Steak Tartare

It’s probably not all that common to find a child who feels indignant when she’s told she isn’t allowed to eat raw beef. In fact, most adults probably balk at the idea of making a meal of uncooked meat. Nevertheless, I was that indignant child.

Each visit to my German grandparents in Florida brought with it some predictable menu items. One of those was Steak Tartare. Much beloved by all members of my family, steak tartare was off limits to me until I was nine years old. My grandfather was a doctor, and he knew that serving uncooked meat to a child was a dicey proposition (a child’s immune system is too weak to eat uncooked beef and raw egg). I sat at the table feeling terribly left out, watching the delight with which my oh-so-carnivorous family gobbled up the appealing looking steak while punctuating the silence with “Mmmm” and exclamations about how delicious it was.

Steak Tartare has a somewhat mysterious past, with many an apocryphal tale about it being named for the Mongol horsemen called Tatars who presumably tenderized tough meat by putting it under their saddles. It turns out, that’s not quite true. It first appeared in France and Germany as “Beefsteak à l'Américaine” on hotel menus in the early 20th Century, so it makes sense that my grandparents would have known it as a sophisticated, trendy dish that they might have enjoyed in their youth. They continued to make it throughout their lives, converting my entire family into raw meat enthusiasts.

By the time I was deemed old enough to taste Steak Tartare, any hesitation I might have otherwise had at the thought of eating raw beef was the farthest thing from my mind. Comforting, savory, and satisfying, it quickly became one of my favorites. Given that, it’s pretty surprising, even to me, that I’ve never made it for myself before making it to write about for this blog. Well, now that I’ve done it once, that’s bound to change. It’s easy as can be to make, and, for me, it’s a real treat. To reassure the squeamish, the experience of eating it isn’t all that much different from eating raw fish in sushi or sashimi. If you’ve never tried it, I encourage you to give it a go.

STEAK TARTAR*

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb top-quality beef, well chilled. (my local butcher suggested London Broil or Sirloin, but many recipes go for Filet Mignon/Tenderloin. I’m quite sure my grandmother never used Filet Mignon). Either grind the meat yourself, or, if you trust your butcher, as I do mine, tell him you’re making Steak Tartare, and he’ll grind it for you. Make sure it’s not ground using the same blade as another meat like pork or chicken, in order to avoid cross-contamination any food borne illnesses. After grinding, keep your beef refrigerated until the last moment.

  • 1 small shallot, minced

  • 1 egg yolk

  • Worcestershire Sauce to taste

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

  • 1 Tbs Parsley (optional), chopped

  • 1 Tbs Capers (optional)

  • Cornichons (optional)

  • Butter and/or Dijon mustard

1.     In a chilled bowl, mix together the shallot, the egg yolk, several drops of Worcestershire sauce, a few grinds of pepper, and a healthy pinch of salt.

2.     Fold in chilled beef, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

3.     Mound tartare onto individual plates or serve in a communal serving bowl (as my family always did).

4.     Serve with slices of fresh bread (my grandparents always had a good rye, but baguette is often served too) butter, mustard, capers, parsley, and cornichons, if using. A side salad of lightly dressed greens makes a nice addition.

Got leftovers? Do what my grandma always did: Refrigerate beef until the next day, and shape the leftovers into hamburgers. Fry in a skillet or grill, and serve however you most enjoy your burgers.

*Children, the elderly, and the immune-compromised should not eat raw beef or eggs.