I am not sure it can get more German – dish wise – but Steak Tartare and Schweinshaxe (Ham Shank) must be the 2 most typical German dishes, at least in the town I come from (Düsseldorf). So today I will share the recipe for Tartar with you and Schweinshaxe will follow pretty soon. Düsseldorf has a ton of brew houses (Brauerei) – e.g. Brauerei Fuechsen – “Fox Brewery”, (chose English on the first site and download the menu, it shows some very traditional German dishes) and every single one serves beef tartar, its kind of a “snack” you eat while drinking a couple of beer and are not ready for dinner or you can eat it for lunch. I just looked at their menu and they call it “Rindergehacktes”; btw. you can also order raw minced pork meat which we call “Mett” – it tastes a little bit more “zesty” than the tartar, also very delicious!
What is steak tartare? Its the German version of the Japanese Ahi Tuna Poke; its minced raw beef (usually filet mignon) seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika and finished off with an egg yolk, some capers and onions. That’s the recipe for the traditional steak tartare, some recipes suggest mixing in cornichons, mustard, chives, mayonnaise or crème fraiche; its all up to your taste but I stick with the bare minimum and that’s salt, pepper, paprika, an egg yolk and onions (you don’t want to overpower the taste of good meat with too much seasoning, that’s like drowning your sushi in soy sauce – a no no btw. that I learned during a Sushi class I took last year – Thanks Astrid!).
The most important part is that you get the best and freshest piece of filet mignon as well as a super fresh egg, use very clean utensils and serve the dish right away, I would suggest to serve the tartar with some really fresh baguette or rye bread (Graubrot) and a glass of beer! If you can find a butcher who sells you the already minced/grinded beef tartar I would say buy it straight from the butcher, might be safer and easier than grinding your own beef. My butcher though has a 3 pound minimum which might be a tiny bit too much raw beef for me to handle 🙂 and so I bought myself a little antique table grinder (hence the somewhat aged instructions) and grind it myself just making sure I soak all pieces of the meat grinder in hot soapy water and then rinse it off really well ensuring bacteria free utensils.
Speaking of being worried about bacteria, eating tartar always reminds me of my trip to Prague with Mike. I think it was Mike’s first trip to Germany or maybe his second and we decided to also visit the neighboring country Czech Republic. Prague, Czech Republics capital; is a beautiful city and in the evenings it reminded me of the towns you see in the Dracula movies with small little alleys covered in fog, cobble stone paths with very dimmed light, people in dark cloaks speaking in a foreign tongue hushing by you diving into one of the taverns that look like a cave hammered into a wall. Mike and I had dinner in an old part of town in Prague, not exactly in one of those taverns but pretty close and I ordered steak tartar not knowing the thoughts that rushed through Mike’s head. Later that evening he told me that he didn’t understand why I had to order raw meat in a foreign country who’s language he doesn’t speak, not knowing where the nearest hospital would be and how he would get me there and tell the doctor that I have a bacterial infection from either raw eggs or raw meat or both. And even if I wouldn’t get sick Mike said he would not kiss me for at least 24 hours having had raw meat on my lips. Well all went well – maybe because all ingredients were really fresh and properly prepared or because of my cardinal rule to always drink alcohol when eating raw meat or both! But I tell you, I still have to giggle every time I eat tartar and think back of that magical night in Prague!
If you are concerned about any bacteria from the meat or the egg – don’t be, just handle everything properly – but if you just can’t stop worrying I would suggest to pair the dish with a shot of vodka and all is well in your tummy!
Ingredients (makes 2 portions)
- 1x 8oz super fresh Filet mignon
- fresh pepper
- hot paprika
- 1 egg yolk
- very thin onion slices
- Fresh bread
- optional: capers, pickled veggies
- Cut the filet into small pieces and grind them on a medium to fine setting. I have an old hand grinder which has 3 attachments (coarse, medium and fine) and I used the “fine” attachment and it worked out great. Some attachments though will grind your meat into sauce, so make sure you try the grinder first on some cheaper meat (e.g. grind your own ground beef for pasta and play with the settings).
- Season the minced beef (now tartar) with salt, pepper and paprika to your liking and mix in the egg yolk.
- Serve the tartar on fresh thick cut buttered bread, with sides of onion slices, cornichons, tomatoes or pickled veggies and a shot of vodka and if not vodka than definitely a good glass of German beer!