Bistecca All Fiorentina 1-2-3

 

Florentine steak or Bistecca Alla Fiorentina is the holy grail of Tuscan cuisine. Yet, what you get in most run of the mill restaurants is a flimsy 1/2 inch piece of beef with no pedigree or taste. Here is my method for making the best Fiorentina possible, without going to Tuscany and buying the real Chianina beef steak.

Step 1 – Call your butcher and get a nice Prime grade T-bone or Porterhouse steak. It needs to be at least 2 inches thick (enough for 2 people and the one pictured here), but even 3 or 3.5 inches is better (if you have more people to feed). I know this is not cheap, but I only do this once or twice a year and it is so worth it.

Step 2 – Make an herb mixture with 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage, 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary and 1 Tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley. Add enough extra virgin olive oil to make a loose paste. Season the steak with kosher salt and let it rest at room temperature for and hour. You do not want this to be cold when you grill it, so let it rest till it warms up.

Step 3 – Light a charcoal grill, rub the steak with the herb mixture and when the grate is very hot grill your steak. It should grill till nice and charred on both sides but still rare inside. About 10 minutes on the first side and another 8 on the second should do (unless you are grilling a cold steak, in that case I cannot help you). Let it rest for ten minutes, carve, drizzle with good olive oil and serve with sauteed garlicky spinach dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

 

Note: In this recipe, the olive oil added at the end and mixed with the spinach is very important. So, get the best you can afford Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

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Basque Style Halibut with Clams in Salsa Verde – “Merluza” con Almejas en Salsa Verde

Merluzza en salsa verde is a traditional Spanish dish from the Basque region it consists of thick chunks of a fish called Merluzza, Hake in English, gently seared and simmered in a mixture of olive oil (lots of it), garlic (lots of that too) and parsley (yeap, also a healthy dose). It is also traditional to add some clams into the mix towards the end. The clams open up and release more of their aromatic liquor into the cazuela

Speaking of a cooking vessel for this dish, a Spanish cazuela is traditional. The one I have is actually made in Portugal and bought at Sur La Table. It is basically a clay deep dish not too different from a Terracotta dish. The dish is glazed on the inside only and cooks the fish evenly and gently so the firm white flesh flakes but is still very juicy and luscious. My dish looks very similar to this one in shape and size (about 12 inches wide and 3 inches deep)

Cazuela

The recipe I used comes from Anya Von Bremzen’s fantastic “The New Spanish Table”. I fell in love with Spanish culture and it’s food after a short visit to Barcelona-Roses in 2005 to dine at elbulli, and this book with it’s lovely pictures, fantastic collection of recipes and very well written prose is a gem that always takes me back to the week we spent in Catalonia.

In my recipe I used the much easier to find and equally good Halibut. Also the day I shopped for it, the Halibut was so pearly white and fresh, it would have been a crime to pass it and use anything else. However, any firm fleshed white fish fillet, preferably on the thick side (at least 0.5 inch/1.5cm thick) should work.

Merluzza con Almejas en Salsa Verde

(adapted from The New Spanish Table by Anya Von Bremzen)

  • 4 6-8 oz white fish fillets, at least ½ inch thick, 1 inch is even better                (Halibut, cod, hake or mahi mahi are good options)

  • 1/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 Tbsp Flour, plus extra for dusting the fish

  • 6 Garlic cloves, minced

  • ½ Cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

  • 1/4 Cup white wine or vermouth

  • 1 Cup fish stock, chicken stock or water

  • 12 -14 manila clams, in their shell

  • 1/2 Cup frozen green peas, thawed

 

– Pour the olive oil into the cazuela or pot and start heating it gently.

– Season the fish with salt and pepper, dust with a little flour.

– When the oil is hot, pan fry the fish for about five minutes on each side or till golden brown.  Remove the fish to a plate and keep warm.

– Add the garlic and most of the parsley to the cazuela (reserve about 2 Tbsp of parsley for later). Cook till nice and fragrant, but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and cook for about a minute, make sure there are no lumps. Now add the wine and stock and bring everything to a gentle simmer.

– Place the fish and any of their juices back in the cazuela, roll them around to get them coated with the juices. Add the clams and peas and cover the cazuela and let everything simmer till the fish flakes and the clams are open. Remove from heat sprinkle with the reserved parsley and serve with bread or any simple potato dish to soak up the lovely juices.