06 Jul2006

bist1

Bistecca a la Fiorentina is one of those dishes preceded by culinary awe and utter respect from foodies and novice travelers alike. I had never eaten it, because I had never been to Florence, and I was beginning to wonder if this was just hype and fretted over whether I would actually get a version that would make me sing its praises till kingdom come… After all, could it be better than Kobe or Wagyu beef? A steak at Peter Luger’s in New York? Our house specialty in Manila, a thick Angus cowboy steak grilled over hot coals? As with all great dishes, meals and specialties…it’s spectacular if done well, but mediocre to disappointing most of the time. The first Bistecca I tasted was an impressive steak prepared at the hot grills of Buca Lapi and let’s just say I started off with the real thing (though I didn’t manage to get a photo of it!)… I would never have risked this dish at a lesser restaurant.

Bistecca a la Fiorentina is actually a porterhouse steak. But not just any porterhouse steak…it must be from the Chianina Breed of cow which are huge, but I mean enormous, white oxen typically raised in Val di Chiana near Arezzo. The breed is now also raised in the U.S. but to get authentic Bistecca, you need to get it from a youngish Italian cow. The cut is actually the bovine equivalent of the small of the back…it is halfway down the back of the cow and the size of a good Bistecca is simply humongous because the cow itself is stunningly large. It is not unusual for the Bistecca, with one bone, to be 1.5-2.0 kilos raw… Not only do you have to get the best porterhouse cut (some resort to the lesser T-bone in a pinch), but it has to be dry-aged properly so that its moisture content is not too high and the flavors have intensified. Our local beef in the Philippines almost never gets aged enough, thus the watery feel to the meat and the tons of moisture when you try to sear it in a pan…

To cook, I understand the preference is for a hot wooden or coal fire. Simply sear the steak on both sides and it is preferable that you serve it rare to medium rare. Once off the heat, brush it with the finest extra virgin olive oil you can afford and sprinkle it with good sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Alternatively, some chefs sprinkle the steak with salt and pepper and chopped fresh rosemary and brush it with oil and cook it. The taste is sublime and the tender flavorful meat is quite special. Because so little is done to the meat, the quality of the meat is imperative and that’s where you have to focus if you want this dish done right. At the Mercato Centrale, I visited several of the meat specialists and found some spectacular Bistecca at a price of Euro 20 per kilo. This is probably one or two notches down from the finest meats but it should be good enough. At PHP1,300 a kilo, it better be really good. However, in the restaurants, the price is 3x or more, with a nice steak costing Euro 60-75! Do not buy this by weight, buy it by the natural slice of the steak…in other words, take your cue from the slab of meat in front of you and rely on a good butcher to cut you the ideal piece.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. sha says:

    i had my first tasted this meat when I was in Genoa
    Had to shut my eyes on the price hehe

    it was grilled over the charcoal and when i asked for medium to well the man gave me a lecture that this meat is soo delicate… i must have it just medium or less even….

    hello from lipari…

    Jul 6, 2006 | 7:03 am

     
  2. Marketman says:

    sha, greetings! Still busy huh? Hopefully things will calm down in the months ahead and you can get back to serious blogging! Eat some good stuff for me!

    Jul 6, 2006 | 10:44 am

     
  3. fried-neurons says:

    I definitely plan on having some of that bistecca when I go to Italy for the first time, whenever that may be.

    I am a complete steak/beef freak. Peter Luger currently holds my heart. But I’ve heard enough good things about bistecca a la fiorentina that I will definitely give it a try.

    Jul 7, 2006 | 12:08 pm

     
  4. mandy says:

    my boyfriend and i shared a bistecca at pepato’s in greenbelt. we were a couple of ignorant diners. since it was steak and we could share it, we ordered it. it was really good. and that’s just in manila! how much better would it be if we had it in florence.

    i have no basis on whether it was an honest to goodness chianina. but it was good and juicy and SARAP!!! there was a huge plate and there was a candle at the bottom so we could cook the steak a little more to our taste (med-well).

    now, if i only had a ticket to italy…

    Jul 7, 2006 | 3:41 pm

     
  5. apm says:

    Have you read the book “Heat” by Bill Buford, the author spends a substantial amount of time as a butcher in Tuscany. During his tenure he discovered that the Chianina being sold for Bistecca Fiorentina was actually Spanish Chianina. I have a Texan steak connosieur friend who claims that the best beef in the world comes from Spain.

    Incidentally. Balducci’s in Serendra claims to have a Bistecca Fiorentina that is authentic Chianina. Unfortunately you need three to four people to finish the steak and my wife does not agree with my scarfing down copious amounts of cholesterol all by myself.

    Apr 6, 2007 | 11:09 pm

     
  6. Andrea says:

    I tried Bisteca Fiorentina at Celetina Ristorante in Florence. It was absolutely to die for. It was the best meal that I ever ate. There was really something different about the bisteca that one can’t compare it to any other steak here in Manila. It’s good to hear that Balducci has the authentic Chianina. Will definitely try it soon!

    Jun 26, 2007 | 5:43 pm

     
  7. Trish says:

    My friend, the Steak Lady, e-mailed this thread to me because we were just talking about Bisteka alla Fiorentina last weekend. I definitely agree… it is worth every cent you will shell out for it! I had my first try of the bisteka during my family’s vacation in Florence. It is definitely huge and it tastes heavenly!

    Yup, it is best eaten medium-rare and never, ever give any instruction to the contrary on how you want your steak done. They take the bisteka seriously! I,too, made that seemingly unforgivable mistake when I asked our waiter to please cut the steak into smaller sizes and to cook it medium-well. I basically got a lecture on how the bisteka is supposed to be served and eaten. :-) (a slice of lemon was served with it and the lemon juice gives it the extra zing)

    For those who will be trying an authentic bisteka soon… Enjoy!

    Aug 21, 2007 | 7:19 pm

     
  8. kaloudis giovanitsas says:

    Hello!
    I am a owner of a restaurant in Greece .
    I would like to know if you export bisteka in Greece so as to order!
    Waiting for you reply

    Jul 9, 2008 | 1:28 am

     
  9. dr. n. saropala says:

    Recently went to Tuscany and fell in love with the Chianina steak. How can I import genuine chianina steak to Thailand? I’m most grateful for your advice

    Apr 21, 2009 | 3:21 pm

     
 

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