I don’t have a formal bucket list, but if I did, at the top would be a visit to Panzano, so I could experience eating the beef of Dario Cecchini, arguably the world’s greatest butcher.
I first read about Dario in the Bill Buford book Heat, and later saw segments of a couple of different cooking shows (Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, and David Rocco’s Dolce Vita) that featured his butcher shop and restaurant.
Traditionally, Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a thick, bone-in porterhouse made from an Italian cattle breed, the Chianina, which is the largest breed of cattle in the world. Due to a lack of supply of Chianina beef in Italy, Dario imports beef from a similarly large breed of cattle that is raised in Spain. His instructions for cooking Bistecca alla Fiorentina are simple: The cut of steak needs to be four fingers thick. On the hearth of a wood-fired oven, sear each side for five minutes, and then finish cooking the meat standing on end, on its bone, typically for another 15 minutes.
I don’t have access to Chianina beef, but I do have a wood-fired Grill (thanks, Elisa!). Our butcher at the local Market Basket was more than happy to slice us off a ‘four-finger’ thick Porterhouse, so on father’s day, we gave Bistecca alla Fiorentina a shot. Matt, my older son, arrived at the house a bit before 2:00 pm, and we fired up the grill. My method is to use a charcoal chimney starter to quickly get 8-10 pounds of charcoal going well, and then dump it onto the charcoal grate of my grill. I then cover the charcoal with four or five small pieces of oak (16 inches long and 2-3 inches thick).
Once the oak has burned down to the point where the flames are no longer reaching up through the grill, I cook the porterhouse per Dario’s instructions, although I find that the meat needs to spend longer than 15 minutes cooking on its bone in order to get the internal temperature up to about 120 degrees fahrenheit (the medium-rare that I prefer).
Once it has been removed from the grill, let it rest for at least 20 minutes and then slice it for serving … to multiple peope … do not eat this four-pounder alone. Trust me, it’s not a good idea.
All that’s left is sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, and we also use an emulsion made with a crushed clove of garlic, some rosemary, some fruttato olive oil and a splash of lemon juice. The lemon juice isn’t traditional, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Our side dishes were roasted potatoes and a Caesar salad. All that was left for us was to work our way through the meal and retire to the couch in a beef-induced stupor.
Another successful fathers’ day! Grazie mille a tutti!