Steak Tartare

You have to be VERY careful eating raw meat. Most people–rightfully so–are too scared to do it. The sad fact, though, is that that points to a lack of confidence in quality of available meat products. If you have REALLY good meat, you should feel safe and comfortable eating it raw. Just like if you have sushi-grade tuna, it’s okay to have sashimi. The first issue I had to face with this dish, then, was that it required no-questions-asked high-quality product.

Beyond the raw requirement, though, there was another hurdle. I’m convinced that most people have no clue what kind of meat is used in steak tartare. When discussing this with my mother (who has an extremely cultured palate), she said that really high-quality hamburger was involved. I didn’t think that sounded right. Looking online, the most common cut of meat listed was “whatever your butcher recommended.” Since I’m a graduate student who doesn’t live in either Europe or the 1950’s, I do not have a “butcher”, so that was out (though I did ask the people at my local Fresh Market–NOT a pleasant experience to say the least).

So, what’s a girl to do? Again, I’d like to try to pretend I’m keeping some form of anonymity on this blog, so I won’t name specifics; however, my university has a HUGE agriculture school. We have acres of farmland where we raise pigs, cows, sheep, chickens–you name it. We also offer courses in our “dairy technology” program (not making that up) that I have heard cover topics like “how to cut meat to USDA standards.” Consequently, every Friday there is a not-so-well-advertised (for legal/University reasons) meat sale on campus. These animals predominantly were raised and slaughtered on campus, and the meat is FRESH (So, for instance, instead of seeing bright-red meat like you do in grocery stores, the stuff is mostly brown/dark red). I had found my “butcher.”

I decided to choose sirloin for my cut. I did NOT want a fatty piece of meat for this dish (some fat is fine, sure, but you’re eating this raw. Who in their right mind wants to eat finely diced, raw fat–fresh or otherwise?). I also wanted something that wasn’t ridiculously tough, again for fairly obvious reasons. That left me torn between (1) fillet (2) sirloin (3) London broil. When I got to the meat sale, they didn’t have any fillets in that week, so that solved THAT problem. Also, the more I thought about it, the more I thought of London broil as being tougher than sirloin. Case closed.

Last note before moving on to the recipe. In terms of technique required for this dish, the only real skill needed are “knife skills.” You gotta be able to cut the beef into small, relatively equal-sized pieces. You also have to chop your onions finely…maybe your capers (I didn’t). You get the idea. VERY SMALL.

This size or smaller for your cuts
This size or smaller for your cuts

STEAK TARTARE

INGREDIENTS:

  • High-quality beef (I used between 1 and 1.5 pounds)
  • 4 green onions, chopped finely
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Worchestire sauce
  • Tabasco or habanero sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg yolk

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Trim the beef (if necessary) and chop finely. Set in a NON-METAL BOWL (to prevent oxidation).
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  2. Mix in the onions and the capers. Season with salt and pepper.
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  3. Mix in all other ingredients. Season again with salt and pepper.
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  4. Keep cold until serving time. To serve: mold it (some people have fancy molds…I used Saran wrap and my hands), and serve with bread or crackers.
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