Monday, April 16, 2007

Tuscan Fiorentina

We recently took a drive among the rolling hills of the Chianti region of Tuscany. It strikes me whenever I go to another region of Italy just how different the food offerings are from place to place. We traded in our glasses of Oltrepo Pavese for Chianti glasses and a new attitude on red meat. Here in Lombardy, it seems that meat is not the great specialty that it is in Tuscany. "Roast Beef" is sold in thin slices that you're supposed to pan fry and people generally seem suspicious of rare meat, preferring a rather pinkish-grey tone to their steaks. (Fish, however is sublime.) So it was with great relish that we headed to Tuscany, the capitol of the Fiorentina (it means "from Florence") steak, a.k.a. the T-Bone! Yum. Now that I live abroad, eating a good, rare steak transports me back to Sweet Home Chicago, "butcher to the world", so I felt at home in Tuscany. Here are Giuseppe and Paolo about to enjoy their rare, 2-3 inch-thick Fiorentina. They serve them so large that the menu suggests Fiorentina as a main dish for two.

In Tuscany, they prize (and advertize) the razza Chianina breed of steer as much as we do the Black Angus. These big, gorgeous white animals have been bred in Italy since ancient times, were used for sacrifice by the Etruscans and then by the Romans; they have been beasts of burden and food for millenia. A few years ago, the Fiorentina was banned since part of the bone could contain spinal cord fluid and thus endanger the eater with Mad Cow Disease. One butcher and self-named glutton, Dario Cecchini held a funeral for the bistecca alla fiorentina as a symbolic protest against the prohibition. Luckily, they have gone a long way to reducing the risk of the disease and the steaks are now back on the market and absolutely delicious!


Blogger J at said...

Mmmm. I love dead cow meat. Yummy. My favorite is a nice juicy rib eye, with just salt and pepper, grilled medium rare. Mmmm. With a big baked potato and some fresh veggies. Of course, I can't EAT that much, but I always start out thinking I can. Rib Eye is expensive, though, $16 a lb at our local butcher, so I wait for it to go on sale.

6:23 PM  
Blogger ML said...

I'm going to have to agree with J on all of the above. And yes, ribeye can get expensive!

That Fiorentina looks absolutely mouthwatering!!

9:59 PM  
Blogger nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I also agree with J.

Okay so who is Guiseppe? He distracted me a little from looking at the steak. :)

10:29 PM  
Blogger hellomelissa said...

we ALL agree with j!

at least now we know "where's the beef?" it's in tuscany!

10:53 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

My man would die for that much meat on one plate: what a gorgeous T-Bone! I'm so glad you posted a picture of the Chianina. I'd read about them, but never had a chance to even see a picture, and now I know what the writers mean about how lovely and white they are.

3:35 AM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi J, that sounds like a fab dinner!

Hi ML, I agree, and I een think it's cheaper here!

Hi Ragazza, Hmmm... I'll pass on the information... ;)

Hi Melissa, Ha ha! Where's the beef, I just loved that old lady!

Hi Christina, These beasts are beautiful and HUGE! and (obviously) whiter than white, they're the most salient things in the countryside and you see them all around.

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tuscany, the best region of Italy!
(I live between the land of Chianti and Brunello: a paradise)

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, that t-bone looks goooooood.

That's the Dario from Bill Buford's book Heat, right? I remember from the book that this extremely proud Tuscan butcher got his Chianina from Spain, but I was unde the impression that it was because nobody raised good Chianina in Tuscany anymore. Glad to hear they are back on the market!

5:05 PM  
Blogger Lotus Reads said...

Ok, I'm not crazy about that much meat, but my hubby would give an arm and a leg to share Giuseppe's steak! :)

7:45 PM  
Blogger Tracie P. said...

i LOVE me some chianina! there's nothing like it. have you ever had la razza piemontese? there's a slow food restaurant in ischia where they serve the piemontese...with a bottle of barbaresco one cannot go wrong.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Anonymous, Lucky you! Thanks for visiting.

Hi Scott, Yep, that's him. Pretty famous for butcher, huh?

Hi Tracie, Biggest piece of meat I ever saw was in Turin and yeah, it was of the razza piemontese. Amazing. I got as far as the boillito misto, no steak though.

9:41 PM  
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