Steak Tartare at Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland/Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

I’ve been loving Jonathon Sawyer‘s Greenhouse Tavern in downtown Cleveland recently and after a joyous meal there not too long ago Donna asked to hang out and shoot.  She’ll be posting a gallery soon but the above is of one of my favorite dishes to eat, period. I can almost never help myself from ordering it when I see it on the menu. It’s also something that’s inexpensive and great to serve at home, and easy if you have a grinder (or a sharp knife—some of the best tartare I’ve had is roughly chopped beef).  Chef Brian Reilly (pictured above) made it for us the other day. Greenhouse grinds beef tenderloin to order with an old fashioned hand crank grinder, seasons it with salt and pepper and olive oil, puts a soft poached egg on top and includes some acidic, sweet-sour, and spicy garnishes, along with toast (for crunch) and fries (because who doesn’t love fries?!).

But I urge you to make it at home. A lot of folks are worried about bacteria, and with good reason. Poorly handled meat can make you sick. That’s why it’s important to buy whole muscles.  Choose the cheapest leanest cut you can find (if you have access to farm raised beef, even better), which is usually top round or eye of round.  Bacteria don’t exist on the interior of meat so you only need to deal the the exterior. First, wash your hands, then rinse the meat thoroughly under running water.  Then give it a thorough coating of salt—a uniform coating, can’t use too much—for an hour or so, refrigerated.  Then rinse it, grind or chop, season and serve. I’ve never, ever had a problem with bacteria from beef I’ve ground myself. Buy on 2 to 4 ounces (60 to 120 grams) per person.

The rest is a no brainer: taste it and add more salt if necessary, pepper, some olive oil.  Want more? Add shallot or a vinaigrette (when I had it in Paris the bistro mixed it hard in a bowl with egg yolk and a straightforward vinaigrette, served it with toast, no accompaniments).

Shape it into a disc and put it on a cutting board.  In my opinion, if steak tartare doesn’t have some egg with it, it’s just not right—it’s like showing up at a party with your fly unzipped.  Careless, embarrassing.  I like to put a raw egg yolk on top, a big yellow sun, which acts as a sauce after you make the first cut.  Or do a soft cooked whole egg like Greenhouse.  Serve some condiments on the board with it: toast, pickled chillis, red onion relish, pickled ramps, mushroom duxelles, whatever, or just some mustard and cornichons, or nothing, just ground beef, toast, egg yolk and minced shallot or red onion macerated in a little lemon juice.

The best food is the simplest food!


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© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved