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Bistecca alla Fiorentina

This famed Florentine steak is the exception to the general rule that although Tuscans eat meat often, the portions are relatively small. These steaks are gargantuan—each one large enough for two generous portions. Traditionally, the meat came from the herds of cattle that graze in Val di Chiana, between Arezzo and Florence. Today, any high-quality beef is used, but the cooking of the meat is still subject to a few easy, but stringent, rules. Each steak, for two people, must weigh between 1 1/4 and 1 3/4 pounds, be about an inch thick, and contain its T-bone, fillet and tenderloin. You are never asked how you want your meat cooked, for an authentic bistecca is always well browned on the outside and rare inside. A fresh juniper branch is usually added to the coals to scent the meat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 T-bone or porterhouse steak, cut from the rib with the bone, 1 1/2 lb.
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Lemon wedges for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups baby arugula

Directions:

Take the meat out of the refrigerator about 2 hours before cooking it. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Oil the grill rack.

Rub the meat on both sides with the olive oil. (Do not add any salt at this point.)

Using tongs, lay the steak directly over the hottest part of the fire or the heat elements, about 5 inches above the fire. Cook until browned and juicy on the first side, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the steak and sprinkle with salt. Cook on the second side until browned and juicy, 5 to 7 minutes more. Then turn the meat over once again and sprinkle with salt.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and season generously with pepper. Garnish with lemon wedges and the arugula and serve immediately. Serves 2.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).