Anyone who has an aversion to raw meat has either a revolting experience to share, or health concerns to talk about, which somehow contributes to the growth of the steak’s tartare myth. I am reminded of the classic Mr Bean sketch, where he orders steak tartare in a French restaurant, expecting a normal cooked steak, and when confronted with the raw reality, dreams up a thousand ways to get rid of it. Almost the same thing happened to my parents in a Brussels restaurant 15 years ago, where they ordered a Fillet Americain, which, when it arrived, they wanted to send back. However, in our case, instead of landing in the bag of the woman at the next table, it ended up in front of me to my delight (learning for the first time, steak tartare’s Flemish title).
As you can imagine, having always found the forbidden extremely attractive, steak tartare went straight into my list of favourite foods from the first time I tried it. I have to admit that I don’t remember where or when that was (definitely outside Greece, though), but I do remember how much I enjoyed it while living in Paris in 1997. Near my house, on the corner of the Place des Vosges, I had found a small quaint bistro called Ma Bourgogne, where I would go as much as twice a week to enjoy their beautifully balanced spicy tartare (the house speciality) which arrived on the plate ready, accompanied by pommes frites and a good, but young, Bourgogne or Beaujolais making a small everyday personal celebration for me!
In Greece, I usually eat it when out, at L’Abrevoir or at Spiro and Vassili (classic choices especially as post-theatre dinner venues after a trip to the Megaro), but I tend to prefer the second as there they chop the meat by hand with a knife, rather than using a mincer. For the last two years, though, I’ve learned how to make it at home and I believe that taste-wise it’s better than what I eat out (and I’m happy to say that this is confirmed by my guests, one of whom told me that she’d first tried tartare at the age of 9!!).
The philosophy of my steak tartare recipe is that it should be both light and relatively spicy, using as few ingredients as possible, so that the full taste of the exceptional meat I make sure I use, can be fully appreciated. The main way I add spiciness to my recipe is by combining mustard, anchovies and capers, keeping the onions as an undertone. At the same time, I avoid the often recommended ingredients such as garlic, dried onion or mayonnaise as I think they weigh it down unnecessarily, as well as others which I think overpower the taste, such as vinegar, cognac or whisky.
Try this as a basic recipe and play around with variations from here and there according to your personal preferences. The preparation is completed at the table, where each lucky guest breaks the egg yolk with his fork and stirs it into the tartare, adding any of the extra ingredients à volonté , and so contributing to the evening’s ritualistic nature.
the perfect Steak Tartare
Preparation: The tartare can be ready for up to one hour before serving. Start chopping the meat earlier if this is the first time you have done it or you are not used to using knives. With a little practice and experience, this part takes 5-10 minutes. Keep a small quantity of each of the finely chopped ingredients aside for serving.
Ingredients (serve 2)
400g well-hung beef fillet
2 medium fresh onions, finely chopped
8 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
4 tsp. capers
6 sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ketchup
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
6 drops Tabasco
2 egg yolks
Salt and ground pepper
2-3 pickled gherkins, finely chopped (optional)
Preparing the meat: Take the fillet out of the fridge half an hour before you make the tartare, and wipe well with kitchen paper. Have all the ingredients chopped ready, as well as the egg yolks, separated ready for the end. Using a very sharp knife, cut the fillet into as thin slices as possible (about ½ a centimetre thick), then cut the slices into strips and finally cut them all together over and over again until in tiny pieces.
Put the meat and all other ingredients (apart from the yolks) into a bowl and mix well, using your hands or 2 spoons. Allow the mixture to rest for 2-3 minutes, then spoon a portion onto each plate in a cylindrical hamburger shape. Flatten slightly with a spoon and make a hollow in the centre, which will be where the egg yolk will sit.
Serving: Sprinkle some parsley around the tartare and serve with hot chips. The remaining chopped ingredients should be on the table for guests to help themselves.
What wine should you serve it with: A Beaujolais or young Bourgogne or good Greek Αγιωργήτικο (Ayiorgitiko) would be ideal with steak tartare.