Beef tartare, tarragon mayonnaise, fried anchovy
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We are living through a vogue for steak tartare. Waiters don’t even ask anymore if you know what it is when you order it.
I think this is probably my favourite way to eat steak in the summer and it’s good to see it around. There is a lot more raw food on menus at the moment, actually, which can only be a good. My guess is better produce – fresher seafood, better meat, better vegetables – is making chefs feel more like serving it raw.
Steak tartare is a very important part of the classic French bistro. Often horse is used. Personally, I prefer the beef. I’ve eaten quite a few versions, using various cuts of meat. I’ve seen it with an aged piece of beef, but I prefer to use fresh cuts. The tenderness is not an issue because you’re dicing the meat anyway, and you add so many flavours that the ageing becomes kind of redundant.
I like to use either rump or porterhouse, for their flavour. Flank and skirt steak are also quite good. Obviously, you want to be using high-quality beef – it’s the whole point of the dish. Don’t waste your time with something like eye fillet, though. It’s too tender and doesn’t have the same flavour structure.
When preparing it, resist the temptation to set up the mincer. The same goes for a pulse setting on a food processor. It will crush the meat. Instead, take a sharp knife and start slicing thinly across the grain, then slice each piece into thin strips. Finally, take those strips, bunched together, and dice them into small cubes. If you find the meat a bit soft to handle, place it in the freezer for an hour to firm up, being careful not to freeze it. This will make it easier to work with.
Traditionally, steak tartare would be finished with Worcestershire sauce, onions, capers and a raw egg yolk. The recipe I use – which is slightly unconventional – was first cooked by a chef I work with named Colin Mainds. It uses anchovies and capers, but has introduced tarragon mayonnaise in place of the raw egg yolk. The tarragon brings a nice sense of aniseed that replaces the old-man flavour of Worcestershire sauce.
– 50ml sherry vinegar
– 200ml olive oil
– salt and pepper
– 500g beef rump
– 3 tbsp caperberries, finely diced
– 3 tbsp spring onions, finely diced
– 3 tbsp chives, finely diced
– 1 x 50g tin anchovies
– rice flour
– 1 bunch tarragon, leaves picked
– 1 bunch chervil, leaves picked
– ½ bunch dill, leaves picked
– 1 large shallot, finely sliced
– 4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
– 100ml white wine vinegar
– ½ bunch tarragon
– 6 egg yolks
– 300ml vegetable oil
Whisk together the sherry vinegar and olive oil and set aside.
Cut the beef into half-centimetre dice and place in a bowl with the caperberries, spring onions and chives. Mix thoroughly and dress with half the amount of the sherry vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and a pinch of pepper. Cover with cling film and set aside in the refrigerator.
For the tarragon mayonnaise, sweat the shallot and garlic in a little olive oil in a pan over a low heat until completely soft. Be careful not to let it colour. Add vinegar and reduce until dry. Set aside to cool.
Blanch the tarragon in boiling water for 10 seconds, then refresh in iced water. Remove all excess water. In a blender, add the tarragon, egg yolks and shallot and garlic reduction. Blend on high speed then reduce and slowly add oil to emulsify and create a mayonnaise. Season with salt. Set aside to cool and store in a piping bag.
Drain the tin of anchovies well and toss in rice flour, ensuring a good coating. Dust off excess flour. Heat oil in a large frying pan and fry the anchovies until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Store in an airtight container.
To serve, place the tartare on a serving plate and pipe eight to 10 dollops of the mayonnaise on top. Drizzle with the remaining sherry vinegar dressing, lightly crumb the anchovies over the dish and scatter with picked herbs.
2016 Fairbank Ancestrale rosé, Bendigo ($30) – Liam O’Brien, head sommelier, Cutler & Co.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 25, 2017 as "Winning the cold raw". Subscribe here.