Friday, July 13, 2012

Tartare - Tartar on French Menus. Steak Tartar, Fish Tartar and Vegetable Tartar.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Steak Tartar (Steak Tatare) with French fries and salad.
Photograph by courtesy of Renée Suen.
Steak Tartare also called Tartare de Filet de Boeuf, Bœuf Tartare. - A steak in the manner of the Tartars, the famous and frightening fighters who rode to war under the direction of Genghis Khan beginning in the 13th century.   Twentieth-century folklore has the Tartar tribesmen riding to war with raw meat under their horses' saddles.  As they rode they were said to cut off pieces of the raw meat with a knife, and eat as they rode; they only stopped riding to sleep. Despite the name, Steak Tartar (Tartare) is far from any real Tartar culinary traditions.
Steak Tartar begins with uncooked ground or chopped beef. Despite the lack of a frying pan or grill, in France, this may be one of the greatest steak dishes that you have ever tasted. Steak Tartar is spiced beef made with fillet steak.  Fish and vegetarian versions of this dish are also not cooked.

Tuna Tartar with yoghurt.
Photograph courtesy of Luca Nebuloni.
Your French  menu may offer you:
Steak Tartare- Steak Tartar -  Hand-cut or ground beef to which will be added onion, parsley, cornichons, capers, and, in France, cognac. Herbs will be added in accordance with the chef’s preferences and all versions of Steak Tartar will have Tabasco or Worcester sauce added for spice.  In many recipes, a raw egg yolk will be mixed in just before serving. If you are unsure about steak tartar, but willing to try, begin with an entree of steak tartar; you will be hooked.
For those who enjoy good restaurant theater, some make an enjoyable show of mixing the ingredients in front of the diners; there is no cooking involved.  The French Steak Tartare is a spicy dish, but then for most UK and North American visitors, nothing in France is very spicy. You may request more or less Tabasco or Worcester sauce, but I usually ask for more Cognac!
Korean Steak Tartar.
Julienned raw beef seasoned with salt, garlic, and sesame oil.
Served with Korean pear and garlic on top
From the official page
Steak Tartare (préparé par nos soins), Frites,  Salade  Steak Tartar prepared by the restaurant (prepared by ourselves) served with French fries and a small green salad. Here the restaurant is noting that they do not buy ground fillet steak prepared outside.  They prepare the steak themselves and so may assure you of its quality.
 Steak Tartare  Bœuf Fin Gras du Mézenc Coupé au Couteau, Salade Verte et Pommes Sautées,    Steak Tartar made from the fillet of the  Bœuf Fin Gras du Mézenc AOC/AOP; this one of France’s finest beef cattle. The beef is chopped with a knife and served with a green salad and sautéed potatoes.

 Boeuf Tartare. 
Photograph courtesy of goodmami
Steak Tartare Préparé Maison, Servi Cru ou Juste Saisi  -  Fillet steak, prepared in-house and served either traditionally, uncooked, or very lightly fried. Despite my personal preference for the classic uncooked Steak Tartar, there are others, including French diners who, while not wanting a hamburger, do not want the meat completely raw.  Here they have the option of having their  Steak Tatar very lightly fried.  Many restaurants offer this option either on or off the menu.

Juste Saisi means just ready or lightly seared;  a very important cooking term for meat, fish, seafood, and other products that must never be overcooked, or hardly cooked at all.     
Tartare de Saumon Épicé – Spicy Salmon Tartar.   Unlike Steak Tartare, there is no agreed recipe covering this dish; however, most recipes use spicy sesame oil made from roasted sesame seed,  uncooked tomatoes, cornichons for the crunch, and onions.  Some recipes add ginger and others Worcester sauce or Tabasco.
Tartare de Thon Rouge  - Tuna Tartar.  Both French and French-Japanese restaurants offer this dish. I have enjoyed more than one version, including an excellent Temaki Tuna Tartare very similar to the picture below.

Temaki Tartare Thon  - Temaki Tuna Tartare
Photograph courtesy of Moonsushi.
Vegetable Tartare  Vegetarian and Vegan Tartar dishes may also be on the menu. The recipes include crunchy fresh vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage with beet-root and possibly radishes or fresh horseradish for spice. Holding the vegetables together will be a flavored mayonnaise and in France, cornichons will be there for there taste and crunch. In France, the mayonnaise will nearly always be freshly made mayonnaise.

Beetroot Tartar.
Photograph courtesy of _zomantha_
In France, Steak Tartar is also very popular as a fast food.  Open sandwiches made with Steak Tartar will be served in tabacs, cafes, and in bars. An afternoon French aperitif is not just a drink before dinner.  An aperitif may also mean, in French, a friendly afternoon meeting that will include small snacks that often including small Steak Tartar open sandwiches.

Steak Tartare open sandwiches,
Photograph by courtesy of Raj Taneja
Your menu may also offer dessert Tartars:

Strawberry Tartare
Photograph courtesy of junelos.

Ordering a Steak Tartar
 with an English or a North American accent.
From my experiences always be ready for questions if you are an English speaker and order Steak Tartare.  In more than one French restaurant, having been identified as non-French, and ordering Steak Tartare I have had the server ask me if I realize that this is not a cooked steak. In another case the maître d’  arrived to double-check if I really knew what I was ordering, and repeated the question…” but you must understand it isn’t cooked at all.” I asked why they were so concerned with my choice. It turned out that in this establishment, somewhat on the fringes of any tourist routes, there have been overseas guests who ordered this dish without any idea of what steak tartar was. They had to have their steak tartar cooked and ended up with a hamburger.
Who were the Tartars
The Tatars became famous when the Mongols, in the 13th century, led by Genghis Khan had made the Tartars part of his army.   Later the sons and grandsons of Genghis Khan would lead the Mongol invasions with the most feared fighters being the Tartars.  At its height, these “hordes” ruled parts of Eastern Europe, all of Bulgaria, and large parts of Siberia. The Tartars were finally defeated by Russia in the 16th century.
Searching for the Finest Beef in France?  Try the Bœuf Fin Gras du Mézenc AOC. This very special beef is only on French Menus between February and early June. 

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Bryan G Newman

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1 comment:

  1. I like Steak Tartare the way it is often served in Germany -- with onions, capers, anchovies, and a raw egg. I am able to enjoy it only every few years, because I rarely am in a restaurant that serves it. Recently I had some ground filet, and made Steak Tartare for myself! Delicious! My brother is a doctor. He says that the raw egg is more likely to be harmful than the raw beef.