Travelling back from a week away in Scotland we called at a fantastic farm shop. Kilnford Farm Shop sits on the outskirts of Dumfries, just off the A75. There was so much we could have chosen, but the 28 day matured T-bone joint seemed to have our name written all over it! In the UK, the T-Bone is also know as a Porterhouse steak but in Italy we would have been thinking Bistecca alla Fiorentina.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina comes from the loin, below the ribcage. If the cut contains both the sirloin and the fillet then it has been taken from just below the ribs. As you move closer to the rump the cut just contains the Sirloin. Outside Tuscany a Bistecca alla Fiorentina normally contains the fillet. In Tuscany however, and particularly in Florence you may be offered bistecca nel filetto (with the fillet) or bistecca nella costola (without the fillet) (ref 1).
We asked for a piece around 3cm thick which delivered around 1Kg of the finest Galloway Beef! And our piece was most certainly bistecca nel filetto!
Classically, Bistecca alla Fiorentina comes from the enormous Chianina cattle that have been farmed in the Chiana Valley in Tuscany for more than 2000 years. Our beef was reared in Scotland, in Galloway by the owner of the farm shop. These Belted Galloway cattle are much smaller and really suited to the area in which they are reared. They are allowed to grow slowly on rough pasture and only receive a limited amount of concentrated cereal feed as they reach maturity to encourage marbling in the meat (2). It is a real privilege to be able to enjoy meat produced in such a low input and environmentally sustainable system here in the UK.
Traditionally, a Bistecca alla Fiorentina is cooked very close to the wood embers from room temperature. There should be little or no seasoning and it is said that it should only be turned once after 3-5 minutes. It is then finished standing upright on the bone for between 5-7 minutes.
We have previously cooked our version of Bistecca alla Fiorentina using a reverse sear technique. This time too we were not completely following the Tuscan tradition to the letter either. The purpose of cooking closer to the embers is to develop an aromatic crust with the Maillard reaction. We were going to do the same but using our stainless steel plancha. This encourages an even colour over the whole steak rather than just on the stripped grill marks, as described here. (My personal view is that neat grill marks represents chef vanity rather than cooking excellence!!!! But please feel free to differ!)).
The BGE was set for direct cooking with the Plancha at around 230C dome temperature. The steak had been warmed to room temperature, dried (to enhance the Maillard reaction) and very lightly salted just before putting onto the heat. As we were on a plancha rather than using open heat, the sub-dermal fat layer on the edge of the steak was first coloured by direct contact with the hot plancha as in the first picture. This quickly releases some fat which may ignite. Be carful not to burn the fat layer.
The flat sides of the steak were then exposed to the heat of the plancha. Although I tried to resist the temptation to turn the meat more than once, this is much less important when you are not trying to realign grill marks! We turned this every couple of minutes.
As soon as a good colour has been developed on both sides of the steak the meat was stood vertically on the T-bone itself. This is said to make sure that any traces of blood (actually myoglobin) have been eliminated from the bone. In reality though the bone also acts as a thermal shield whilst the rest of the meat roasts for 5-7 mins. It is worth taking a measure of the core temperature to make sure this is not done for too long.
Traditionally the core of a Bistecca alla Fiorentina is served between blue and rare – and certainly only warm rather than cooked! Our preference though is to serve it a little warmer and so just rare.
Our core temperature after 5 minutes standing was still only in the high 20s Centigrade. Whilst the temperature would rise by a few degrees during resting we decided to give it a conventional oven finish. Our oven of choice here would clearly be the BGE. Sitting the steak on a bed of Rosemary in a cold handleless pan and putting this back on the BGE would safely allow 5 mins or so more roasting without over cooking. This was a technique we first came across on a Theo Randall cooking course.
After around 5 mins the core temperature had risen to around 45C and was ready to rest. It was taken out of the BGE and wrapped in foil and covered with a tea towel to rest and keep warm. Whilst resting some parboiled potatoes were roasted off in the BGE using the residual heat.
Once fully rested, the meat was a joy to carve. Carved at right angles to the bone separating the sirloin and the fillet. This is often just served by itself on a sharing cutting board with some lemon, the fillet and the sirloin surrounding T-bone.
We chose to serve it plated. Separating the sirloin and the fillet we served with the roasted potatoes and a mix of French beans and semidried tomatoes in oil.
This was a truly fabulous dish using carefully reared and butchered meat from the UK, every bit as good as any we have had in Tuscany. This beautiful dish was cooked using the principals if not the absolutely identical techniques used for a classical Bistecca alla Fiorentina. Whether you see this as an homage to the classical Bistecca alla Fiorentina, or as a great way to cook some wonderful Scottish steak really doesn’t matter! It was a great dish ………………
………………which ever way you see it do give it a go!!
Scottish Bistecca alla Fiorentina
A fine Scottish T bone from a Belted Galloway Heffer given the Bistecca alla Fiorentina treatment
- A T-bone steak approx 3cm thick (1Kg) Ideally matured for at least 21 days
- Finishing salt
- Step 1 Remove the steak from the fridge ideally at least 2 hours before cooking to bring to room temperature. Set up the BGE for plancha cooking either with a dedicated plancha or a cast iron frying pan that will allow the lid to close – allow to stabilise with a dome temp around 230C
- Step 2 Dry the steak and very lightly salt it. Expose the fatty edge of the steak to the plancha but be carful not to burn the fat layer.
- Step 3 Turn the steak onto one side and press the steak down to make good contact. Either turn the meat every minute or so until the surface has good colour – or if feeling brave just turn once after 3-5 mins and repeat on the other side. As soon as a good colour has been developed on both sides of the steak stand the steak vertically on the T-bone itself. Roast in this position for 5-7 mins. If going for a traditional ‘blue’ finish the steak may well be at that stage at this point (check with a thermoprobe)
- Step 4 If wanting to serve the core rare or medium rare it could be left in this vertical position for longer. Alternatively, as we did here sit the steak on a bed of Rosemary in a cold handleless pan and put this back on the BGE until the core temperature has risen to around 45C
- Step 5 Remove the steak and wrap in foil then cover with a tea towel to rest and keep warm. Once rested (at least 10 mins) carve at right angles to the bone separating the sirloin and the fillet. Serve on a cutting board with some lemon, the fillet and the sirloin surrounding T-bone or plate with vegetables of your choice