Recipe Match for Sangiovese: Bistecca Fiorentina
Los Angeles chef Nancy Silverton is bringing a bit of Italy to your table with recipes from her cookbook, Chi Spacca (named after the restaurant), that are certain to impress when you share dinner with friends and family. For a main course, Silverton offers this steak dish based on a Tuscan classic, topped with a drizzle of olive oil and flaky sea salt to make it extra irresistible.
“Chi Spacca is designed like a big open home kitchen; when our customers walk in, they see everything happening right in front of them, and very often, they see a bistecca Fiorentina (or several) standing upright on the grill. The way we achieve the even, rare center is by grilling the steak over a hot fire and then letting it stand on the bone over indirect heat for a long time,” says Silverton.
- One 2 1/2- to 3-inch-thick porterhouse steak (preferably dry-aged; about 3 pounds)
- 1/4 cup whole black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finishing-quality extra-virgin olive oil
- Flaky sea salt
1. Remove the steak from the refrigerator and place it on a baking sheet or in a baking dish. Set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour to come to room temperature.
2. Prepare a wood, charcoal or gas grill for direct and indirect heat.
3. Very coarsely grind the peppercorns with a mortar or spice grinder. Pour 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the steak and massage with your hands to coat the meat with the oil. Sprinkle the kosher salt evenly on all sides of the steak. Pour the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over the steak and massage to coat. (Silverton applies oil before and after the salt on this steak to ensure the salt adheres to the meat during the long cooking time.) Sprinkle the pepper evenly on all sides of the steak and press it in with your hands to adhere.
4. Place the steak on the grill over direct heat for 5 to 6 minutes, until both sides are deeply caramelized with a thin crust. Move the steak to the indirect heat side of the grill, standing the steak on the bone with the larger section of the meat (the loin, or New York strip) facing the hot fire and the smaller tenderloin facing away from the fire. Cook the steak standing up for 14 to 20 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer registers 100° F for ultrarare (or cook to between 120° F and 130° F for rare, or higher, to your liking) when inserted deep into the side of the steak.
5. Transfer the steak to a cutting board to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
6. Place your knife along the side of the bone that runs down the center of the steak and run the knife down the side of the bone to cut off the loin. Cut down the other side of the bone to remove the tenderloin. Place the bone standing upright at the end of an extra-large platter or cutting board. Slice the loin and tenderloin 1-inch thick. Slide your knife under the slices and then transfer the slices to the platter or cutting board, fanning the slices out so they look like they slid off the bone and onto the platter. Slide your knife under the tenderloin and fan the slices out next to the loin slices, as if they slid down the other side of the bone. Drizzle the finishing-quality olive oil and crush the flaky sea salt between your fingers over the steak and the bone. (Silverton seasons the bone along with the meat because she expects people to pick it up and eat it.) Serves 2 to 4.
Bistecca Fiorentina showcases Chianina cattle in the signature dish of Florence. “Chianinas are raised in Tuscany, including on the Fontodi winery estate, where I saw these massive beasts last summer,” says Wine Spectator senior editor Alison Napjus. “Flaccianello, Fontodi’s flagship bottling, is a perfect pairing. It’s pure Sangiovese aged in French oak, so it has weight and structure that a more straightforward version of the grape wouldn’t show, as well as a bright spine of acidity and a sanguine iron note that recommends it to beef.”
- Fontodi Colli della Toscana Centrale Flaccianello 2016 (97 points, $159)
- Castello di Ama Chianti Classico San Lorenzo Gran Selezione 2016 (95, $60)
- Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino 2015 (93, $40)
How to Get It
True bistecca is tricky to source unless you’re on very good terms with your butcher. “According to the unwritten rules of the Tuscan kitchen, a bistecca Fiorentina must be at least 2 inches thick and weigh a minimum of 1 kilo (35 ounces, or 2 1/4 pounds). Ask your butcher for a porterhouse steak (preferably dry-aged), cut 2 1/2 to 3 inches thick and weighing 2 1/2 to 3 pounds,” recommends Silverton.
But New York’s Debragga, a favorite of star chefs, offers fantastic meat via mail order. The two-pack of dry-aged 36-ounce porterhouses will feel and taste like a celebration (debragga.com; $190).