Over the years, the things I’d put on my “last meal” list have shifted. I’ve written here that I’d probably want braised lamb shanks, and I guess that still holds as long as I could do the braising myself to prolong the end of the meal – the end of everything – by a few days. What once was carrot cake might now be tarte tartin, pizza could be swapped for…no, pizza stays. But one thing that I’ll never give up is steak tartare.
If it’s on a menu, I order it. If I happen to be walking down the street and glance at a menu and see it, I go in and order it. I’m a steak tartare junkie but only get my fix rarely these days. (It’s not exactly mainstream and I’m not exactly going out all the time.)
But lately I’ve been craving it, googling “best steak tartare in London” and “steak tartare near me” and “steak tartare delivery”and generally losing my chill.
Steak tartare – raw meat in general – gets a bad rap. There are many hearty meat eaters who’re scared off by a little raw steak. I totally get why that may have once been a sound judgment call, what with sketchy refrigeration and sketchier meat handling practices, but these days if you’re ordering it at a good restaurant or buying it from a good butcher, you’re good.
It was, originally, a dish made with horse meat, which is lean and develops a funky flavor when cooked. These days, it’s far more likely to be made from the very best beef filet you can buy. While in Italy it’s often served straight up (and called battuta di manzo), I do it the French way – served with a range of condiments, from mustard to capers.
Because the add-ins can be adjusted (or left out) to your liking and taste, and because there’s no cooking (and practically no chopping), this is one of the easiest and best summer dishes around. It’s both hearty and light and makes a stunning first course (even for those squeamish about eating raw meat – just pan fry a patty for a few minutes and your tartare becomes a burger).
CLASSIC STEAK TARTARE
Serves 2 as a filling main course, 4 as a first course. All of these measurements are approximate, so I’ll list the ingredients first and amounts second – just do what you want with what you’ve got! Just make sure you tell the butcher you’re making tartare and that you want the best filet (fillet in the UK and Oz) for the job. Don’t let this sit too long, make it and serve it right away with toast, crackers, french fries, salad, whatever you like!
best beef filet, 400 grams/nearly 1 pound (bought as close to when you’re planning to make it as possible; tell your butcher what you’re making and ask for the best)
spanish onion or yellow onion, about 1/4 of a medium onion or 1 shallot
capers in brine, drained, about 2 teaspoons
dijon mustard, 1 – 3 teaspoons
mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon (or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil whipped with 1-2 egg yolks)
worcestershire sauce, a few dashes
tabasco sauce, a few drops
salt and pepper to taste
OPTIONAL: it’s all optional, really, but you can also add parsley, ketchup, chili flakes, gherkins, egg yolks for topping, whatever your heart desires.
To make this really easy, use a food processor. Otherwise, you’ll have to chop all your ingredients by hand.
First, chop the meat. Using a sharp knife, cut the filet steak into thin slices. Put the meat in a food processor and pulse just a few times (you don’t want to over-handle it). The meat can be as chunky or as smooth as you like. Put the chopped meat in a medium-sized bowl.
Next, in the bowl of the food processor, pulse together the onion, capers and any other hard ingredients you’re using (such as gherkins) until chopped finely.
Now add some of the pulsed onion mixture into the chopped meat and add some mustard and mayonnaise, and some worcestershire sauce and tabasco. Gently mix together with a spoon until uniform and taste, adding more of the ingredients to taste until the tartare is as you like it. It’s usually really flavorful and a little spicy with lovely chunks of caper and hints of mustard, but it’s really up to you.
Serving it is as easy as making it – it’s really up to you. A classic French bistro might serve it with thin french fries and salad or toast. I like to plate it with toasted brioche or pumpernickel crackers, some capers on top and a tiny drizzle of the best olive oil. You can serve this in uniform patties as I did by pressing it into a cookie mold or half-cup (for 4 people) or cup (for 2 people) measuring cup, and plopping it on each person’s plate, or you can just form it into patties by hand.
If you have any leftover tartare, you can pan fry it the next day for an amazing burger.