"I recall Margaret Fulton lecturing me in the 1980’s on how important it was to hand chop beef for Steak Tartare" - Damien Pignolet
The French named this dish after the tartars, a Mongol tribe known for their fierceness (Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food, 1999). I guess the ferocity relates to the raw onion and Worcestershire sauce, among other ingredients, that spike the beef. Fillet or rump are the cuts traditionally called for in this dish, however at Bistro Moncur we use the silverside or blade from prime Wagyu beef, as it is rich in flavour and highly marbled with fat. Flavourings include finely chopped raw onions, parsley, capers, cornichons and anchovies with a spicy note provided by Worcestershire sauce; a raw egg yolk adds richness and helps to bind the meat. Choose the best sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to complete the palate. The texture is contrasted by some crisp Melba toasts.
I serve steak tartare – or Biftek à l’Americaine as it’s sometimes called in France, owing to its popularity among Americans – as a mound crowned with an egg yolk and surrounded by all the flavourings; the diner uses two forks to mix the ingredients. At Brasserie La Coupole, in Paris, the beef is presented in a salad bowl and the waiter mixes everything thoroughly at the table. I suggest you experiment with the sort of flavourings you like, to develop an individual dish.
To make the Melba toasts, dry the bread on a baking tray in a 150°C oven until crisp and pale golden,
About 10–15 minutes.
For steak tartare I choose to chop the meat very finely with a sharp knife in the traditional manner – this produces a moister and more agreeable texture than passing the meat through a mincer. For the sake of hygiene, please use a thoroughly clean knife, a scrubbed board and plastic food-preparation gloves, and serve the tartare very cold.
To serve, divide the beef equally between 6 large plates and shape each portion into a neat mound. Make a slight dip in the top and carefully slide in an egg yolk. Arrange the chosen garnishes in separate piles around the plate and serve. Have Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces, extra virgin olive oil, lemon cheeks and salt and pepper on the table.
Extract from the book French by Damien Pignolet
Photography: Earl Carter