2 slabs of meatFew things are as French as steak tartare. Raw ground beef. With a few additions.

On one of my early trips to Paris, I ordered steak tartare from some stately bistro. I barely remember now, but… There were flowers. Everybody was older than me. It felt very formal and grown up. There were different levels in the restaurant–not floors but groups of tables that were reached by stairs, which had brass handrails. It was the ’80s, and brass was very classy.

I had decided to be daring and get steak tartare even though I had grown up with extra-well-done meat. Some people drive fast for thrills; I did gastronomy.

Cutting the meat
Ah, but my dear butcher (who chews out people who annoy him! Kind of Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi, but for meat) will trim off absolutely every bit of white, using frighteningly sharp knives.

The waiter was dressed in black dress pants, a black vest, a perfectly pressed white shirt (the crease on his sleeve was so crisp it looked as if it could draw blood if you ran a finger along it) and an immaculate white apron. He was around my father’s age at the time–50s–with gray hair. That was surprising because I had never seen anybody older than 30 waiting tables.

He wheeled over a cart with a large stainless steel bowl and showed me a lump of ground beef in the bottom. Then he asked me which garnitures I wanted: onions? chives? or was it shallots? capers? parsley? Tabasco? Worcestershire sauce? There were other possibilities, I’m sure–it was difficult to decide. I asked as politely as I could for a little of everything. How to say no to onions in favor of chives, or vice versa? It all sounded good.

inside fridge
Our dinner was hanging out in here.

The thing about being young and eager and excited is that you can ask what would ordinarily be a slightly impolite request, but it’s taken as what it is: enthusiasm, not greed. The waiter flicked a bit of everything into the mix, added a raw egg yolk, then vigorously mixed it all with a fork. He then coaxed it onto a plate and formed it with a few quick gestures, making a little volcanic crater, where he deposited another egg yolk.

With perfect timing, another waiter arrived with a hot serving of crispy fries.

fridge closed
Exterior view of the fridge. I ADORE the fact that it hasn’t changed in generations. And immaculately clean.

It was heaven. The texture, the flavors. I loved it. I didn’t eat meat very often. When on one of our early dates, the Carnivore asked me whether I was vegetarian, I answered no–to me that’s like asking whether I’d walked on the moon or whether I was pregnant–there’s no “kind-of” answer. It’s straight yes/no. I ate meat at least five or six times in the previous year, therefore, I wasn’t a vegetarian, much less a vegan (I can never give up cheese). I’m not against vegetarian or vegan diets, but I am just too lazy and I do like meat…a few times a year.

In fact, when I was living in Belgium, I would head to the brasserie across the street from our office for a steak tartare when I felt the oppressive damp dragging me into a cold. A nice big shot of protein to get back on track! Meat for medicinal purposes only. Seriously, I lived on salads and chocolate and cheese otherwise. OK, mostly chocolate.

Ground before my eyes. No “pink slime” here.

In Belgium, they have another version, called steak américain, which unknowing Americans continually order only to send it back to be cooked. Steak américain is similar to steak tartare as both are RAW, but with a dollop of mayonnaise (because: Belgium) and even more seasonings. Go into any butcher shop or grocery store there and you will find raw beef seasoned in a huge variety of ways. Heaven.

Steak américain around here means a ground beef patty, fried, served without a bun, but with fries and possibly a green salad. Just so you know!

We are picky about where we have steak tartare. It’s the French version of sushi–raw and risky. There are restaurants we trust. But in general, we DIY, going to our butcher when we start jonesing for some raw meat. It’s pricey (I think I paid €16 for 700+ grams for the three of us), but we don’t splurge often. Go big or go home. (An aside: It is typically French to say “MY butcher.” Who has “my butcher” at a big supermarket? They don’t even cut up the meat in those places anymore. It arrives sealed in plastic.)

If you have a butcher you trust, then go for it!

All ready
The main ingredient.

Steak Tartare

I browsed a few dozen recipes to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Us? Onions, capers (on the side because our kid doesn’t like them), Worcestershire, Tabasco, egg yolks. That’s it. Keep in mind that you can do whatever the heck you want here. Tons of Tabasco and no Worcestershire? No problem! Capers? Schmapers if they aren’t your thing. Consider this like a pizza menu, where these are the  usual possibilities and you can take them or leave them. There is no right or wrong….except for the base of raw ground beef. (I’ve even had Thai-seasoned tartare.) You can add whatever you like, in whatever quantities you like. The French are rarely so accommodating, so profitez-en (enjoy).

Freshly ground or finely minced very lean steak. Count on 125 grams (4.4 oz.) or more per person, depending on appetite. (The American Heart Association says 2-3 oz. cooked is a serving size. This is raw, so you get to have more.)

one egg yolk for three people plus any extra egg yolks as desired for decoration

A teaspoon of:

–Dijon mustard (sorry, not in ours)

–Worcestershire sauce

Simplicity. The green stuff is a fresh onion (like a scallion) from the market.

A tablespoon of:

–minced onion OR

–minced shallots OR

–chopped fresh chives

–chopped fresh parsley


–some say ketchup (your call, remember). Also olive oil, but that seems to me like gilding the lily.

Plus a little salt and pepper, and a few drops of Tabasco…or many drops. Your call!

Mash it all together. Refrigerate. Can be done a few hours ahead.

Prepare a green salad (lettuce, vinaigrette).

Prepare French fries.

Just before the fries are ready, get the salad and tartare on the table. If you want to get fancy, plate the tartare and stick an egg yolk on top of each mound of meat.


The Carnivore insisted that the fork marks made it prettier.

Another time we will  get the Carnivore to divulge the secrets of how to make perfect Belgian French fries. Warning: It’s not vegan!






23 thoughts on “Red Meat

  1. Interesting.
    My diet would be hard to label. I could happily eat vegetarian most of the time, but I like fish, chicken, turkey, beef in a daube , venison and occasionally more exotic meats and probably eat meat of some form once or twice a week .
    I don’t do fat or gristle, so you won’t find me mumching sausages, bacon or pork belly or ordering a slab of steak. I was fully vegetarion once, but as I have an inherent issue absorbing iron from food, a sprinkle of meat in my diet is good for me.
    I have to trust my butcher, and I won’t eat meat that hasn’t been prepared by me, Trevor or a trusted friend that knows my quirks(!)so I rarely choose it in a restaurant.

    Trevor is a complete carnivore, as is my daughter, though my son follows me. The grandson has shaped up just like mum.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Over here in the Orient (Grenoble) I have a fabulous pair of butchers. There is a very large (and very historic) North African/Arab community in the city so my first butcher – the one I buy lamb, veal and beef from is Halal and his steaks are absolutely to die for. The second, the one that isn’t Halal and is a hefting 10 minute rather than 3 from our street does me proud with pork, chumps the chicken and dolls up the duck . He also charcuts me finely. I am not a bloodsucking carnivore and we actually eat very small quantities of meat unless we have guests (watch out butchers stand by your slabs because we have wall-wall guests for the next 3 weeks) but here it is possible to really make a relationship with the meat purveyor (same goes home in Cantal too) and I enjoy the process of choosing and buying immensly. I also love your take on the hallowed Steak Tartar and may indulge in a little Halal version … hmmm could go to town on some funky middle eastern spicing too! I look forward to those meaty fries (or as I am sure you know in my land of birth – chips) very much indeed when your carniverous one has the time to share!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, yes, we have a halal butcher, mostly for lamb. But it has had great success and keeps getting bigger, so it isn’t quite as personal, but the quality is impeccable. And there are others who specialize in volaille/poultry (our favorite is Les Mexicots), even horsemeat.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Now I love beef, steak and anything beef but raw minced and with raw egg, no no no it is wrong on so many levels for me, that said the French even when they do cook beef it is still mooing so I should expect nothing less x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Another time I will tell you a story about that! I also was brought up with meat well cooked, and then cooked some more.
      Hey, Roz, I don’t have your email and your blog will accept only google people. So sorry about the silence!


  4. I think I was about the age you were when I had my first Kibbeh Nayyeh made by my Lebanese aunt. LOVED it. It was served with onion and peppers cut so that you used them like chips…and the meat was drizzled with really good olive oil. My dad bought a meat grinder so he could make it, too. How do you feel about carpaccio? We have good butchers here who can slice it thinly.

    I sat next to some surprised Brits who ordered steak tartare at Angelina’s in Paris. They didn’t even take one bite. I thought “shoulda ordered the hot chocolate!” Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every kind of Lebanese food I’ve had has been heavenly. I don’t doubt this was too, and I like the idea of peppers instead of fries! I also like the Ethiopian raw meat dishes. As for carpaccio, yes! However, that is more complicated. I must tell the butcher in advance (one day will do), and give him the time of the meal, or at least time of pickup. He freezes the meat just a little, so it’s possible to slice paper-thin, and he needs to time it just right. Of course, in foodie San Francisco there must be lots of artisinal butchers.


  5. As usual great post. My husband likes tartare. I’m one of those VEGETARIANS that eat fish… not farmed….and very rarely. I live on a small island surrounded by salt water with great sea food….so it’s hard to resist. Can we still meet for dinner????????😏


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes! There are more vegetarian options now arround here. When we first arrived, I would order a salad, and it would be covered with gizzards. They still do that, but now there are vegetable-only options, too.


  6. I have never tried steak tartare, and now I probably never will.
    I got very sick on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, and I blame the meat that I ate. I haven’t eaten it since. I’ve eaten some seafood and a couple of times chicken, but for the most part, I now consider myself a non-meat eater. And, as someone who used to crave cheeseburgers or bacon, it’s an absolute surprise to me.
    Nice to know the details about steak tartare.
    Want to join in with Dreaming of France? Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a wonderful article – as always!! I do like a good steak tartare, but very rarely order it in restaurants – with two exceptions: Chez Bebelle in Narbonne, and Fou de Sud in Montpellier. In both places you can practically watch them prepare the meat, and they have a good turnover, so there’s nothing hanging about!! I’ve seen steak tartare where they put the half egg shell containing the yolk in the centre, and I would definitely not eat that because of the salmonella risk. Look forward to reading about French, sorry Belgian fries!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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