Bistecca alla Fiorentina! One hell of a steak!

This Florentine-styled T-bone steak dish uses beef sourced from the region’s Chianina breed of cattle. In the world of steaks few can equal a T-bone cut from a Chianina side of beef as this large cattle breed’s meat is revered, and rightly so! Here’s how to make the most of your T-bone…

Bistecca alla Fiorentina! One hell of a steak!
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To make Bistecca alla Fiorentina for four, you will need:

  • Two best quality T-bones 40mm thick (about 900g each)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Lemons
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt

Preparing steaks this thick requires a new mindset – once you’re committed to this meal, buy the best meat available. My giant T-bones were bought from Dirk’s in Durban, an artisanal butchery quite different from the supermarket variety. 
A T-bone is not just another hunk of red meat. It is a delicious combination of porterhouse on one side, and tenderloin on the other. As you can see from the picture, the steaks I chose show a bit of marbling which adds to their general flavour.

A 40mm thick T-bone is one hell of a chunk of meat and as such demands close attention during the cooking process.
Begin by lightly coating the room-temperature steaks with extra-virgin olive oil, heavily sprinkled with coarsely ground black pepper and lightly sprinkled with salt – hold the salt if you care about your blood pressure.

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If you elect, as I did, to braai the steaks, bear in mind that any attempt at standardisation is folly. Everyone’s fire is different and all braai artists believe passionately in their own special craft and magic. So here’s an attempt to stick to braai basics. You want a fire of red hot coals or glowing embers – what you don’t want are flames. The ideal braai here is a hot, dry, heat – not a veld fire partially controlled by intermittent showers of lager.

Start by placing the meat close to the heat. This allows the meat’s blood sugars to caramelise creating a thin, delicious crust. Turn the meat after a minute or two, ensuring that both sides get equal treatment. Raise the grill about 120mm and continue the process, turning the steaks every minute. While labour intensive, this is well worth the trouble. Use tongs as the turning tool rather than a fork, as it is best to keep the juices inside the meat.

About 10 to 14 minutes is sufficient to produce a rare Bistecca alla Fiorentina. (And for this blood-stained carnivore, rare is the only way to go.) Bear in mind, that with meat this
thick some cooking will continue for a few minutes after its removed from the fire. So let the steak stand for five minutes, then squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over both surfaces and serve.

900g is a hell of a lot of meat, despite the big bone in the middle. Two diners can comfortably share a T-bone this size, which should be served with any combination of white beans, green peas or a glorious brandy-enhanced risotto. And what’s to drink you ask? Well, my suggestion, and I suspect you’ll approve, is a top of the line heavy Shiraz to complement the steak.