10 July 2013
BWR Classic: Steak Tartare
In going back through my old posts, I smile at those that feature one or both of my dearly departed dogs. At the same time, I know that they would appreciate that I still crave things like steak tartare, and that they liked the fact that my "sloppy" knife skills would allow bits of tender delicious beef to hit the floor while they were nosing around in the kitchen.
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I've said this before and I'll say it again: one of the joys of cooking is that you don't need to travel to a fancy restaurant to try a fabled dish if you've got access to the proper ingredients and have the requisite skills and determination. With that in mind, I recently attempted steak tartare. Naturally, I followed Bourdain's recipe from the Les Halles Cookbook.
My first introduction to the dish was actually on the playground in elementary school. Lest you assume that I attended an elite branch of the Lycée Français, this culinary lesson took the form of arguments over them damned Europeans eating raw beef, and eventually a library encyclopedia settled the issue. For years afterward I assumed that the French and Germans always ate raw meat. Fast forward to 2009, and I've become that which terrified me. And I like fresh mayonnaise on my fries. What happened to that all-American lad?
While we're talking about childhood, I'll also note that this dish will disappoint both of my parents. Mom has strict rules against raw meat and raw eggs, and Dad can't stand mayonnaise. (Family dinners are harmonious, fear not--Mom's steak just goes on the grill long before the rest of ours, and Dad just avoids cold salads that are bound together with mayo.)
But I did make the mayo from scratch, and divided the batch into two parts, one of which was seasoned with Sriracha. I left the diced shallots and cornichons on the side to allow for desired mixing at the table, but I loved the presentation of the egg yolk sitting in the pile o' meat.
Want to improve the flavor of your frozen fries? Add some garlic cloves and rosemary during the last few minutes of cooking and toss it all with some good sea salt. Not perfect, but quite nice. Serving them in a parchment paper cone is purely optional, but aesthetically pleasing.
Steak tartare is a lot of work, and I'm not sure that it's worth it for a casual dinner. Mincing the steak by hand, trying to keep everything cold... On top of that, you only need a little bit per person. For some reason, I can easily consume a properly roasted rare 16 oz. prime rib, but I was defeated after three ounces of tartare. It's so rich, so flavorful... think about the difference between eating a grilled filet of salmon and the equivalent amount in sashimi. It's delicious, but if you're not used to consuming a lot of raw flesh it tires you out quickly.
For the wine, I popped open the 2004 Dog House "Zeke's Zin" from the Central and North Coasts of California. $9, 14.4% abv. It's 76% Zinfandel, 11% Syrah, and 9% Petite Sirah. It's got a big blackberry jam profile with hints of coffee afterwards. Still pretty strong after five years, but with a couple of hours of breathing it smoothed out nicely. And proceeds from these wines go to Guide Dogs for the Blind.
I was initially attracted to this wine not because of the producer or the grape, but because it featured a little e-collar around the neck. Any dog owner has come to recognize this item with a mix of sympathy and humor. Even The Roommate, who eschews all forms of alcohol, thought it was adorable, and loved the printing on the collar that said "Two paws up!"
Both of my dogs are fine, but in honor of the pups out there that are recovering from various surgeries, I pulled out their old e-collars for a photo. (The collars were removed shortly after and both boys got treats.) That's Macbeth the fox-red Labrador on the left and Wolfgang the mutt on the right. Two good dogs who guard the wine stash when I'm away from home.
I picked up this wine at Whiskers Wine & Spirits in Cordova. The owners are animal lovers and are engaged in various fundraising activities for the local Humane Society and other related causes. In a gesture that might bring a tear to your eye, they've got an entire wall devoted to a memorial mural called the "Rainbow Bridge" where customers can post photos of deceased pets.