Steak tartare — raw, minced beef, mixed with a variety of condiments — is something you either love or loathe. There’s no in-between. For my wife Jan and me, a meal of really good steak tartare served with frites is getting pretty close to heaven, and today we arrived.
We’ve had some pretty decent steak tartare in France — Ma Bourgogne on the Place des Voges in Paris serves a good (although ridiculously large) portion, and Le Bistro de l’Octroi in Sarlat (in the Greater Daglan Area) makes a nicely flavoured dish — although none have been as good as the one prepared by Sam the head waiter at Toronto’s long-gone Yorkville restaurant, Zola. So we thought we’d try a homemade version.
The first time we made it, we had the beef ground fresh for us in a supermarket (Carrefour, in Gourdon), and wound up with a fairly tasty tartare. The next time we tried it, however, we both came down with fairly severe cases of “upset stomachs,” to put it delicately. So we decided that it would be better to chop or grind the meat at home, just before mixing in the condiments.
Our first mistake was buying a moderately priced, hand-cranked meat grinder from France Rurale. The grinder (which has since been returned to the store) made such a mess out of the steak that we stopped grinding and chopped the beef by hand. The result was pretty good, although we thought we could do better.
My next thought was to try our food processor, fitted with the simplest steel blade. I figured that if we just pulsed the processor a bit, it would chop the meat nicely without turning it into mush. So that’s what we did. We bought 500 grams of steak from the (very good) butcher in Castelnaud yesterday, and Jan pulsed it in the food processor just before turning her attention to the frites.
So as Jan started prepping and deep frying the potatoes, I took over duties on the steak. The condiments I use (for both of us) include salt and pepper, several sprinklings of piment d’Espelette (a French chili that’s milder and easier to control than cayenne pepper), Dijon mustard, finely chopped cornichons, capers, an egg yolk, and several good splashes of Armagnac.I use two forks to mix the condiments into the beef, and when I’m seasoning the meat I always do it in stages, to make sure the salt and pepper is dispersed completely, instead of being clustered in one part of the mixture.
Then I divide the meat in two, and add ketchup and Worcestershire sauce to my portion.
The result should be smooth and a bit moist, but not wet; spicy but not burn-your-tongue hot. Most of all, it should be beefy and satisfying.
And that’s exactly what today’s steak tartare turned out to be — simply delicious. Enjoyed with a bottle of Côtes du Rhône, and followed by a green salad with vinaigrette, it was a rare treat. (Really rare, in fact.) Have a look:
So this will become a regular feature for us. And now I will be turning my attention to our Sunday lunch, blanquette de veau. Which is cooked, in case you were wondering.