THE ART OF ITALIAN DINING
Almost every i have somebody coming up to me and asking what is my favorite dish to both eat and cook to which I sincerely reply “It is the one i yet have to cook and have.”
You see, cooking is a never ending art where the Chef is on a perpetual quest for better quality, better flavors, better
techniques. Don’t take me wrong: I love to cook many different dishes and I like to eat as many but there is always something in my mind that knows something grater, something more satisfying, something more armonious in flavors is out there ready for me to discover.
Only one exception exist for me: a ‘BISTECCA’ or ‘FLORENTINE STEAK’. Of all the dishes in my repertoire, a great steak is the pinnacle of achievement. So, here i am dishing out my ‘ten commandments’ for the ultimate Tuscan T-bone.
Of course the secret to great steak…is great meat and Tuscany is famous for its Chianina cows, the oldest breed in the world. Like i wrote a while back, Chianina is not only ‘buona’ (delicious) but also very ‘bella’ (beautiful) – (BELLA & BUONA)
So i am giving you a few rules that you should follow in order to get out one of the most decadent meals you can ever have. I promise you that after making this the skill to grill will forever be in your bones.
And remember that it is usually the easiest recipes that are the hardest to reproduce!! Spend more time grocery shopping and less cooking. The source and quality of your ingredients is the number one priority in Italian cooking.
Buon Appetito, Amici!
THE ULTIMATE TUSCAN STEAK
Get a very hot grill going. Then mix together a bunch of freshly cracked pepper and some kosher (coarse) salt. The proportion of salt to pepper is about 3/4 pepper to 1/4 salt, or to taste. It is better to be conservative with the salt. (Our 3/4 pepper mix is actually less salty than Kimball’s original recipe suggests.) You will need to make enough of this mixture to encrust both sides of each of your steaks. (Yes, you may need to grind a lot of pepper if you do it yourself, but this is the only effort for the whole recipe!) Then you press your steak in the mixture and make sure it is well covered.
When the steaks are ready to go, check the grill. The grill should be so hot that you cannot hold your hand 5″ over it for more than a three-one-thousand count. Oil the grill a little. Then you grill the steaks three to four minutes per side. We do 3 1/2 minutes per side for 1″ thick meat. The salt/pepper crust will seal in the juices of the steak perfectly and add tons of flavor. Yes, this recipe is made for a rare or medium rare steak. It may be great for well-done too, but we haven’t tried it. When done, bring inside and put the steaks on dinner plates.
The last crucial touch is that you quarter a lemon whilst the steak grills. Then you serve each person’s steak with two lemon wedges to squeeze over their steak as they eat it.
THE 10 SECRETS TO THE ULTIMATE TUSCAN STEAK
1. Let It Warm Up
Take the steak out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature about an hour before you cook it. Skip this step and the outcome will disappoint. The outside will be charred and the inside will be mostly gray meat with a little nugget of red in the middle.
2. Consider the Thickness
One-and-a-half to two inches is not some arbitrary measurement when it comes to hefty cuts like rib eye or New York strip. Rather, this thickness ensures that your steak will achieve the perfect char on the outside just as the interior reaches the ideal temperature.
3. Salt, Salt, and Salt Again
A few hours before you grill, lightly sprinkle both sides of the steak with salt; put it on a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet. The salt helps the cells retain water, guaranteeing juicy meat. Before placing it on the grill, pat dry with paper towels, and generously salt the meat again. (Use kosher salt; the bigger grains make for a superior crust.) Finally, pass some fleur de sel at the table to sprinkle over the sliced steak for more flavor.
4. Crack Your Own Pepper
Pepper not only adds an element of spice to steak, it also adds crunch. You want a combination of fine, medium, and big pieces. To achieve this, pour whole peppercorns in a resealable plastic bag and crush them with a heavy skillet.
5. Build a Two-Zone Fire
You want a hot side to sear the meat and a not-so-hot side to finish the cooking. If you’ve got a gas grill, that’s easy: Keep one burner on low while the others go full blast. If you’re cooking over coals, use your tongs to build a ramp of embers climbing up to one side of the grill to create high-low control.
6. Feel the Heat
How do you know when the coals are ready? Once the flames have died down and the coals are glowing orange, use the 2-2 rule: Put your hand two inches above the hottest part of the coals. If you can hold it there for two seconds–no more, no less–you’re good to grill.
7. Control Flare Ups
Dripping fat + hot coals = scorched, carcinogenic steak. Don’t use a spritz bottle of water to douse the flames; you’ll kick up ash. And putting the lid on the grill won’t smother the fire fast enough. To get that rib eye out of harm’s way, gently slide it to a flare-free area with tongs until the fire subsides. (If you throw the meat around, you’ll shake out more fat and start another fire.)
8. Use Real Charcoal
Hardwood lump charcoal burns hotter and faster than manufactured briquettes. It doesn’t matter if you use oak or mesquite, as long as it looks like it came from a tree and not construction scraps. You want your steak to taste faintly of smoke, not chemicals.
9. End the Guessing
A temperature of 125 degrees means medium-rare. Instant-read thermometers guarantee you’ll get it right.
10. Let the Meat Rest
Ten minutes of calm does wonders for a steak–no foil tent needed. Fibers relax. Juices spread. Colors are recalibrated and flavors retained. Think of it as a disco nap for protein. Remember: Patience is a virtue. You’ve come this far; do not squander porterhouse perfection.