Raw food – sushi, tartare, carpaccio, and the like – is often dismissed as easy on recipes and technique. By idiots. The truth is, using high-quality, extremely fresh ingredients leaves you nowhere to hide. We’re deeply sorry that you can’t drown this particular dish in Colonel Sleep Apnea’s Old Time Corn Syrup Marinade, but give it a chance.
There’s actually a lot that has to go right to produce the right flavor and texture. It’s what separates “raw food” from “hunk of jagged, uncooked meat.” What are those things that must go right? Well, we’re glad you asked. BEHOLD!
1. If you don’t have a very, very sharp knife, then you can’t make a good raw meat dish. You’re eating the muscle itself, and mashing or ripping the fibers with the grocery store knife you bought for your first apartment is going to result in an unappetizing dish. Why not just hit it with a rock, you primitive bastard? Get your knife sharpened, invest in a sharpening stone, or at the very least, swipe it a half-dozen times per side on a honing steel before you get started. Just remember, a honing steel doesn’t actually sharpen a dull blade. It just straightens the edge.
2. Buy the pricier meat option. There’s no two ways about it, the good stuff is expensive. But the price of that meat is directly related to how it managed to perform for USDA inspectors. You don’t want the cow from the remedial class. Bargain meat is going to look and taste like hell, no matter how you dress it up. Find a good butcher or meat counter. Avoid any meat with dull color, which usually means oxidation that can affect flavor. And now that you have the best, freshest meat possible, prepare it that day.
3. Get the right cut. Hanger steak, skirt, and brisket are all delicious. But today, with the grill turned off, they are not for you. The fat and connective tissue breakdown that makes a smoked brisket so soft and buttery isn’t happening unless you manage to keep a freakish body temperature around 225 degrees. New York strip and tenderloin (filet) are the easiest cuts to work with. Sirloin is traditional. Tongue is … not advisable.
4. Speaking of temperature, keep everything chilled – your knife, the meat, the cutting surfaces. Warm meat resists the knife and mashes. You want the Lando Calrissian of filets.
5. If you’re worried about potential bacteria on the surface of the meat – and that’s totally fine – then start with a larger cut (as opposed to a steak) and give it a quick dip in boiling water with clean utensils. The water, at 212 degrees, won’t cook anything but the very outer surface of the meat, which is easily trimmed away.
This recipe is from Brett “Oprah” Rankin, and it won second place (because why wouldn’t it?) at the October 2013 ManBQue. Quail eggs aren’t the easiest thing to find, but they do contribute a texture that we loved. Gene’s Sausage Shop on Lincoln Ave. should be able to hook you up.
1 beef tenderloin, trimmed
1 red onion, sliced thin
3/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups arugula
1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, quartered
Truffle oil, to taste
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 loaf French bread, sliced
Clarified butter, to brush
Maldon (or regular Kosher) salt
Caviar, to top
Cayenne pepper, to top
12 quail egg yolks
1. Wrap the tenderloin tightly in plastic and place on an aluminum pan in the freezer for 35-40 minutes, until meat is firm but not frozen through.
2. Place the sliced red onions in a heatproof bowl or jar. Get your tap water to that temperature where it burns the hell out of you when you’re just trying to wash the damn dishes. Alternately, bring a kettle to a boil. Mix a pint (16 oz) of the hot water with the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt, and immediately pour over the onions. Cover and set aside.
3. Remove the beef from the freezer and slice it as thin as you’re able across the grain. If you’re unsatisfied with the results, you can always take a too-thick slice, sandwich it between two wax or plastic wrap sheets, and roll it to a more desirable thinness. You can also pound it, which I specifically told you not to do earlier, but I’m not some meat policeman and you’ve got shit to do. When the beef is sliced to your heart’s content, lay out on a large platter (not touching – that will bloom the myoglobin and turn it purple), cover, and refrigerate while you continue.
4. Spread clarified butter on the sliced bread and toast. Pay attention if you decided to do this on the grill for whatever reason – burned bread is easily one of the top 3 failures at our MEATings in terms of frequency. Y’all bastards need to respect your breads.
5. Toss the cherry tomatoes and arugula with the truffle oil. Start with a light hand – truffle oil, especially the cheap purfumey stuff (you didn’t get that, did you?) can overpower quickly – and taste until the balance is right.
6. Season the meat with salt and fresh-cracked black pepper. Place lovingly into the bread, the top with the arugula/truffle/tomato. Divide the Parmesan between the crostini and top.
7. Spoon over the caviar and spice with just a small hit of cayenne. Very, very carefully lay the quail egg yolks on top of it. You have a fantastic composed dish, and while the meat’s raw, you wouldn’t exactly say you “did nothing” to it, would you? Exactly.