France does not claim steak tartare as its own, but the French do treat the dish as a child lovingly adopted into the fold. It appeals to their less squeamish approach to food – along with piglet trotters, frogs’ legs and snails – and also to the widespread aversion to actually cooking things (even medium-rare steaks ooze blood.)
With steak tartare, French chefs can go for gold by not letting a single flame warm the cherished final product. For extra flourish, waiters then mix the ingredients at the table and entice you into the magic by asking how you like it blended.
It seduces me every time.
It doesn’t matter to me that Worcestershire sauce has infiltrated most recipes. Nor that my friend Dr Yeap warned me about toxoplasmosis and various other communicable diseases. I fell in love with steak tartare in Toulouse and neither raw egg nor raw meat can keep me away.
Under certain conditions. (Because those infectious disease lectures from medical school still bubble up from time to time.)
It has to be in a restaurant that I trust. And luckily, France has plenty of those. My favourite restaurant in Toulouse is Chez Carmen. Like steak tartare, the appeal isn’t immediately obvious. It’s opposite a museum called the Abattoirs, it still hasn’t washed the graffiti off its doors and its terrace merges with a main road.
However, the museum in question actually used to BE Toulouse’s abattoir and from this, Chez Carmen carved a reputation of serving some of the finest and freshest meat in Toulouse. When it opens its doors, the red-chequered tablecloths and old wooden barrels work their own magic, transporting you to the kind of France pictured in romantic films set in the 1940s.
But what if you’re not in Toulouse and want to try a little of the magic yourself?
Simply mix this all together – according to taste.
PS – just like gazpacho, everything depends on the quality of ingredients, instead of a complicated recipe. Unlike gazpacho, if your ingredients aren’t fresh enough, you risk serious illness. There, disclaimer said.
600g beef fillet
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
3 egg yolks
7 drops of Tabasco (if you’re brave enough. Otherwise reduce)
1½ teaspoons of Worchester Sauce
A few squirts of tomato ketchup (in French cooking? I know, I know)
10g Dijon mustard
A dash of lemon juice