When I think about steak tartare, I'm invariably reminded of a softly lit dining room, the soulful music of Michael Kiwanuka on the radio (or Spotify/Pandora, as it is nowadays), and a luscious full-bodied red wine - maybe that's because this is the scene nearly every time we make steak tartare at home. The combination of the rich, succulent flavors of the beef with briny capers, creamy egg yolk, bright herbs, and robust and earthy olive oil spread on a crispy chip or slice of bread is really quite delectable.
Serving anything raw can be intimidating, especially raw beef, but let's remove the fear by deconstructing the process and take note of a few simple tips.
First thing first - when handling meat that will be eaten raw, be extra clean. Bacteria lives on the surface of meat and it is killed when searing or roasting. Grinding a tartare mixes that bacteria throughout the raw meat. To slow bacterial growth, keep the meat cold and keep your hands and equipment clean. Only use fresh meat from a reputable butcher.
Preparing the Meat
If you have a meat grinder or the meat grinder attachment for the Kitchen Aid stand mixer, you can grind the beef. I recommend using a large grinding plate to ensure the meat is coarsely ground. If you do not have a meat grinder, it is perfectly acceptable to hand chop the meat for the tartare. Just follow these simple tips:
1) Whether you're grinding the meat or hand chopping it, place the meat in the freezer for approximately 30-45 minutes prior to grinding or chopping. Partially freezing the meat will not only reduce bacterial growth by keeping the beef cold, it will also help maintain a beautiful shape with bite. If you're using a meat grinder, place the grinding parts in the freezer as well. Using cold grinding parts will also aid in keeping the meat cold and will help prevent smearing - no one wants a mushy tartare!
2) If you're using a meat grinder, cut the meat into strips, not cubes, before grinding. This prevents blockage and smearing in the grinding chamber.
3) If you're hand chopping the beef, be sure to use a sharp knife to mince the beef into small pieces.
Choosing the right cut
Use inexpensive flavorful cuts like boneless short rib, flat iron, sirloin, or chuck roast. Avoid ribeye - it's too fatty - and tenderloin - it's too expensive and lacking in flavor.
I know this sounds obvious, but avoid using ingredients that you don’t like. If you don’t like hard boiled eggs or raw red onion, leave them out.
Avoid heavy sauces. The purpose of the tartare is to showcase the soft, fresh, delicate flavors of the beef, not your favorite steak sauce.
Serving the tartare
As before, temperature is key. Keep the tartare cold until it's ready to serve. Try using a chilled plate for serving as well.
Similar to the rationale for not using heavy sauces, avoid serving the tartare with a thick slice of bread. Aim for serving it with lightly salted potato chips, thin crackers or lavash, or very thin slices of petite brioche.
At this point, you've done it, so don't be afraid to get a little fancy. If you have a circular cookie cutter, place it on the plate, press the tartare in with a spoon, and carefully remove the cookie cutter. Arrange the garnishes in rows or artfully placed around the meat.
Butcher’s Steak Tartare
1 lb. fresh boneless short rib or flat iron
3 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, minced
1 tbsp shallots, minced
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp high quality extra virgin olive oil, more as needed*
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bag of lightly salted potato chips
If using a meat grinder, cut the beef into thumb size strips and freeze for 30 minutes. Also freeze your grinding parts. After the meat is partially frozen, grind the beef into a mixing bowl.
If you're hand chopping, place the meat in the freezer for 30-45 minutes before shopping. Chop into pea-size pieces.
To the ground or chopped meat in a mixing bowl, add the capers, parsley, shallots, and Dijon. Stir to combine with a spoon - avoid over-working the meat. Add the oil, a splash at a time, to lightly coat the meat. Season with salt and pepper, taste, season again as needed.
Divide into 4 servings. Serve with any of the optional garnishes below and chips, preferably on a chilled plate.
A quail egg yolk or egg yolk per serving
Cornichons, finely chopped
Crispy fried sage leaves, fried in olive oil
2 tbsp chives, minced
A simple frisée salad with a lemon & olive oil vinaigrette
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Your favorite chili pepper, minced
*This needs to be a good quality olive oil that is delicious on its own. You want to add the oil a splash at a time to ensure it coats the meat without getting soupy.
And, there you have it! How to make a beautiful, simple steak tartare...at home!!
Wine pairing: The Prisoner, $49 average retail, when celebrating, or 'Contrada Maestra', Barbera d'Asti, $15 average retail, on your basic Monday.
On the radio: Michael Kiwanuka, Place I Belong
Across the table: Dr. Summer Galloway