This post is all about the consumption of raw meat and eggs. If the above and below images make you queasy then stop reading.
If you are a militant vegan or vegetarian you might want to stop reading.
If you are grossed out by eating raw foods you might want to stop reading.
If you work for the USDA you might want to stop reading or at least take note of the disclaimer below.
If you are a lawyer you might want to stop reading or take note of the disclaimer below.
As much as I dislike having to put up this disclaimer, I feel that, in this society where no one wants to take responsibility for themselves and are always looking for ways to make a quick buck by suing others, I must provide this.
This post contains a recipe that includes the use of both raw beef and raw egg yolks. The USDA recommends that both eggs and meat be cooked to specific internal temperatures to render them safe from food borne pathogens. Since this dish is raw those temperatures are not reached and as such, may be unsafe for consumption (per the USDA). You have been warned. Eat this dish at your own risk. By re-creating this dish at home you assume full responsibility if you get sick. Don’t blame me.
All right, now that the USDA and the lawyers have been appeased, we can get on with the good stuff.
It’s been awhile since I thought about Steak Tartare, that classic of French fine dining in the US, in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. When I first started cooking you could still find it on a few menus, either in places that held firm to those old classic dishes, or in places that would put it on the menu in an ironic way. Yes, people were doing that long before “hipsters” made it a thing. But Steak Tartare’s time in the spotlight was coming to an end. First, there was Carpaccio, the Italians' answer to Steak Tartare. In fine dining restaurants across the country chefs dropped the tartare and replaced it with Carpaccio as Italian food became the new trend. And then, somewhere along the line, Americans became scared of their food. Warning labels went up, all over the place, warning us that eating undercooked food was dangerous to our health. And with the way that modern, American factory farms worked there was some truth in the concerns. Suddenly, Steak Tartare seemed to be headed for extinction, except in small isolated areas.
But, as with most trends, there has been a resurgence of people rediscovering many of these old classic dishes, and today you can find a number of recipes, and lots of pictures of Steak Tartare on the web. Unfortunately most of them are pretty bad interpretations of the dish, and some are just god-awful, and scary looking.
I have to admit, although I used to love the dish, I hadn’t thought about it in a while, until a friend of mine told me that she had her first taste of the dish while on vacation. From that conversation on I couldn’t get the stuff out of my mind and so one Saturday afternoon, I worked up a little magic and prepared some for me and my wife, who also had never had Steak Tartare before.
As I said, there are a lot of bad versions of Steak Tartare out there. Probably the biggest crime is sending it to the table in a deconstructed form and allowing your guests to make their own. You’ll know these versions by the picture of a pile of chopped meat with an egg yolk perched on top and all of the condiments set around the side. Unless you are going to mix the whole thing up, yourself, table side forget doing it this way. What your guests will end up with is raw meat, with globs of raw egg yolk and poorly distributed condiments. Doesn’t sound too appetizing to me. The second crime I see, and probably the most severe crime is recipes that call for ground meat. First of all, unless you grind your own you will have no idea what you are getting, and when eating raw meat you had better know exactly what you are eating, and secondly, the texture is just disgusting. No, Steak Tartare needs to be hand chopped to get the right texture, consistency and flavor. If you want to use the short cut of using ground meat just make hamburgers instead. The final issue are recipes that over dress the meat. Believe it or not, raw beef is somewhat delicate in flavor and very easily overwhelmed. The sauce and condiments should compliment the beef not hide it. It is always best to start with too little and then add a bit more until you achieve the right taste.
A final word before I go on to the recipe and it has to do with what cut to use. Many recipes call for using tenderloin, but I find tenderloin to not have much flavor and it can be a little mushy in texture. My cut of choice is usually from the sirloin or an inside round. The meat can be a little tougher although that isn't much of an issue since it is diced so small, although I would avoid really tough cuts with lots of fat and sinew.
It also goes without saying that you need to purchase the freshest beef and eggs that you can, from a reputable source. If you can get locally raised beef and eggs then even better.
serves 4-6 as a first course
12-16 oz. Beef, preferably sirloin or round
1 each Egg Yolk
2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 large Shallot
1 1/2 Tbs. Capers
2 Tbs. Parsley
3 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
1 splash Tabasco
Pepper, freshly ground (coarse)
2-4 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Finely mince the shallots, capers and parsley
In a bowl, mix the egg yolk with the Dijon mustard, Worcestershire and tabasco. Drizzle in 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the capers, shallots and parsley. Season with salt and copious amounts of black pepper.
Remove all fat, connective tissue and sinew from the beef and dice as small as possible, but no larger than 1/4 inch. You should have 12 ounces of prepared beef when done. Pour dressing over beef and mix to coat. Add olive oil, a bit at a time, if the meat seems to dry. The dressing should just barely coat the meat with no excess dripping off of it. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
To serve either mound onto a single plate and have your guests help themselves or divide among the number of plates you need. Serve, immediately, with toast points.
Steak Tartare needs to be served as soon as it is prepared. It doesn’t take long for the meat to start oxidizing, turning an off gray color and it’s flavor quickly deteriorating and it is definitely not a dish that you want leftovers as it will not be any good the next day.
So, Steak Tartare may not be for everyone, but if you’ve always wondered what all the fuss is about, I encourage you to try this recipe and decide for yourself whether the dish lives up to its hype or not.