Hi, my name is Johan and I have an obsession with red meat!
I know it’s not healthy, I know it’s not good for me, but damnit, we’re all going to die somehow, some time. If enjoying red meat takes a few years off my otium, then so be it. I try not to indulge too much or too frequently, but sometimes my body just craves red meat, and by red I mean the redder the better. In other words, I like my steak a little on the rare side. Actually, make that a lot on the rare side. I know it sounds rather primal and probably grosses some people out, but truth be told, sometimes I like my red meat raw all the way through…
Over the years, I’ve had many takes on medium, rare and downright raw beef, my favorite to this day being the decadent, mythical, completely raw and somewhat feared beef: Steak Tartare!
The origins of Steak Tartare: Steak Tartare, supposedly is named after the Tartar horsemen: Mongol, horse-riding (and consuming), invading hordes who swept the plains of Central Asia in the 800th or so century. Legend has it that these invading hordes, in the mornings, would place hunks of raw horse meat under their saddles, and later consume it at night in its then tenderized, raw and very mushy state. It’s a pretty nice, tall tale and it’s unfortunately not at all true. Steak tartare, food historians now agree, originated in early 20th century Paris as a dish of raw beef or horse meat, known at the time as Steack á l’Americane.
The bistro classic
Now, I love tall tales of invading hordes and saddle-tenderized beef as much as the next guy (really? No? That’s not your thing?), but this supposed original concept doesn’t exactly sound too appetizing. Luckily, though, over the years, a more refined, but still decidedly manly and primal version, has emerged.
In its current form, Steak Tartare is usually served as bistro lunch classic featuring a mix of fresh, coarsely ground lean beef, mixed with salt, pepper, finely diced onions or shallots, finely diced capers, finely diced cornichons, mustard and Worcestershire sauce, then formed into patties and topped with raw egg yolk and an optional dose of horseradish.
Corny-what? Never heard of cornichons? They’re like gherkin pickles, only smaller, and they’re like the cutest thing ever! Look !
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “hey, that sounds like a mess of salted raw meat with pickles, fermented fish and a side order of salmonella and pungent death!” (right?) … but stick with me, there’s method behind this madness and this is one of those meals that you should definitely not knock until you’ve tried i! Raw beef has an amazing depth and sweetness to it that is beautifully contrasted by the raw crunch of the onions, capers and cornichons. The Worcestershire sauce, while made partially from fermented fish (I’m sorry, but this is true), tastes nothing like fish but rather adds a richness and an umami-laden zing, while the raw egg, if handed correctly, adds a lovely, fat creaminess rather than foodborne illnesses.
What about the horseradish? Well, as far as I am concerned, horseradish is always optional, let’s just put it that way. If you’re a fan, you can use it, and if you do, I’m sure it adds it’s own perfect, little pungent note. I’ll be honest, I can’t stand the stuff.
The result is a creamy, yet fresh, umami-rich, beef-flavored explosion, which will knock you off your feet and have you begging for seconds. It’s quite a manly meal, no doubt, and a challenging culinary obstacle to some, I’m sure. But for those willing to brave the challenge, it will be one of the finest combinations they’ve ever had.
Don’t believe me? Need further proof and convinging? Well, read on and watch me turn beef tartare into something much more stomachable and familiar. Watch, as I create a gourmet cheeseburger made almost entirely from raw beef.
Jazzing up Steak Tartare: Creating the Gourmet Cheeseburger
Loyal readers of the site will know that I have a thing for burgers (see all burger-related posts here). I spent a couple of posts devoted to the subject of the perfect burger, but just because I’ve already hit some level of perfection doesn’t mean I should stop searching, does it?
The Steak Tartare Gourmet Burger came about out of necessity. As I’ve already made pretty obvious, I love beef tartare, but I don’t expect the world to share my fascination. That’s not the same as to say that I wouldn’t try to force my obsession upon the world, though, it’s just a matter of finding the right excuse and way of doing so. A few weeks ago, I got just the chance I’d waited for when I had my good friend Tina over for a pretty decadent dining experience where, as a culinary challenge, I chose Steak Tartare as one of the dishes.
So, on the night in question, I took the fabled and dreaded dish, hid it in a familiar form as a burger patty on top of toasted crouton, piled on lettuce and Parmesan cheese and prettied it up with home-made truffle mayo and a chunky tomato relish (no burger, after all, is complete without ketchup!). The result was absolutely gorgeous and looked nothing like a pile of raw meat. Rather, it looked delectable and apparently tasted delectable, too, as my lovely co-diner ate it up hungrily without doing much in the way of pausing and reflecting on the concept of eating raw beef.
Steak Tartare is a most decadent thing of beauty… Photo Credit: @tiknu04 on Instagram
So, for those of you not too sure about this Steak Tartare thing, this may be just the recipe for you. It’s easy to make, too, it’s raw beef! There’s hardly any cooking involved!
What are you, McFly, a chicken? Still not entirely hooked on the concept of raw beef? Alright, you can sear it ever so briefly if that helps make it go down easier.
Steak Tartare: Gourmet Cheeseburger
For steak tartare
- 300 grams top quality filet of beef coarsely ground
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon of minced shallots
- 1 tablespoon of minced capers
- 1 tablespoon of minced cornichons
- 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- Chopped tarragon and flat leaf parsley
- Salt and pepper
- A shot of Cognac
For truffle mayo
- 50 grams of mayonnaise home-made is pretty much essential
- A few grams of truffles very finely chopped
- A drop of truffle oil optional
For tomato relish
- 1 large shallot chopped
- 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
- Fresh red chili to taste, deseeded and chopped
- 250 grams of tomatoes deseeded and chopped
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar
For final delivery
- One piece of fairly thick cut French style bread per person toasted or, better yet, pan-fried in butter, you decide
- A handful of baby salad greens lightly dressed in olive oil and sherry vinegar
- Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
Stir finely chopped truffles into mayo.
If needed, add a few drops of truffle oil. (Careful, it’s potent stuff!)
Add a few grinds of quality black pepper.
Cover and set aside till needed.
Heat oil in a small pan or pot over medium heat.
Add onions and sauté until soft.
Add garlic and chili, sauté for a minute or two.
Turn heat to medium-low, stir in tomatoes and cook for about ten minutes.
Add salt, pepper, sherry vinegar and sugar, cook stirring infrequently until vinegar is nearly evaporated.
Let cool then taste for seasoning, set aside till needed.
Thoroughly mix all ingredients except for beef, salt, pepper and Cognac in a bowl.
Add beef and stir to combine, add salt, pepper and Cognac and taste for seasoning.
Add more Worcestershire, salt, pepper or mustard as needed.
Smear toasted crouton with a thin layer of truffle mayo.
Form patty out of steak tartare and place on top of crouton.
Top with baby greens dressed in olive oil and sherry vinegar.
Add some generous shavings of Parmesan.
Garnish with truffle mayo and tomato relish on the side.
If fresh truffles are not in season, or too damn expensive for your budget, you can use shaved truffles preserved in olive oil or similar. They're affordable but do not pack as much punch as fresh truffles. Add a drop or two of truffle oil to compensate.
Disclaimer: This recipe features RAW beef and RAW eggs! While I believe the chances of getting sick are pretty slim to none, foodborne illnesses are indeed a bitch, so take care and use only the finest and freshest ingredients from trusted sources. Be sure to thoroughly wash and clean your hands, work surfaces and utensils and if you feel the least bit scared about the look of things, just walk away. Catering to elderly, pregnant or ill of health? Use pasteurized eggs and skip the beef. Actually, just skip this dish altogether. All of this aside, I hope you do try this dish using proper caution and have fun cooking and consuming it.