La Bistecca Fiorentina! The queen of the steaks

August 12, 2015

La Bistecca Fiorentina! The queen of the steaks

Photo by Tuscookany cookbook "The flavours of Tuscany" page 142

La Bistecca Fiorentina! The queen of the steaks

Literally “fiorentina” means “from Firenze”. This is arguably one of the cornerstones of the Tuscan culinary traditions, and that’s why our Tuscookany chefs choose it as one of the key dishes when a special occasion comes around – like the welcoming dinner of every cooking course here at Tuscookany!

The origin of this recipe - which is really not complicated at all, as long as you have the right cut of meat - are unknown. What is known, however, is that the people of Florence have been enjoying this bistecca for at least 600 years.

In order to cook it, you need a 2 1/2 to 3 inch-thick porterhouse, cut from the rear end of the short loin, that weighs no less than 600 to 800 grams (t-bone included) and comes from a Maremmana or Chianina oxen. Seasoned with salt, pepper and a touch of olive oil, the juicy steak is cooked on a charcoal grill for no more than 5 minutes per side. Some people like to brush it with a branch of rosemary while it cooks. Simple and tender, it is paradise on earth for the Tuscan meat lovers. Enjoy it with a glass of local wine: a combination you must taste during your trip across Tuscany.

It is said that la Bistecca Fiorentina was already famous when the Medici family was in town. For those of who don’t know, we are talking about the family many historians consider the beating heart of the Italian Renaissance. “I was here when the Renaissance flourished, and I was born in the city where the Renaissance was conceived”, this is what la Bistecca Fiorentina could say. Not a bad answer to the classic “where are you from” question, wouldn’t you agree?

Here is a curiosity. Do you know where the Italian word “bistecca” comes from? From the Latin? No. From some ancient obscure language? Not at all. It comes from the English beefsteak!  Now, why would the Italians use an English term to label one of their culinary masterpieces? Well, let me explain. On the 10th of August, the people of Florence come together for the famous Festa di San Lorenzo. This festa has been organized for centuries around the Basilica di San Lorenzo, which is one of the oldest - and one of the most beautiful - churches in Florence.

What happens during this wonderful feast? Apart from the religious celebrations, San Lorenzo means free food. And you know what people cook on that day? Yes, precisely: la Bistecca Fiorentina. It is said that once upon a time (we don’t know exactly when) a group of English rich men was in Florence precisely on the 10th of August. These gentlemen loved meat and they did nothing but asking for “beefsteak” all night. The people of Florence, after that evening, decided to take “beefsteak” and turn it into “bistecca”.

For some reason, I’ve always like this story... maybe because I adore this “beefsteak”! By the way, don’t call it “Fiorentina”, if you can, because that’s also the name of the football team of the city. It’s not a big deal, of course, I am pretty sure people will understand you anyway if you are in a restaurant. However, remember: Bistecca Fiorentina (or Bistecca alla Fiorentina) is the proper name of this juicy culinary masterpiece.

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