Before you cook that steak….

November 1, 2015

Upper right? That's raw beef, right there.

Upper right? That’s raw beef, right there.

…think about NOT cooking that steak. Particularly if it’s a sirloin, or a filet, or other very lean cut.

I have made my first steak tartare. I had wanted to do so since I had such a marvelous iteration of it at the Catbird Seat in Nashville a couple of months ago. So, with new beef in the freezer that included a couple of small filets, I decided to do just that.

I used, for the most part, the recipe from ChefSteps for “Classic Steak Tartare.” I diced a still-partially-frozen filet up into about quarter-inch dice, tossed it into a bowl. Diced up capers and cornichons (thank God for a nice imported foods section at Kroger, which netted me a $6 jar of cornichons, because they ARE, in fact, different from sour or kosher dill gherkins). Used freeze-dried chives, as I had no fresh. Added two raw egg yolks, a bit of Dijon mustard, a healthy dose of freshly ground pepper, and a couple of tablespoons of white truffle oil, and stirred it all up together and let it sit a bit.

Had I had the time — or wanted to take the time — I’d have puffed some quinoa, and tossed that in. The version at Catbird Seat had puffed quinoa, and it provides a very cool textural contrast.

No matter. This was good stuff. The egg yolks and the truffle oil impart an additional level of silkiness to the already marvelously smooth texture of good, grass-fed beef. The cornichons and capers add a nice bite. The chives add a different flavor element. The Dijon brings a mysterious background note, and just a bit of horseradishy bite.

It occurs to me that some balsamic vinegar might not have gone amiss, although not with the Dijon, I don’t think. I have a bit left over; I may try a bit of balsamic with it just to see.

I would not want to do this with, say, a ribeye, or a New York strip, or other well-marbled cut. But a sirloin or a filet, one with very little fat, just lends itself. The small dice does away with any toughness problems. Do NOT cut it too fine; you still want a little integrity of texture to the meat.

Word to the wise: It’s very easy to overestimate how much of this to make. Two filets, somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 ounces apiece, made WAY more tartare than two people needed for lunch. I’d say it would generally feed four for lunch, which makes it a fairly economical option, even if the steak is a pricy cut. I think, though, a less pricy cut would work; next time, I plan to try a less expensive cut — a top sirloin, or even a top round, and see how it fares.

Had it with several different kinds of cheese, some quince paste, some olives (kalamata and Castelvetrano) and some pickles, and baguette toasts, along with some grilled asparagus I’d picked up at the Kroger deli. All in all, a most excellent, filling and awfully damn good lunch. I was even moved to have a glass of wine with lunch — something I don’t generally do — because the menu just seemed to call for it.

And Halloween candy for dessert. Because I could.

So before you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em fire up that grill the next time — think about serving that steak raw. Your caveman ancestors would likely approve.

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