The Trattoria alla Palma’s Steak Tartare, Illustrated

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 the 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), 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.

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.

The Trattoria alla Palma's Tartara: Rock the Blade

The Trattoria alla Palma’s Tartara: Rock the Blade

While 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. At the Trattoria alla Palma they make Tartara to order, and this volume of meat was for two antipasti like the one in the first picture.

Work the blade back and forth over the meat, 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.

The Trattoria alla Palma's Tartara: Salting the Meat

The Trattoria alla Palma’s Tartara: Salting the Meat

Once the meat is finely chopped, you will want to salt it. At the Trattoria alla Palma they use fine sea salt, and go by eye. I would say add a teaspoon, mix, and taste the first couple of times.

The Trattoria alla Palma's Tartara: Add a Splash of Oil

The Trattoria alla Palma’s Tartara: Add a Splash of Oil

Steak tartare requires some moisture or it will be unpleasantly dry. Some use egg yolk, but Italians tend to use olive oil, which 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.

The Trattoria alla Palma's Tartara: Add a Grind of Pepper

The Trattoria alla Palma’s Tartara: Add a Grind of Pepper

Next, add a grind of black pepper — to taste.

The Trattoria alla Palma's Tartara: Stir!

The Trattoria alla Palma’s Tartara: Stir!

The next step is to mix well, and, if need be, check seasoning.

The Trattoria alla Palma's Tartara: Shape the Meat Into Losenges

The Trattoria alla Palma’s Tartara: Shape the Meat Into Losenges

If you look around on the web, you’ll see many photos of steak tartare — with or without the egg yolk — that are simply patties of meat on a bed of some sort of green. To be honest they make me think of a raw burger, and I don’t find the presentation that appealing.

At the Trattoria alla Palma they instead shape the meat into lozenges, using two tablespoons and passing the meat back and forth between them, and lay three lozenges like the spokes of a wheel on the plate.

The Trattoria alla Palma's Tartara: A Drizzle of Oil to Finish

The Trattoria alla Palma’s Tartara: A Drizzle of Oil to Finish

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!

A shorter version of this page.

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Categories: Antipasti and Starters, Illustrated Recipes And More

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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