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Beef tartare unsung hero of olden days

By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3

One of the unsung heroes of days of yore is beef tartare, that dish that so many people avoid like the plague due to the need to ingest raw beef.

A classic dish originating in either The Levant, Turkey or Mongolia (choose the path you wish to believe), it has been around for hundreds of years. In fact, it is safe to say that it has been around for many hundreds of years.

If you go to steakhouses, as I have all around this great nation of ours, you know that you are about as likely to find steak tartare on the menu as you are to find the ubiquitous carpaccio in a good Italian restaurant. They just seem to always be there.

Before I go any further, I would be remiss of my duties if I didn’t share the absolute best carpaccio I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying — at Todd English’s Olives in the Virgin Hotel in Las Vegas. Now back to the story.

I grew up in a household where we enjoyed raw things. This is back in the day when there was not as much concern on the safety of beef, and if my dad was making burgers, he would make us little patties of raw beef, smack them with a little bit of salt and pepper, hand them to us and tell us to get out of the kitchen. It became a standard procedure for us. In today’s pathogenic clime, I would be hesitant to do this unless I knew the origin of the beef.

Smaller producers typically have a better handle on the safety levels of the cattle and I would have no problem eating this product rare or raw. If I grind my own meat from larger pieces, then that as well gets my vote for the uncooked consumption.

As an aside, if you decide down the road that you would like to grind your own meat, and you own a Kitchenaid stand mixer, do yourself a favor and buy a full-metal grinding attachment. Those things are a godsend. The cheap plastic ones made by the manufacturer itself does not get the job done. The metal ones are the commercial grinders that we use in restaurants and you can ice all of the parts down to keep them chilled during the process. And if you are making sausage, you know why it is important to keep everything chilled.

But, I am way off topic on this beef tartare thing. We are not grinding anything for this dish, but rather dicing. The tartare can be made with ground beef, but I personally find it much more satisfying with a little bite to it. And as we are using tenderloin for this recipe, it is of the utmost importance to keep whatever bite there may be in this already tender steak.

Make this dish and play around with the flavors. Served with the bone marrow crustini, there is a richness and succulence that you won’t find elsewhere. And that’s what makes this an unsung hero of a dish.

Beef Tartare, Bone Marrow Crustini

serves 6

10 oz. Tenderloin

4 Tbsp. Capers

1 Tbsp. Stone ground mustard

1 tsp. Soy Sauce

1 tsp. Worcestershire

1/2 bunch Broadleaf Parsley

6 ea. Cornichons

Salt & Pepper, to taste

2 ea. salt-cured egg yolks (recipe follows)

Bone Marrow Crustini (recipe follows)

  1. Dice beef into half-inch cubes.
  2. Take half of the capers and 1 cornichon and finely dice.
  3. Chop parsley finely and reserve some for the marrow butter.
  4. Combine beef, chopped capers & cornichons, mustard, soy, Worcestershire and some of the parsley.
  5. Combine well and season.
  6. When you are happy with the results, press the tartare onto a platter in a ring mold.
  7. Top with some grated cured egg yolks (or raw yolks if you prefer not to spend a week or two properly curing the yolks) and surround with remaining cornichons, marrow toast, parsley, whole cornichons and whole capers.

Salt-Cured Egg Yolks

makes 6 yolks

6 egg yolks

Kosher salt, as needed

  1. Carefully place the yolks in a non-reactive container in which you have put about three-quarters of an inch of kosher salt. Make sure that there is plenty of space around each yolk.
  2. Gingerly top and surround the yolks with more salt, ensuring that you do not pop any.
  3. Let sit in the refrigerator for 1 week.
  4. They will be firm enough to handle, but still be careful with them. Remove from the salt and dust the salt off.
  5. Place in a 170F oven for about 3 hours to quick dry, or look up some other techniques on air drying them.
  6. If you don’t want to mess with all of this, simply serve raw egg yolks, or hard boil some eggs and use those yolks instead.

Bone Marrow Crustini

serves 6

1 baguette, sliced into crustini

8 oz. Softened butter

3 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped

Salt & pepper, to taste

3 Marrow bones, roasted

4 Tbsp. Finely chopped parsley

Juice of 1 lemon

  1. Combine all of the ingredients after scraping the roasted marrow from the bones.
  2. Taste and adjust seasoning. I like this to have a pronounced garlic flavor with that roasted marrow touch.
  3. Spread your marrow butter on the crustini and bake until golden.
  4. Set aside until ready to serve.

Paul Suplee is the owner of Boxcar40 in Pittsville
and senior lecturer of culinary arts at UMES.