Carne Chianina The king of the Bovine for the king of Steaks - The Florentine
Gourmet foods, great wines and beautiful lands are not the only reason to visit Tuscany. For those of us in the Southwest there is an additional attraction, the king of the bovine world, the Chianina. The origins date back well into the Roman Empire over 2200 years ago. The noble and maestros Chianina paraded with the Roman Legion. Their powerful stature leading the carts added to the air of dominance of the Empire itself. The porcelain white mantel made this beast of the farmlands a favorite among both the Etruscans and Romans. Two thousand years of breeding have not eliminated the prehistoric characteristics. The largest on record of this animal weighed in well over 4,000 lbs and was eight feet high.
Still today many farmers use the Chianina bulls in the deep valleys of Tevere and Chianina to till the lands where mechanical means cannot operate. No hormones are allowed in these animals and the animals graze for 3 to 7 years on the free range before making it to the butcher’s shop. Local recipes proudly indicate that they use Chianina. It is known world wide for its lean meat and sweet flavor. Others may have tasted Chianina without knowing it. The famous Florentine Steak can only be made from the Chianina.
The Florentine, or Fiorentina, in the US known as the T-Bone in its original dimensions can only be cut from a large animal. The steak must be a minimum of 2 lbs while the thickness is less the two fingers (about 1 inch). It is in the festival of the Tears of San Lorenzo in Florence that we find the origins of the steak. During the festivities the Fiorentini would roast veal quarters over an open pit flame as part of the celebration.
The preparation of the Fiorentina is simple. No marinating, no poking with a fork or pounding, just use a spatula and lift from underneath. Just before cooking prepare the steak with a bit of salt and pepper on each side. Over a vivid heat source, hot but not flaming, a steak is placed on the grill. The steak is seared and cooks on that side until the upper surface starts to glaze. The Fiorentina is then flipped and allowed to cook until the desired doneness is achieved. Let the steak sit for about 3 minutes before serving. Do not turn it back over, do not overcook. This method will lock the natural juices in the meat, accentuating the flavor.
Some great wines to accompany the Fiorentina are:
- Borgonero – Borgo Scopeto 2001 – Super Tuscan
- Brunello di Montalcino - Coldisole 2000
- Brunello di Montalcino – Manachiara Silvo Nardi 1997 DOCG
- Chianti Classico – Castello di Monastero 2001
- Chianti Superiore – Castello di Monastero 2001
- Ghiaie della Furba - Capezzana 2000
- Guado al Tasso Antinori
- Camartina 2001 - Querciabella – Super Tuscan without the bite
- Chianti Classico 2003 - Querciabella - Super Chianti from an Artisan of Wine
- Lodola Nuova 2000 - Tenimenti Ruffino - Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
- Modus - Ruffino 2000 – Designer wine from Tuscany
- Romitorio Di Santedame 2000 – Tenimenti Ruffino
- Le Pergole Torte – Montevertine - One of the best unloved Tuscan wines
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