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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Food Sin # 2-Steaks

As a child growing up on Guam we got most of our meat from Australia and imported from the United States. Every once in a while we would go to a Sizzler, a Chuck's Steak House or some other meat restaurant for a great steak. We loved steaks so much my younger sister earned the nickname T-Rex, as she could eat an entire T-bone steak on her own, and she was only 6 or so at the time. We learned to love our steaks rare and bloody. In the U.S. you can have your meat cooked anyway you like, in Italy they will cook it medium-rare to rare unless you tell them to not to.

Steaks are big business here in Italy, with no one mentioning calories, fat, or cholesterol. Everyone knows the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina, the famous steak from Florence that may weigh as much as 2 kilos each. The secret to this steak is the way it is cooked, over a real wood fire. The smokey taste is addicting and once you've had it, you'll never forget it. The Florentine steak come from the breed of cow called the Chianina (pronounced Kee-a-nee-na, one of the oldest breeds of cattle in the world. Originating in Central Italy, Chianina were initially introduced into the United States in 1971.

This is a cut version of the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, called a Tagliata.

In Piemonte we have a famous breed of double muscled cow called the Piedmontese. It's this double muscling that make the Piedmontese one of the leanest types of beef available. These special cows are from the northern Italy. The first Piedmontese animals exported to North America arrived in Saskatchewan, Canada in the fall of 1979. These cows are gentle and beautiful. When visiting Piedmonte, you must sample the vitello albese, a very special veal tartar that is chopped by hand (babutta al cotello). (In winter, you may get them with shaved truffles on top.) And the filetto di fassone, a filet of this very special type of beef. You will not be disappointed.

This is the vitello albese.

When shopping at the local butcher I am in the habit of asking for very thick cuts of meat. Most butchers pound filets of pork, beef and chicken breasts quite thin but when we want to eat a good steak, I ask for the thickest cut possible. This piece weighed over 2 kilos, almost 5 pounds. No, we did not eat it all ourselves, I saved a bit for steak salad the next day.

Our dinner waiting to be cooked.

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At 9:26 AM, Blogger traveller one said...

Now that's a very RARE steak! LOL! Albese must mean 'white' I guess... 'alb' is white in Romanian, and I wonder if Albanians are 'white'?

At 9:27 AM, Blogger Judith in Umbria said...

Do you need any help eating that?

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

Albese means from Alba, the steak was cook med-rare but the tartar is completely raw. I know Americans are not used to eating raw meat and I was squeamish at first but have learned to love it.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger milo said...

Hi Gina, greetings from Torino :-)
I'm sorry to sound fussy, but the vitello albese is not quite what you described. Carne all'albese (could be veal, but also beef, which is far tastier and yummier) is paper-thin slices of raw meat dressed in olive oil and lemon, often with some parmigiano slivers on them (or tartufo bianco, white truffle, which is close to heaven :-). The dish you were talking about is Carne tritata al coltello, which means, as you said, chopped by hand and by a very heavy knife.
Raw meat is addictive... when it's good :-)
ciao and have a nice time in my hometown!

At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Laurie said...

Yummy, wish I was there eating the tagliata with you right now...over some greens...perhaps at FreeVolo?...with the sesamo bread sticks and the NICE french people?!!!

That tritata stuff has always been referred to as Albese around my godmother's table, my husband's family, and most of the other Piemontese folks I know.....also at the lovely restaurant in Alba where we had the GTG you missed....

At 1:03 AM, Blogger Sara said...

Again with the raw hand-chopped beef!

At 1:38 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

I did some more research and both Milo, Laurie and I are right.

The veal tartar is called: vitello albese, carne battuta al coltello, which means beef chopped by hand and carne tritate al coltello, which means to minced aka chopped by hand.

Carpaccio is thinly sliced veal or beef and dressed as Milo explained. But also Carpaccio is raw anything. You can have tuna carpaccio, octopus carpaccio and more.

At 2:47 AM, Blogger DZER said...

oh my god ... I'm going to have to go out and get a steak now!

They all look soooo delicious ... and I was wary at first of tartare too, but then figured it was just another form of beef kelaguen. LOL

No more Sizzler here, but Chuck's is still open, and we now have Lone Star, Outback, Manhattan and Hy's for steakhouses ... I'm on my way out the door now to one of those places!

At 12:29 PM, Blogger Expat Traveler said...

yum it all looks incredible~!!! Oh I'm just going to have to go out and do this receipe even if the hubby wouldn't do it..

At 7:39 PM, Anonymous Ivonne said...

What a great post! Those pictures are too delicious!


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