If you're going to learn something, learn it from the best!
To honor Anthony Bourdain's memory, let's try one of his most notable dishes from his priceless cookbook.
The food world can really use a chef like Anthony Bourdain right now. And you might be wondering why we are making such a big fuss over this chef.
The answer is simple: this man is one of the greatest, most famous cooks to have ever walked the Earth.
Bourdain would have turned 64 by now. To celebrate that, we took one of his most famous dishes, the Steak Tartare, and we're going to.
There's no denying Bourdain's unbelievable culinary talent, but he was particularly skilled at finding the best quality ingredients and their producers.
In fact, in the introduction of his book, Les Halles, he mentions how important it is to find a good butcher.
It takes a lot of time and effort, as well as great social skills: "In a sense, what you are looking to engage in is what the Central Intelligence Agency, in their training materials, refers to as 'agent recruitment and development.'"
The first step, according to him, is to find that butcher "who recognizes what kind of lunatic cook you are and is willing to work with you." However, not everyone can find that kind of butcher. For those who cannot, he has even more suggestions that sound pretty relevant to today's world. "One of the great things about America, if not the greatest thing, is that so many people not from America live here now. Large numbers of South and Central Americans, Europeans, and Asians have spread through even the formerly most Wonder-bread spaces of our vast interior, building communities, opening restaurants—and best of all, starting up their own supply chain." And over 15 years ago, he encouraged us to "support those purveyors."
Although steak tartare is a dish that existed for centuries before Bourdain, it always reminds us of the famous chef. Depending on who is making it though, it can either be a dish from heaven or an utter failure.
"The key to a successful steak tartare," Bourdain writes, "is fresh beef, freshly hand-chopped at the very last minute and mixed tableside. A home meat grinder with a fairly wide mesh blade is nice to have, but you can and should use a very sharp knife and simply chop and chop and chop until fine. The texture will be superior. And do not dare use a food processor on this dish—you'll utterly destroy it."
Daniel Halpern, Bourdain's editor and publisher at Ecco, had the chance to make steak tartare with the chef. And here is his account.
"Knife skills meant a great deal to Tony, especially if you didn't have many. He and I were cooking dinner for the winner of my daughter Lily's school auction. My job was to chop the beef for his famous tartare. We were in my kitchen, but he insisted on sharpening one of his own knives for me. He handed me the steak and said to chop it finely. I began to chop. Sure strokes, I thought but noticed he was eyeing me with suspicion and what could only be described as contempt. He allowed me a few more minutes on the cutting board, then took back his knife.
'You chop like a home cook,' he said. Not a little chagrined, I thought about saying that, having never cooked professionally, I am a home cook—although I do think my knife skills are pretty decent. But I decided, as he was now holding the knife, to go with a no response. He gave me that look we've all seen and suggested, "Why don't you go sit in the living room and write a poem about chopping good beef?"
This recipe is taken from the great chef's Les Halles Cookbook.
2 large egg yolks
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
2 tsp. ketchup
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup corn or soy oil
1 oz. Cognac
1 small onion, freshly and finely chopped
3 tbsp. capers, rinsed
1/3 cup finely chopped cornichons (about 10)
6 sprigs of flat parsley, finely chopped
1 ¼ lb. fresh sirloin, trimmed and finely chopped
Toasted bread points
French fries (optional)
Put the egg yolks in a big bowl, then add the anchovies and mustard. Mix them well. Then you can add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and pepper, mix well again! Whisk in the oil in slow-motion, add the Cognac, and mix mix mix. Fold in the parsley, cornichons, onion, and capers.
Finally, place the chopped meat in a bowl, mix well with a spoon or simply your hands. Evenly divide the meat among six dinner plates, get yourself a ring mold or even spatula, and use it to form the meat into disks on the plate. And voila! Serve these babies immediately with delicious toasted bread points and French fries.