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The Florentine steak, in the words of Aldo Fiordelli: a book that also tells us about Chianti Classico wines and territory.
The Chianti Classico has an important role in the book by food critic Aldo Fiordelli (preface by Allan Bay) “La Fiorentina. Osti, macellai e vini della vera bistecca” (“The Florentine steak. Hosts, butchers and wine of authentic steak”) – 200 pages with over 180 photographs (by Dario Garofalo), publishing house Gruppo Editoriale.
Fiordelli is an authority in the world of Italian food and wine: he’s a Florentine professional journalist, member of the steering committee of the Guida de L’Espresso, of which he has been the coordinator for Tuscany for over ten years; he also collaborates with Decanter, Corriere Fiorentino, Civiltà del Bere and La Cucina Italiana.
Fiordelli, how did you get the idea for your book?
“Because I work as a food critic, and I’m from Florence, everyone asks me where they can eat a good Florentine steak. This is a very difficult question, that gave us the idea to take a tour around Florence’s trattorias and write about it in a column. It became quite successful. When the mayor of Florence Dario Nardella proposed the traditional steak be recognised as part of UNESCO world heritage, we thought that a book could come out of our “tour”.. The first thing we discovered was that … there wasn’t yet a book written about the Fiorentina steak…”.
First of all, did you start with the right cattle breed?
“Absolutely. Today’s cuisine is all about fresh ingredients and raw material. Even the famous chef and food critic Alain Ducasse agrees on this. When it comes to steak this is even more true: lots of details are important when cooking, but – as the master butcher Vasco Tacconi says – the Florentine steak is about tasting top-quality meat. So we must start from the farms, for a healthy and excellent cow breed. We went to the breeding farm where the Chianina variety was officially born, Enrico Lagorio’s La Fratta, and we exchanged opinions with another specialist breeder, Guido Vivarelli Colonna“.
Can we call a steak Fiorentina only if it’s made from Chianina?
“No. Let’s say that a Fiorentina should at least come from a local breed. We prefer the excellent Italian Vitellone Bianco variety. These are the Apennine breeds, the Marchigiana, the Romagnola, the Calvana, the Chianina and sometimes the Piemontese. Out of these, the Chianina has certainly got some special qualities: gastronomic and technical. Being an animal that grows slowly, it’s expensive. By growing slowly it produces good cholesterol, so much so that it’s one of the few red meats that don’t contain bad cholesterol”.
How should it be cooked? Which cooking method preserve its quality?
“Oven cooking is in vogue today. The oven cooks food evenly, but this is not the right type of cooking process for the Fiorentina steak.
The steak must be cooked rare, because the whole point is to taste the good-quality meat. The important things for a beautiful Florentine steak: grill on a wood fire or charcoal, oak or olive preferably as they make ‘sweet’ embers. Not surprisingly, there is a legend that says that the best steaks were tasted in 1986, the year when many olive trees were burned after the frost in 1985”.
How thick should the steak be?
“The real Fiorentina steak was originally not as thick as we eat it today. It used to be two fingers thick, maximum two and a half fingers. Falorni says this in our book, claiming that the steaks we eat today are too thick. We now cut it four to five fingers thick to defend its authenticity. In Tuscany we’re basically defending “rare” cooking, that is unique to our region. Outside Tuscany people try to replicate our steaks, but they don’t cut it as thick as we do, or leave it as bloody on the inside. It’s only in Tuscany that you really find a steak so thick and rare”.
In the book four butchers make an appearance (two are from the Chianti region): Dario Cecchini, Stefano Bencistà Falorni, Simone Fracassi, Luca Menoni …
“We’ve interviewed them all. The book tries to tell stories and make people talk, so that the readers can form their own opinion. They also talk about their lives, and the relationship they’ve had with meat since they were children. It’s a gold mine of anecdotes”.
Another part of the book is about pairing wine with the Fiorentina. Can you give us some ideas?
“In the book we mention several wines, including many Chianti Classico. Surely Sangiovese is a good match for the steak, especially when it has less alcohol, so it doesn’t clash with the pepper that goes well on the steak. Acidity, dryness and tannins balance a good Fiorentina, that must always have a good bit of fat. Having said that, a good wine goes well with everything”.
About Chianti olive oil: a little olive oil on it? Yes or No?
“Why not, it depends on your taste. Even when it comes to condiments, there are so many curiosities in the book: but I say, when you have a nice new olive oil …why keep it away from a Fiorentina?”.
In short, where can we eat this wonderful steak?
“The book offers a sort of guide to the best restaurants and the best trattorias where you can taste a good Fiorentina. In Florence, of course, but also in Tuscany, Milan, London, Paris and New York. In the Chianti area? At Rinuccio 1180, the Cantine Antinori, and at Dario Cecchini’s restaurant in Panzano in Chianti. I’d also have a couple more addresses, but for now I keep them to myself … “.