August 11, 2006

Steak Tartare

Paul has wanted to eat steak tartare ever since we arrived in Paris. Since I was never a willing participant, he needed someone just as enthusiastic as himself to help get it done. Enter Bruno. We can always count on Tina and Bruno to be up for a good meal, and when Paul told Bruno he wanted to try tartare, I think I might have even seen a glimmer of pride in his eyes.

Tina and Bruno came over one Sunday with tartare ingredients in hand. Tina and I were to eat this chicken salad, while the boys feasted on huge plates of tartare. Bruno and Paul prepared the toppings while the ladies enjoyed a glass of wine, so I can't necessarily tell you how it was done, but once we were ready to eat, here was what was on the table:

1 white onion, chopped
3-4 Tbsp cornichons, chopped

3-4 Tbsp capers, drained and chopped
1 lemon, cut in half

dijon mustard

Tabasco sauce

sea salt

black pepper
olive oil

balsamic vinegar

These condiments are to be mixed into the cold steak haché at your discretion. (Use about 500 grams ground beef for 2 people, bought freshly ground, from a reputable source). I tasted Paul's concoction once he had mixed everything together. It was Tina who said the texture resembled tuna salad or something like that (since it is savory, creamy and cold) and I have to agree. I'm afraid I had to put the fact that it was raw beef out of my mind while I chewed, but for a few moments, I really liked it. It was rich, but that flavor was cut by the sharp pickles, onion, lemon, capers and a bit of a spicy kick from the hot sauce. I can see why so many people are passionate about their tartare.

It's funny to taste something that goes so against your sensibilities, though. For people who've grown up in an area with nothing but well-done hamburgers, dry cooked eggs, and cities that want to ban fois gras, it takes some getting used to. And steak tartare is just about the most harmless "weird" thing you can eat here. (Brain pâté, anyone?)

Now, I don't think I could eat a whole plate of tartare myself. I think Paul may have been struggling by the end...just a little. But, neither of us got sick (which I wasn't actually worried about) and we loved the experience, so score un for France and a big fat zero to food-fearing American ideals. We shouldn't live in fear of what millions of people around the world put in their mouths everyday. After all, I think there is something to the old phrase: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, no?


s'kat said...

Hmm, I'll admit to a curiosity about tartare, but I wouldn't know anywhere 'round here to make an attempt. It certainly sounds interesting!

Joie said...

When my Great Aunt came to our house when I was a child, 50 years ago, my mother would get ground sirloin for her and she ate it seasoned and raw...This is in St. Louis MO USA. She was Swiss. So maybe it's not exclusively a French thing.

Megan said...

Joie - It's entirely possible that it isn't just French. That's a great memory to have of your Aunt!

S'kat - Yeah, I think I was more curious than craving it! If you really want to, I'm sure you can ask a local butcher when they get in their freshest beef and grind it for you the moment you come in.

Tanna said...

Yes, I can see it as novelty, can't imagine craving it.

marion said...

Tartares - beef, salmon or otherwise - should not be made with ground meat. Buy top quality meat and cut it yourself in tiny dices with a good knife.
At restaurants, you'll easily recognize not-so-good ground meat tartares from ones freshly made by the chef.

Megan said...

Marion - Thanks for your comment. You are right, it's safer to buy your own and dice it. You don't want to buy supermarket ground beef, for sure. Perhaps it is more acceptable to use ground beef in France? I can only report my experience, of course.

Richard said...

I haven't had steak tartar in years. The last one I had was fantastic - it was at a very high class restaurant - the addition of lemon juice really helped the flavour.

I used to eat it more frequently as a kid -my mother would make it. I would grind the meat using a steel hand grinder. I would never use store ground meat for it - I barely trust it for making hamburgers or meatloaf.

It is a lovely blog with many mouth watering treats and sumptuous pictures to complement them.

Ms. Q said...

oooh oooh oooh! I want to try that! I eat sushi all the time, so I think I could handle steak tartare!

You are brave and inspirational even for someone as adventurous as me!

Megan said...

Richard - Thanks for visiting my blog! I hope you'll keep reading!

Ms.Q - Wow, Thanks! I hope you like the tartare. Next time I think I'll try it at a restaurant or buy my own steak and dice it like others have suggested here, just to be safe.

Karen Simon said...

Love Steak Tartar, could eat some right now in fact! If you want a real taste experience try Ethiopian Kitfo beef. It is rich and spicy and just right with injera bread.