About Beth

Beth
Beth, along with her husband, Mike, is co-owner of two Italian Deli/Markets in St. Louis - Viviano’s Festa Italiano. When not creating yummy new menu items for the deli, she’s the pediatric research lab supervisor at Washington University School of Medicine. Read more out about Viviano’s Festa Italiano.

About Irene

Irene
Irene loves to think, read and dream about food. She enjoys cooking & eating in general. Although she demures about her talents, Irene has a finely-tuned palate that her friends envy. She bakes on occasion. The rest of the time she's creating memories with her family and friends. . . or she's learning a new needlecraft technique.

About Deborah

Deborah
Deborah is a wife, mother, grandmother, traveler, bootlegger, and a very poor speller! As Victor Hazan so eloquently puts it, Deborah has chosen Umbria to be the home of her soul. When she can’t be there in body, she spends her free time cooking & reading about Italy. She blogs mostly about food and about trips – past and future – here: Old Shoes New Trip.

About Doug

Doug
Doug lives in Eastern Ontario in a farmhouse built in 1903. He is a retired teacher with four adult children, a wife, a son-in-law, two Irish step-grandchildren and one grandson who he is lucky to hang with a lot. He has way too many books. Doug also blogs at To Slow Time Down.

About Cindy

Cindy
Cindy lives in Eagle River, Alaska where her freezer is always full of salmon, halibut & shrimp. Cindy participates in several regular cooking challenges. You can read more about her cooking and life in the last frontier on her blog, Baked Alaska.

About Sandi

Sandi
Sandi is a true Southerner, but a traveler & Italian cook at heart. She lives in Alabama and knows more about fried green tomatoes than fricassees. Her family owned the WhistleStop Café for many years. Sandi also blogs at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking.

About Jan

Jan
Jan, a serious home cook, has owned “Essentials” since 1992. She is passionate about all things Italian, especially the cuisine & the language. Jan blogs about her travels (next trip Italy May/June of 2010) at: Keep your Feet in the Street.

About Jerry

Jerry
Jerry is a food obsessed Canadian. He learned to love Italian food as a child while eating the meals prepared by his Napolitano uncle. He learned to cook Italian foods by watching his uncle cook these feasts for the family. This love of Italian food has been honed through serious personal experimentation in eating and cooking. Willing to try most anything once, Jerry isn't so sure about tripe! Jerry also blogs at Jerry's Thoughts, Musings, and Rants!

About Palma

Palma
Palma is a Marriage & Family Therapist in Palm Desert, CA. She’s an Italian-American with a passion for cooking, entertaining, & travel to Italy. She’s always planning her next culinary adventure to Italia on her blog, Palmabella's Passions

About Kim

Kim
Kim is our permanent sub and the image above gives you a good idea of the look on her face when she realized she was drafted. Kim loves to eat, drink, travel and cook - probably in that order. When she's not here, you can find her organizing and leading food, wine and beer tours in Europe as co-owner and operator of GrapeHops or blogging at What I Really Think.

« Vitello Tonnato – Cold Sliced Veal with Tuna Sauce | Main | Pan-Broiled Steaks with Marsala and Chili Pepper »

La Fiorentina - Grilled T-Bone Steak, Florentine Style

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What I desperately wanted was to recreate a meal from my first trip to Italy in 1998. A meal that struck a deep emotional chord, and has taken on mythical proportions in my memory. It was the meal that converted me from a casual appreciator of Italian cooking to an adherent.

This happened in a little neighborhood cucina in Cortona named Tacconi Angiolo. If you venture away from the tourist trail, it's one of those places you find in neighborhoods all over Italy. It doesn't have a menu. You are served what was being cooked that day. You share the dining room with the owner’s neighbors, mostly workmen.

Nonna was the cook, her son manned the bar and her daughter-in-law helped her in the kitchen. When we were there, the ‘front-man’ for the entire operation was a Jack Russell terrier named Michael. Michael was the maître d’. He escorted you to one of the dining room’s six tables, then sat next to your chair waiting for ‘tips’.

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The meal we were served that day was "Bistecca alla Fiorentina, Spinaci & Patate Saltate". A t-bone grilled over a wood fire. A partially wilted spinach dish that was quickly sautéed in garlic infused olive oil and dressed with a squeeze of lemon juice. And potato slices fried in a skillet with branches of rosemary laying on top of them as they cooked. The picture below is my attempt to recreate that dish.

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Sometimes you just can’t have what you want. Sometimes you have to make choices based on the available options – none of them perfect.

Perfect would have been that I was able to get my hands on two lovely grass fed, dry-aged t-bone or porterhouse steaks from the Italian Chianina breed. Perfect didn’t happen. But not because I didn’t try. I even called the American Chianina Association, which happens to be headquartered in Missouri. But their members appear to only breed and raise Chianina for fun and show. Not for food. Although for some reason, some of them do cross breed them with Angus for food production.

So, faced with the inability to buy Chianina at any price, I began to search for grass fed, dry aged t-bone or porterhouse no matter the breed. New snag. Very little grass fed, also very little dry aged. I could have my grass fed t-bone if I was willing to give up the dry aging. I could have the dry aging if I was willing to give up the t-bone. I weighed my options and decided that dry aging trumps cut. I settled for ribeye.

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The ribeyes were nicely marbled. The dry aging produced the deep rich flavor you'd expect. But, the tenderness of a bone-in cut was absent. The meat was juicy, but not meltingly so.This was a delicious steak. But it didn't hold a candle to the Bistecca alla Fiorentina of my memory. Next time, I'll go for the grass fed t-bone and skip the dry aging. Compromise stinks.

Or, perhaps, secretly, I am relieved that the ideal remains unattained.
Perhaps it is much more about the place and time, than about the actual meal.
Perhaps it is the memory of the meal is actually a metaphor for the beginning of my love affair with all things Italian.

Comments (4)

Yes, the magic of having eaten it in Cortona enhanced the taste, but yours look delicious to me!

Deborah, I love the sentiments expressed in your last paragraph. Brava to you!

Ray Anne:

The Pomodori have made me think about food and travel in an entirely new way. Grazie.

Deborah responds:
Thanks for that feedback, Ray Anne. Since the majority of our group are from SlowTrav, we actually can't separate food and travel in our thinking. So, we're glad you "get us".

Marcella Hazan:

I can't comment on what you had in Cortona, although these days true Chianina rarely lands in a neighborhood trattoria. It was evidently a lucky night, Deborah. You saw I think an earlier post in which I described our Chianina experience. Victor used to get Chianina whenever he wanted when he was a bachelor and lived on a hill that overlooked Florence, but it steadily became a difficult item, except in special shops and restaurants.

Your steaks look like Choice. Prime is better for this treatment, and you should be able to get ribeyes with the bone in, which are tastier. I know that grass-fed is supposed to be the better choice, but all the grass-fed steak I have had from Whole Foods have been rather on the dry side.

Deborah responds: Interestingly, Marcella, when I talked to someone at the American Chianina Association, she told me that they fielded calls almost every day from some chef or other who had been trained in Italy and wanted to find a source for pure bred Chianina here. She said that the association was working on the issue. Whatever that means.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 2, 2010 6:44 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Vitello Tonnato – Cold Sliced Veal with Tuna Sauce .

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