A trip to Tuscany is an incredible experience. This iconic region is almost surreal in its appeal to the senses. The beautiful Italian countryside, sea-kissed mediterranean air, the fabulous wine and -oh my!-the cuisine.
Tuscan cuisine is hearty and delicious. Most of the meats and produce are prepared without a lot of seasoning. But, such fresh food doesn’t require much beyond its natural flavor. The menu terms “alla Toscana” and “alla Fiorentina” refer to the preparation of the food, which typically highlights the freshest local ingredients. It’s simple and glorious!
If you’re someone who enjoys a good steak a visit to Tuscany will spoil you for your beefy indulgence anywhere else. The regional Florentine steak is truly like no other cut of beef in the world. Let’s find out what makes this beef so spectacular.
Why is This Steak So Special?
Of course the quality of the steak is a reflection of the cattle. The Chianina cattle originated in the Tiber valley area of Valdichiana, from which the breed’s name is derived. The white Chianina cattle have been bred and raised in the regions of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio for more than two thousand years. In fact Columella, a prominent writer of agricultural journals dating back to the Roman Empire, referenced the massive Umbrian cattle as far back as 55 AD.
Italy’s modern day Chianina has been developed with qualities which are known to make fine meat. They are the largest breed of cattle in the world, in both height and weight. It isn’t unusual for a bull to reach a height of over six feet and a weight of over 3,500 lbs.
The Finest Quality Beef, Guaranteed
The meat of the Chianina is prized for its high quality in both flavor and nutrition. This type of beef is high in B vitamins while maintaining a low fat content in spite of the characteristic marbling of the meat. This coveted beef bears a brand of “5R” on each of its’ 18 principle cuts. The brand refers to its status as one of the five prized indigenous beef breeds of Italy and is required in accordance with a ministerial decree. The beef is sold by butchers with a detailed receipt exhibiting such facts as birth, slaughter date and id number among other facts. That is some serious beef. my friends!
Preparation is Key
The Chianina steak is best prepared in the Florentine style. But we need to point out that this steak is no petite filet, to be sure! A bone-in cut, with a minimum weight of 2.2 lbs and thickness of no less than 3 fingers, Bistecca Fiorentina provides plenty of legendary beef to share.
The method of preparation of the steak is as important to the flavor as the way the beef was bred. Bistecca alla Fiorentina is seasoned simply with salt and pepper then grilled over a wood fire, usually olive or oak. The chef grills the steak very close to the flame in order to form a seal to keep the flavorful juices inside the meat.
After the crust forms the chef or grill master takes the meat up a level to a gentler heat and it is grilled three to five minutes per side, turned only once, and never with a fork or instrument that might pierce the meat. The cooking process is completed once the chef stands the steak on its bone, over a gentle flame, for about five to seven minutes.
Bistecca Fiorentina is served very rare. The forming of the crust in this unique cooking method means the meat is brown on the outside while the inside remains red, juicy, soft and just warm enough to release the sumptuous flavor for which the Chianina cattle are bred.
This beefy delight is commonly served with a light side such as cannelloni dressed in olive oil or a green salad. Such a meal should absolutely be accompanied by a rich Tuscan red wine. La Vita e Bella indeed!