What Does The Food Term 'Florentine' Actually Mean?

When looking down a menu, flipping through a recipe book, or talking to some food snob, you will inevitably encounter words you don't know. Certain culinary terminology needs context; sometimes, even with context, the terms can still be vague. For instance, you can take any main ingredient, feature it on top of a bed of spinach, and print "à la florentine" at the end of it on the menu. But what does this mean?

Usually, the simplest answer is the correct one, and this is no different. According to The Spruce Eats, florentine just refers to dishes that are cooked in the style of cuisine that comes from Florence, Italy. "À la florentine" means "of Florentine." It's common to see menus featuring "eggs florentine" that seems suspiciously like eggs benedict or "lasagna florentine," which basically seems to be lasagna with spinach, so what is it that makes these foods Florence-style?

When in Florence (or France)

According to Food 52, the movement of calling things "florentine" allegedly began when an Italian noblewoman became the queen of France and brought over a love of Italian cuisine; however, there is plenty of speculation over whether this is true.

Florentine food is essentially any food that features a combination of certain ingredients, per The Spruce Eats. Most commonly, the dishes are defined by their use of spinach and a creamy sauce. Spinach slowly simmered in butter, mornay sauce, grated cheese, and an au gratin finish are all "à la florentine." The butter-simmered spinach and grated cheese are fairly self-explanatory, the mornay sauce is a bechamel sauce with added cheese, and au gratin means a finish of breadcrumbs. Doesn't it just sound decadent? A very natural blend of French and Italian cuisine is the right kind of florentine, and it'll be good to look for these on a menu or try them out in your own kitchen the next time you want eggs benedict but aren't particularly feeling American food.