The Web abounds with recipes for Bistecca alla Fiorentina. Most of them are pretty accurate, which should come as no surprise given how easy this is to make. There are, however, a few points of method that should be made. Namely:
- Do not oil the steak before you cook it; the oil will burn, leaving a bad taste. Rather, the objective of this kind of steak is the specific allure of rare grilled beef with raw olive oil.
- Use a good quality olive oil; ideally from Tuscany.
- Use a Porterhouse steak, preferably at least two inches thick.
- Ideally (some would argue necessarily), use beef from the Chianina breed of cattle. Good luck. (Although you might be able to track some down via the American Chianinia Association.)
- Let the meat sit at room temperature (covered) for an hour before grilling.
After that it’s as easy. Bistecca alla Fiorentina is basically just a really big Porterhouse steak dressed only with salt and pepper, then grilled over high heat until there is a dark outer curst yet the meat is still rare, then sliced, and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. (Yes, lemon juice.) It’s a nice change from the spicy and saucy American style of steaks we usually eat during grilling season.
I had been wanting to make this ever since I read about it in Bill Buford’s book Heat. Buford’s now proverbial “Dante-quoting Tuscan butcher” friend prepared it for him, and the description was, as is typical of the book, a bit over the top. The steak was something like four inches thick and grilled for thirty seconds. (OK, I exaggerate; but so too, I suspect, did Buford.)
I doubted I would find any Chianina beef nearby, but didn’t fret as I figured this first attempt was experimental; designed to get a feel for the technique. So I went for regular ol’ beef (I don’t even know the breed). I got the butcher to cut me a nice two-inch thick, 800 gram Porterhouse, and I could tell by the twinkle in his eye that he knew I was up to something good.
At home, I followed the prescribed method pretty much to a tee:
- Let the meat come to room temperature (about an hour out of the fridge, covered).
- Rub the meat on both sides with a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and kosher salt.
- Grill over direct high heat for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes per side.
- Move to indirect medium heat and cook for another 7 to 8 minutes, turning once.
- Remove the meat from the fire, cover, and let rest for five minutes.
- Cut the filet and contre-filet from the bone, and slice at a slight angle (to cross the grain of the meat).
- Dress with extra virgin Tuscan olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Serve and enjoy!
Warning: the following photos may be off-putting for vegetarians. Read more Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine Steak)