La Trattoria alla Palma’s Tartara

The Trattoria alla Palma's Tartara: Enjoy!

The Trattoria alla Palma’s Tartara: Enjoy!

La Tartara, steak tartare in English, is finely chopped deftly seasoned raw beef, and though it is often associated with French bistros (in the 1921 edition of his Le Guide Culinaire Escoffier says steak Tartare is a variation of steak à l’Americaine, chopped raw beef with raw egg yolk, in which the yolk is omitted and tartar sauce is served on the side — with time the distinction vanished), it has long been enjoyed in Italy too.

This Tartara was prepared at the Trattoria alla Palma just outside Verona. The beef is garnished with a rosemary sprig and seasoned with olive oil, while there are capers, yellowy mustard and a dark balsamic vinegar glaze on the side. No raw egg.

To make enough tartara for four you’ll need:

  • 1 pound (450 g) lean top quality beef (see note below)
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Well rinsed pickled capers
  • Quality mustard
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 4 short sprigs of rosemary

 

The Trattoria alla Palma's Tartara: Start with Scamone...

The Trattoria alla Palma’s Tartara: Start with Scamone…

As you might guess, the success of steak tartare depends upon the quality of the meat used. At the Trattoria alla Palma they use cuore di scamone, which is an individual muscle from the heart of the rump, and both flavorful and tender. English-language recipes I have seen suggest top quality tenderloin, with the sinews removed, and it will work too.

At the trattoria alla Palma, in addition to regular beef tartare, they make tartare from Fassona, a Piemontese beef breed renowned for the quality of its meats. By comparison with the regular Tartare whose preparation I photographed, Tartara di Fassona is paler.

You will find recipes that say to grind the beef, it is much better to chop it with a very sharp knife, because chopping cuts the fibers, whereas grinding ruptures and crushes them, releasing juices and altering the texture of the meat. To make four servings of tartara like that shown in the picture you will need about a pound (450 g) of beef.

Chop the meat coarsely and then work the blade back and forth over it, bringing the pieces back together and cutting across them, until the meat is quite finely chopped — you want it as finely chopped as it might be upon emerging from a grinder. As is the case with any manual activity, chopping beef (or other meats) this way takes a little practice, but once you have the hang of it, you may find yourself preferring your home-chopped meat to what the butcher provides.

Once the meat is finely chopped, you will want to salt it. Use fine sea salt, and go by eye. I would say add a teaspoon, mix, and taste the first couple of times you make this.

Steak tartare requires some moisture or it will be unpleasantly dry. Some use egg yolk, but Italians tend to use olive oil, which is I think a healthier alternative — it’s lower in bad cholesterol, and does not pose the risk of salmonella that raw eggs do.

Add a tablespoon to start out with; you can always add more.

Next, add a grind of black pepper — to taste. Then mix well, and, if need be, check seasoning. Shape the ground beef into losenges by passing it between two tablespoons, and arrange the lozenges like the spokes of a wheel on your plates.

Steak Tartare benefits amazingly from garnishes, and well rinsed pickled capers are among the most popular. At the Trattoria alla Palma they also garnish with mustard, and with a balsamic vinegar glaze, then drizzle the lozenges with a little more oil, and add an upright sprig of rosemary to mark the hub of the wheel, as it were.

Enjoy!

This recipe, Illustrated

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Categories: Antipasti and Starters

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.

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