was a major crossroads for travellers. They say some English knights were at the celebrations in the square, and at the sight of those steaks they started to shout: "beef-steak! beef-steak!". Florentines really love to give exotic names to food (do you remember the story of Arista?) so they started to call this grilled cut of meat bistecca.
Here are some facts you should know about “Bistecca alla Fiorentina”:
1. Bistecca alla Fiorentina is taken from the loin of the young steer (vitellone) and has a “T” shaped bone with the fillet on one side and the sirloin on the other.
2. It’s normally 3-4 cm high and 1,5 – 2 kg heavy and for this very special cut, the big Chianina is one of the favorite cattle breeds.
3. Even though the Fiorentina is a must-try in Florence, you can also find very good T-bone steaks prepared Florentine style outside the city and from different cattle breeds. Aurelio Barattini, chef at Antica Locanda di Sesto, says “What matters is not so much the type, but how the animal has been bred. On equal breeding we can evaluate which typeworks better. I prefer very fatty and marbled meats, because they are particularly flavorful and crispy”.
4. The perfect ‘fiorentina’ steak must be well browned on the outside and rareinside.
5. To prepare it, just set it on a barbecue grill with absolutely no dressing and cook it without burning for 5 minutes, taking care not to puncture the meat. Turn it, salt the cooked part, then cook the other side for 5 minutes and salt it when cooked. Lastly, stand it on its end and cook it for a further 3 minutes, then serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some pepper.
Cover image credit: Aurelio Barattini - Antica Locanda di Sesto