I keep my Instagram feed chockfull of images from destinations abroad. The cyclists are out in Amsterdam. The table-side trattorias of Trastevere look sunny and inviting. And my French friends have my heart yearning for a cafe seat in the 15th, a glass of red and an order of steak tartare avec frites to complete the picture.
In lieu of dropping everything and cashing in my miles for a quick hop over, I have perfected the late-night bistro meal in my cozy 5th floor walkup in Brooklyn. Before we cook, let’s set the mood with authentic music on France Bleu radio, which offers up programming from about 30 different local stations from La Rochelle to the Loire Valley.
While boning up on your Francaise, how about a simple Pastis to get started. Ricard or Pernod are both easily findable in any decent liquor store. I think the French just add water, but I prefer a bit of water and ice to create that milky cloud of licorice-flavored deliciousness. Now we are ready to cook.
Good fresh boeuf, of course is the answer to any question about the safety of this dish. You will not find an authentic cafe in Paris that does not serve steak tartare and last I heard, the whole of France is not being raced to the hospital clutching their stomach. If you are not afraid of Romaine lettuce, there is no reason to fear the good cut of raw steak.
Our friends at Whole Foods provide an ample range of locally-sourced ground sirloin. My favorite is the 90% double-ground grass-fed variety. If you are in the New York area, Fleisher’s and Union Market (both with Brooklyn and NYC locales) are a couple of my other favorites (I think I could pass a blind beef-tasting test with a half-dozen local brands I enjoy this dish that much!). If you are reading this from afar, pay a visit to any good butcher and ask them to prepare you some fresh ground sirloin. There’ something about the beautiful color of the meat simply wrapped in plain thick paper that makes it hard to not just eat the whole package with a pinch of salt before you’ve even begun to cook.
Keto aficionados are going to love the recipe below. I’m going with the standard French prep, raw egg included (yum!) – and I serve this with a salad of greens and frisée drizzled in home-made vinaigrette. You can’t get much healthier without keeling over from the goodness. However, I also sport tartare recipes with an Italian flair (seasoned breadcrumbs are key) and a Japanese twist (a splash of soy or Nam Pla lights it up). And if you’re halfway through the prep and having second thoughts? Just roll your tartare into tidy little balls, fry ’em up in olive oil and voila: spaghetti and meatballs! Bon appetit.
• 1/2 lb. fresh ground sirloin, 90/10 lean
• One raw egg
• 2 tsps Dijon mustard
• Crazy Jane’s Mixed-up Salt (or Lawry’s or kosher salt is fine, too)
• Ground pepper
• A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce
• Finely chopped shallot and jalapeno (capers optional, too)
1.) Place meat in a glass mixing bowl.
2.) Crack egg in a small dish and with a teaspoon, scoop a level amount of the egg yolk atop the meat.
3.) Add a teaspoon or two of Dijon mustard, as well as the salt and pepper.
4.) Add a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce.
5.) Roll up your sleeves and with both hands thoroughly mix the meat, kneading it over and over until all the ingredients are mixed in and it starts to feel dry and even a bit sticky.
6.) Taste a bit. If it hits that sweet/salty umami high, you’re done. Otherwise add any of the above seasonings to adjust for consistency and taste.
7.) Plate it, flatten it with a fork, and add chopped onion/jalapeno, ground pepper or capers to taste. This is also delicious smeared in beefy little dollops across crusty hunks of fresh baguette!