There are quite a few rumors about the origins of steak tartare, the most popular being that the recipe descended from the Mongols of Medieval times, who the Romans called “Tartars,” and who, because they were nomadic and had no refrigeration, ate all of their meat raw. The actual reason we call this dish of minced raw beef “tartare” is, unfortunately, much less interesting. Tartare was first written about in early 19th-century France, and it’s simply a shortening of “steak à la tartare” -- a.k.a. steak with tartar sauce. Originally, the dish was always served with tartare sauce -- which consisted of vinegar and hard-boiled eggs -- but over time, it’s taken on many forms. The egg and the vinegar have remained, as has the raw minced beef, but these days steak tartare usually includes capers and onions as well. Sometimes you can even find Worcestershire sauce, mustard, pickles, or herbs added into the mix. —Cara Nicoletti
3 to 4
8 to 10 ounces
top round steak, trimmed of all fat and sinew
capers, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
Canola or vegetable oil for frying
extra-virgin olive oil
flat-leaf parsley, destemmed and roughly chopped
Freeze beef for 40 minutes (this makes cutting easier and also keeps the meat from heating up while you’re chopping).
Using a very sharp knife, cut beef into 1/8 inch-thick slices, then julienne those slices and then mince them into small squares. Repeat until the entire block of meat is cut into tiny bits -- work quickly! You don’t want the meat to get warm. Place the meat in the refrigerator while you fry the capers.
Once your capers are rinsed and thoroughly dried, heat about 1 inch of oil in a medium skillet until it’s at 350° F. Add capers and cook, tossing occasionally, for about 2 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Transfer them to a paper towel to drain and cool.
Whisk olive oil, egg yolk, parsley, shallots, and anchovy paste together in a small bowl. Season dressing to taste with vinegar and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the minced steak -- starting with about half -- and gently toss until it’s mixed throughout. (You may not need to use all of the dressing.)
When you’re ready to eat, toss in the fried capers and taste for seasoning (the capers and anchovies are both salty, so you probably won’t need more salt).
Serve with bread or crackers and good Dijon mustard.
Cara Nicoletti is a butcher and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Cara started working in restaurants when she moved to New York in 2004, and was a baker and pastry chef for several years before following in her grandfather and great-grandfathers' footsteps and becoming a butcher. She is the writer behind the literary recipe blog, Yummy-Books.com, and author of Voracious, which will be published by Little, Brown in 2015. She is currently a whole-animal butcher and sausage-making teacher at The Meat Hook in Williamsburg.