Top quality ingredients shine in this classic dish!
I’ll never forget the first time I tasted beef tartare. I’d avoided it out of unfounded fears about eating raw beef, but curiosity eventually got the better of me and I was hooked after just one bite. There are loads of variations out there but I’ll likely always prefer a classic preparation, which is similar to what they serve at Ottawa’s Supply and Demand restaurant (although they do mix things up every so often for fun and variety). I’ll admit I was a little nervous about serving raw beef at home but I followed the wise instructions of Transparent Kitchen which showcases the work of top restaurants in a number of Ontario cities (read more about Transparent Kitchen here.) Per Transparent Kitchen’s description of Supply and Demand’s beef tartare, I purchased top quality, local beef from The Piggy Market so I knew I was beginning the process with the best key ingredient.
The artisanal deli’s affable owner, Dave Neil, recommended a new-to-me cut of beef called the shoulder tender which was, true to its name, very tender; if you can source it you will find it just as delicious yet cheaper than tenderloin. I highly recommend quickly pickling some vegetables to go with your tartare as they add great contrasts of flavour and texture to the finely minced beef, but if you’re pressed for time you can use cornichons (tiny pickled cucumbers, sometimes called gherkins) instead. Caper berries (larger, stemmed versions of the tiny pickled capers which are the buds from the same plant, with which you may be more familiar) are available at most specialty food shops. The Transparent Kitchen site also taught me that one of the secret ingredients in Supply and Demand’s beef tartare is a light dusting of quality cheese like Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, Canada’s 2016 Cheese of the Year. It’s a small-batch product but you can often find it – or a great substitute like Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar – at the Piggy Market.
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) Dijon mustard
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) small capers, drained and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) sambal oelek (Asian chili-garlic paste)
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
- 3/4 pound (340 g) top quality beef (shoulder tender or tenderloin)
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) finely chopped shallot
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) finely grated cheese (see above)
- Crostini (see below), sliced baguette or sturdy crackers
- Pickled vegetables (see below), caper berries or cornichons
- Make crostini and quick pickles ahead of time, if using.
- Pop the beef into the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm up the meat and make it easier to mince.
- While beef is chilling, combine the lemon juice, mustard, egg yolk, capers, and sambal oelek in a medium-sized non-reactive bowl (glass or stainless steel).
- Drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly. Taste and add additional sambal oelek plus salt and pepper, to taste. Put bowl of vinaigrette in fridge while you prepare the beef.
- With a very sharp knife, slice the meat thinly, then julienne the slices into matchstick-sized pieces. Cut the matchsticks crosswise to form a 1/8 inch (3 mm) dice.
- Add the meat to the vinaigrette in the bowl and stir gently. Refrigerate for up to one hour if not serving immediately.
- To serve, mound the beef tartare on a serving plate and garnish with pickled vegetables, caper berries and/or cornichons and grated cheese. Serve with crostini.
To make crostini:
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Slice a half a baguette thinly (1/4 inch or 1.25 cm) and lay the slices out on a baking tray.
- Brush bread slices very lightly with olive oil and bake until just beginning to brown (6 – 8 minutes). Flip slices over and bake 3 – 4 minutes longer.
- Remove from oven and transfer slices to a cooling rack. (NOTE: you can make the crostini several days ahead.)
To make quick pickled vegetables:
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) white vinegar
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) water
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) salt
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) white sugar
- 1 clove garlic, halved
- Pinch hot red pepper flakes
- Few grinds black pepper
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) small cauliflower florets (1/2 to 3/4 inch or 1.25 to 2 cm in size)
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) peeled, sliced carrots (1/4 inch or .6 cm thick)
- 1 shallot, cut crosswise into rings
- Combine the brine ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar and salt have dissolved and mixture is almost boiling.
- Put the vegetables in a heatproof bowl and pour brine over top.
- Let sit for 30 – 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Transfer pickles and brine to a jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months if not using immediately.