"Mmm! Now that's tartare!" El Gaucho's steak tartare. TNT photo by Russ Carmack.
My story today about raw meat ravers steak tartare and beef carpaccio prompts me to share a passage from a book that's been bouncing between my desk and the back seat of my car.
The book is "How I Learned to Cook," a collection of 40 essays by chefs on their (mis)adventures in getting where they got.
Here's Anthony Bourdain on the lesson he learned "when I found myself feeding steak tartare to a regional 'gourmet' host on yet another morning news-and-banter show."
I thought steak tartare was a shrewd idea. I wouldn't have to rely on the studo for any cooking equipment. I'd bring my own plates, my own locally (and easily) acquired ingredients. I had a metal ring and a knife and a spatula in my kit. I figured I'd chop the steak by hand -- impressing with my fast, furious and precise knifework. I'd quickly fold in the mustard, capers, choped cornichons and shallots, swirl in the egg yolk and neatly shape the result in the metal ring. A few pre-toasted croutons would make it easy for my host to take an on-camera taste. "Mmm! Now that's tartare!" Retire to the hotel to the sound of deafening kudos...
Didn't happen. Apparently the practice of eating raw meat had not penetrated this far into America's interior. News of mad cow disease had reached the state, however, because the host looked on in terror as I forced the uncooked egg and beef concoction into the metal ring, the idea dawning on her that yes ... yes ... she would be required to eat this thing absolutely raw. The word Ewww! actually escaped from her lips as she tenuously reached for a meat-smeared crouton. ... She took the tinest nibble, fighting the urge to gag -- her head swimming with images of spongiform bacteria riddling her brain, turning it into swiss cheese. When the segment was over and she'd spit the tiny taste out into a trash bin, she fixed me with a look of such pure loathing that it haunted my dreams.