Italy isn’t a nation of beef lovers, with one significant exception: bistecca alla Fiorentina, a Tuscan institution unto itself.
On paper, this iconic dish seems like nothing more than a porterhouse or T-bone steak that’s seasoned with salt and pepper, grilled over an open flame, drizzled with olive oil (an optional step), and served with lemon wedges (also optional). But when premium beef is used and properly grilled, this classic lives up to its reputation, and then some. (In Tuscany, the dish is usually made with beef from the Chianina or Maremmana breeds, which makes a big difference.) As porterhouse fans know, the cut appeals because it’s actually two cuts in one, with some meat from the filet, a buttery, tender muscle, and some from the more developed and full-flavored strip, also known as shell steak or sirloin.
One of the keys to grilling bistecca alla Fiorentina properly is to stand the beef on the bone side for a portion of the cooking time to ensure even cooking throughout the enormous piece of meat. Also, even if you usually oil steaks before grilling them, do not do that here, because the size of the cut, with its greater-than-average surface area and fat content, increases the possibility of flare-ups and the presence of oil on the steak can result in an almost gasoline-like aroma that will ruin it. I also do not recommend using a gas grill; wood or charcoal is essential to getting the authentic Fiorentina char and flavor.
I punch up this version of this dish by seasoning it with rosemary salt, although you can by all means season as most cooks do, with salt and pepper. For an added flourish, grill the lemon halves you’ll be serving alongside the steak. Fagioliall ’Uccelletto a traditional Tuscan accompaniment.
- Yield: 6 to 8 Servings
- 2 porterhouse steaks, 36 to 42 ounces each
- Rosemary Salt
- Extra virgin olive oil, for serving
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 lemons, halved
- repare a charcoal grill for grilling, banking the coals on one side and let them burn until covered with white ash.
- Season the beef all over with the rosemary salt (or with kosher salt and pepper).
- For rare beef, set the steaks over direct heat and grill, turning once with tongs, until nice grill marks form and the meat is charred, about 10 minutes per side. Then use the tongs to stand the steaks up over the cooler side of the grill (the bones will help them stand on their own) and grill for another 5 minutes. For medium-rare, add 3 to 5 minutes to the cooking time for each of the three sides, or cook a bit more for more well done. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Slice the meat and divide among 6 to 8 dinner plates. Drizzle the slices with oil and finish with a sprinkling of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Set a lemon half alongside each portion and serve.