Steak tartare: A special kind of stupid

A favorite line in the ice hockey linesman course I take every year to be recertified is, “that player exhibited a special kind of stupid”

Cooks and purveyors of food porn exhibit their own special kind of stupid, especially around raw beef.

The N.Y. Times continues its long history of bad food porn-based advice because, they’re New Yorkers, and they are their own special kind of stupid: at least the uppity ones.

Gabrielle Hamilton writes in the New York Times Cooking section that a hand-chopped mound of cold raw beef, seasoned perfectly, at around 3 o’clock in the afternoon on New Year’s Day, with a cold glass of the hair of the Champagne dog that bit you the night before, will make a new man out of you.

Hamilton writes the recipe calls for 8-10 ounces highest-quality beef tenderloin … and to nestle each yolk, still in its half shell if using raw, into the mound, and let each guest turn the yolk out onto the tartare before eating.

Nary a mention of Shiga-toxin producing E. coli or Salmonella or Campylobacter.

  • Ace O’Dale

    I first experienced beef tartare in Poland back in 1985. Our band left freedom and Sweden at midnight aboard the very epitome of Soviet communism: a Polish ferry that was dirty, smelly, and the paint was peeling. None of us dared sleep that night fearing, perhaps irrationally, perhaps not, for our lives and our equipment.

    I have no recollection of the passage of time that morning. We were several hours on the ferry, several hours getting through customs, several more hours on a (surprisingly) nice bus. It was all a blur of hunger and sleeplessness. It seems like it was well past noon when we finally pulled into the parking lot of what was presumably a restaurant.

    Our itinerary was all planned and pre-approved by the Polish government and our tour bus included an official guide. A likable and chatty gal, Katherine seemed to enjoy her job and often introduced us to our next stop or venue with a flourish. “Here,” she pointed to the two-story building, “ees a special treat for our guests!” Apparently, this facility was indeed a feature for hosting and dining of party VIPs and foreign dignitaries.

    Imagine how we all simultaneously relaxed and anticipated the fare to come! The pleasant wood and stone structure had that European country charm about it and, surrounded with trees, felt insulated from the city around. We were ushered inside and directed upstairs as the entire second floor had been reserved for our group. Tables had been elegantly placed for four each and the food had already been served!

    Most of us were from the States, along with a handful of Canadians, and our lone Japanese, Hideo. He played electric guitar. Now imagine about forty North Americans who have neither eaten nor slept for about a day being introduced to such a scene. Nearly every one of us walked briskly, expectantly to a chair and then stopped short, and froze as each of realized the fare set before.

    Each setting had a main plate with an arch of smaller dishes arranged above it toward it. On the four or five smaller plates were various chopped vegetables. The main saucer held our fascination. For there, in naked glory, was a mound of raw hamburger with a depression at the top over which a raw egg had been broken.

    Our host initially mistook our looks of bewilderment as those of disapproval. Katherine quickly assured us that they were aware the true nature of the delicacy required it me made of horse flesh, but sadly that was difficult to get at the moment and she hoped we would understand and appreciate the efforts they went to on our behalf.

    Ironically, only one person got sick from that meal: Hideo, from Japan.