A typical Saturday for me includes at least three beers, two bowls of boxed macaroni and cheese, a few hours of kittens laying on my face, and usually excludes pants. Yesterday, however, I had a hunger that could only be sated by one of my favourite dishes — steak tartare. I spent all two of the Ottawa winter daytime hours yesterday dragging my date around the market, gathering everything we needed for dinner. Then I waited impatiently for the rest of the afternoon to start stuffing my face with raw beef.
Tartare is one of the dishes I was most reluctant to try at home. Despite having worked so long in kitchens, there’s always been a certain type of mysticism that has surrounded tartare for me. I think it’s a generally inaccessible dish to the everyday home cook because of its association with haute cuisine and our fear of raw foods. And it’s a fear that’s not without basis – it’s too easy to come across meats in the supermarket contaminated with unhealthy amounts of bacteria as a result of the slaughtering process. This is why for this recipe I insist that you ask your local butcher if the beef tenderloin you’ll be picking up is safe to use in tartare.
Don’t let me make this dish any more intimidating though. If you’re familiar with your butcher and proper meat handling, this is actually one of the easiest date recipes you can make at home. And as long as you don’t tell anyone that, you’ll look like a total hero.
The wine I chose was one I’d drank with a few other dishes like a sausage and tomato risotto or stuffed pork tenderloin but I was still looking for the right pairing. Sartori’s Valpolicella Classico is a complex wine that carries the perfect balance of spice and sweetness to pair with my steak tartare. I couldn’t be happier with this pairing but I’ll leave it to you to try yourself. Look for the sweet cherry and cracked black pepper flavours in the wine to bring out their sweet and spicy counterparts in the beef. I also chose to use dark balsamic vinegar in place of red wine vinegar in the recipe which compliments the subtle vanilla notes in the wine without letting the acidity overpower the delicacy of the raw meat.
If you’re planning on doing a dessert I’d advise picking up a second (or fourth) bottle of something a little sweeter. This wine is distinctly dryer than most desserts and will leave your dessert (in the case of last night – a cheesecake recipe I had which sparked debate over what it means to truly be a cheesecake) tasting much more bitter than you anticipate.
With the few ingredients I had on hand already, the total cost to make two huge portions of tartare and two and a half individual cheesecake servings was $65.00. Which makes it one of my more expensive date ideas but still a fraction of the cost of going to a restaurant where I’d be super uncomfortable because I drink the water too fast and can’t figure out the right way to drape the napkin on my lap. The wine was $14 a bottle and I’ll definitely be trying this recipe again the next time someone else pays for the ingredients.
Here’s an easy recipe that won’t take you longer than half an hour to throw together.
Potato Sticks Recipe
I decided to throw these on top of the tartare as opposed to doing it traditionally with crostini or some toasted bread.
2 Fingerling Potatoes
Canola oil, salt, pepper.
Preheat a thick bottomed pot with two cups of canola oil to 320F. Julienne your potatoes (cut them in to matchsticks) and rinse them in cold water to get rid of any excess starch. Let your potatoes dry and throw them in to your pot of oil. Take them out and put them on a plate with paper towel to dry up excess oil when the skin gets slightly darker and begins to blister. Heat your oil up to 350F and fry your potatoes again until they’re golden and crispy. Dry them on paper towel again then toss them in a mixing bowl with salt and pepper. You’ll plop these on the top of your meat in a tent shape.
Beef Tartare Recipe
10-12oz Beef Tenderloin (remember, know your source)
1 Small-Medium Shallot
1 Egg Yolk
1.5-2 Tablespoons Curly-leaf Parsely – this is a preference thing. If you like flat-leaf more go for it.
1 Tablespoon Paprika
Finely dice your shallot, parsley, and beef. You’ll want your beef to be cold out of the fridge and chopped up to about a quarter centimetre dice. Do not use a food processor for this – it ruins the texture you can only achieve by knife. Mix all your ingredients in a cool bowl – you don’t want any of your surfaces to be warm and taking away valuable delicious fat from your beef.
Saucy Stuff Recipe
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil (1.5 to get your dish a little glossier)
1.5 Tablespoons Whole-grain Mustard
1 Tablespoon Dark Balsamic Vinegar
1.5 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Capers (get some good quality if you can find it)
1 Tablespoon of Tabasco
Salt and pepper
Mix your ingredients in a cool bowl separate from your beef. Once they’re mixed, chill your hands with some cold water and mix the wet ingredients with your beef. Once you have the tartare mixed you can either plate it roughly, pour it in to a ring mold if you’re a fancy pants chef, or spend 5 minutes painstakingly molding it by hand to make a pretty photo like I did. I also picked up some baby chicory to add a bit of colour and bitterness. Don’t forget to place your fried potato sticks on top.
That’s all I’ve got for you this time. Good luck with your date.