Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Horseradish Steak Tartare with Watercress (Page 446)

RECIPE #1213

  • Date: Sunday, September 5, 2010 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B

The following story is more than a little embarrassing:

My special gentleman and I are both food people. I like to cook (obviously) and my special gentleman likes to eat. I think of us as being rather open-minded when it comes to food. Particularly my special gentleman. I can't think of a single plate of food that I have put in front of him that he has refused eat -- and I have put some pretty crazy things on the table. I am a little more squeamish than him. In the grand scheme of things I don't consider myself a particularly squeamish eater -- but it's true that some things don't sound good to me. One of those things: steak tartare. I love steak. LOVE it. But raw steak? It just doesn't sound good. And so in my whole life of cooking and eating I had never once eaten steak tartare. Tuna tartare? Sure. But never steak.

So there I was, standing in front of the meat counter at Whole Foods in Ann Arbor and I saw a particularly nice looking sirloin steak. I figured if I was going to eat a steak raw, that would be the one I would eat. So I bought it. When I got home I was having trouble motivating to make the dish. I read the blurb before the recipe in The Book to get motivated. Usually the recipe blurbs make some declaration about how awesome the dishes are going to be. In this case, the blurb was an explanation for the name of this classic dish. Apparently steak tartare was named for the Tartars, who would put raw meat under their saddles to tenderize it as they rode around all day. Then at dinner they would chop up the meat and eat it. Needless to say, that did not improve my attitude.

Nonetheless, I proceeded. I very finely chopped up my beautiful steak, then mixed it with Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, vegetable oil, horseradish, lemon juice, capers, scallion greens, salt, and pepper. I was supposed to serve it with watercress and radishes, but I had to substitute arugula for the watercress. I figured the greens weren't really the point of the dish so I allowed myself the substitution. I mounded the tartare onto two plates and I put it on the table. My special gentleman and I both stared. After a moment he said, "I don't want to eat that." I was shocked. Shocked. My special gentleman is the most adventurous eater I know. He will go to foreign countries and eat whatever is put in front of him without even knowing what it is. He never refuses a plate of food. Somehow, though, raw steak rubbed him the wrong way.

So I was actually the one that reluctantly took the first bite. And it was... delicious! It had a great balance of flavors and a wonderful texture (which was the part I had worried about most). It was really good. At the same time, it was hard to eat. I couldn't shake the feeling that eating it was like biting into a hamburger patty completely raw, or cutting off a piece of cow and gnawing on it. I don't know why either of those images bothered me, but they did. If I had felt comfortable eating it, I would have happily eaten the whole plate. It was tasty. And actually, I might have eaten it all. But after he finally did take a bite or two my special gentleman chimed in with, "Can we cook it?" I laughed. He was serious. It was just too hard for him to get past his psychological aversion to the pile of raw cow flesh. So I scraped it off our plates into a skillet and cooked it up. A few minutes later we were eating it again. I felt very comfortable eating it after it was cooked -- I quickly downed my whole serving. But the truth is, it had tasted much better raw!

That's the story of the steak tartare, embarrassing as it may be. Even though I liked this dish, I wouldn't make it again. I wouldn't feel comfortable serving it to friends, and I wouldn't feel particularly comfortable eating it myself. But, I do think that the next time I find myself facing some tartare I will appreciate it more. Probably in time it will just be another thing that seems normal to me and I will have no problem with it at all. Hopefully. Because it turns out it is delicious.

This recipe isn't online.

Only 80 recipes left to go!


GilaB said...

From what I've read, the meat-under-saddle thing is a myth, and steak tartare was first served under that name about a century ago in France.

I've certainly never prepared the stuff myself, but when my husband ordered it once, I was surprised by how tasty it was. Still, I didn't think I'd want to eat a whole pile of it.

kingshearte said...

I do enjoy my steak rather rare, but I've never been able to quite wrap my head around the notion of eating it entirely raw. My husband will, though. When I've got it chopped up before tossing it into the stir fry, he'll occasionally nab a piece and eat it. Maybe I should try tartare sometime.

Teena said...

GilaB: I am glad to hear that the meat under the saddle is a myth, because that sounds pretty foul! Yeah, it was definitely tastier than I expected!

kinghearte: Yeah, I had trouble getting my head around eating it raw, but I was certainly glad I tried it!