Monday, February 11, 2008

Steak Tartare

I would gladly die of E. Coli, as long as the raw beef it was chilling in was supreme. I love things served raw. Clearly. I mean uni shooters, come on. I love carpaccio, I love sashimi and oysters on the half shell, but my deep emotional bond with steak tartare has driven this whole thing I do like few other dishes. Savory beef mousse with lil bits of delightfulness. You barely have to chew it; just let it melt in your mouth. It’s like rib-eye’s gay cousin. And maybe, just maybe, if you’ve prayed to the steak tartare gods recently, it’ll arrive with a raw quail egg on top.

Steak tartare originates, barbaric as it seems, as meat tenderizing under the saddle of a soldier’s horse for long journeys. Not the most hygienic start to a dish that already turns some off for being… well, straight up raw meat, but it gets better. For many years, those favorite people of mine for some reason, the French, used horse meat in their variation. P.S. if you see a sign with a horse dangling from any restaurant in a foreign country, you must specify that you would like cow, as horse is going to be the default in any of these establishments. I don’t want to talk about it.

A lot of countries boast a chopped raw meat dish on their national menus, especially Eastern and Western Europe. I remember as a little kid watching my mom make meatloaf, meatballs, stuffed cabbage filling, hooking out a gob of raw meat out of the bowl and, my goodness, consuming it with obvious enjoyment. “You wanna try?” she’d coax, always the new-flavor pusher. “Ew mom, you’re going to get sick,” I’d reply.

A couple of trips to Europe in my early and mid-teens and my raw beef phobia morphed into an obsession with what I could ingest raw and not die. Or maybe die. An ominously (delicious) rare lamb kebab at a snack stand in Marrakech’s famed medina transmitted quite the amoeba clan once. After two days in the hospital, I inhaled a large portion of steak tartare during our Paris layover despite strict instructions from the doctor to stay on clear liquids and bland foods for a week. I claimed I couldn’t understand his accent and thought he said, “you’re good to go– the worse the idea seems, the better you’ll feel.” I might have had frog’s legs that night too. And crème brulee. And… wine. Lots. Needless to say, I showed up back in the States in a right bad state and my pediatrician of all people asked me what exactly I was trying to do to myself. By the way, it’s very embarrassing to go to your pediatrician at fifteen and deal with a little kid asking you, big girl, where does it hurt? My stomach, kid. My stomach. So use good quality beef that isn’t rare lamb from a grill in the dust in Morocco is the moral of this.

If you can chop an onion, you can probably make steak tartare. If you’ve ever added a little bit of ketchup or Worcestershire sauce to anything, tartare is right around the corner. Heck, if you’re famous for screwing up steak, get famous for not cooking it in the least.

Thanks to St. Bourdain of Food for this recipe, which serves 6

1 1/4 lb. of the freshest, most beautiful sirloin in the world
2 egg yolks
4 anchovy filets
2 Tsp ketchup
2 Tsp dijon mustard
1 Tsp Worcestershire sauce
4 Tbs soybean or corn oil
A few good shakes of Tabasco
1 small onion, chopped
2 oz. each of drained capers and cornichons
giant handful of finely chopped parsley
Toast points (fancy for toast cut into four triangles)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Put a plate in the freezer. You'll need it eventually.

First, take care of that lovely piece of beef. Trim off any large visible regions of fat and toss em out.

Slice all the beef into 1/2 to 1/4-inch slices, then gather them up in a pile and slice them the other way. You'll end up with fine cubes of meat that look like this.

Keep that bowl in the fridge while you make the other part, which looks even more attractive.

Finely chop four anchovy filets. I know, they're greasy and they smell, but thank the Caesar salad gods that someone figured out how to use them, because I guarantee if you've ever eaten at an Italian, Greek, Thai, Vietnamese, French, Korean, or Spanish restaurant or eaten anything with Worcestershire sauce (including this recipe) you have consumed anchovies and probably loved em. So chop.

Separate the whites and yolks of your eggs like so, using the shell to catch the yolk and drain out the white. Save the whites for breakfast, they'll keep nicely in a bowl for a few days, or freeze them in ice cube trays and they'll last 3 months or so.

Whisk the yolks with the mustard and anchovies in a large bowl.

Add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco (if less is good, more is better), and freshly ground pepper. Whisk some more. Add the oil. Whisk once again.

Drain the capers, and really examine the little buggers before you send them off. They're beautiful, all speckly and pickled and they open up when you squeeze them a little. Okay, enough playing with the capers, toss em in. Speaking of playing with capers, throw a small handful into almost any pasta dish in the last steps for a milder anchovy effect.

Chop your cornichons into small pieces and stir into the dressing with the onions and parsley.

It'll look like this, not great.

Now, add either the bowl of meat to the dressing or the bowl of dressing to the meat, and DIVE IN WITH BOTH HANDS FOR A CHANGE! Squish.

I could not for the life of me find a ring mold, a circle of metal or plastic similar to a cookie or biscuit cutter. I even looked for cookie and biscuit cutters and couldn't find one either. Granted, I kind of live in the ghetto where people don't need no ring molds, bitches, but I then realized the sawed-off top of a cup would probably work nicely. Trim it so that it's even all the way around, and definitely make sure there are no little plastic or styrofoam thingies hanging off. Better yet, find yourself some sort of ring mold.

This next part is pleasantly similar to making a sandcastle of raw meat. Actually, it is making a sandcastle of raw meat. Place the ring mold on the now chilled plate and load with the steak mixture.

Pack it in tight, but don't compress too hard. Slowly remove the ring, gently twisting from side to side to loosen it, then garnish with a sprig or two of parsley (and a quail egg cracked on top if you're so inclined. I am, but certain people are tired of me using raw eggs like they're not raw eggs and then making everybody eat them. Next time, though.)

Serve immediately with the toast points, or on crackers.


Chiki said...


For making me look at those photos, you owe me a few low-maintenance, non-meat recipes. I mean, you OWE me.

Vegetarian in the Corner

Jess said...

This, Veggie my dear, I cannot promise. Although considering the amount of animals I've used meat from in the past few posts I suppose I could dream something up. Check back, I'm going to delve into tofu before too long.

Anonymous said...

That first cut is so pretty it's replacing my Cat Deeley wallpaper.


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Solar said...

Reading was entertaining. I love your sense of humor, and these pictures! I'm going to be mentally hungry till I get around eating some of that!