Thursday, November 20, 2008


When it comes to food, nothing is really out of bounds for me. If someone eats it for sustenance somewhere on the planet, I think I’d try it. I occasionally watch Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel and he has a show where he eats some bizarre foods. In fact, it’s called Bizarre Foods. I have to admit, I occasionally think he’s eating something I might have trouble swallowing but that makes him my hero even more. From bugs to brains, this guy has no culinary boundaries.

While that might be a little extreme for me, there are many things I’ll try that many of my contemporaries are not fond of. When I talk about black pudding (blood sausage) from England or Haggis (sheep organs, oats and spices boiled in sheep’s stomach) from Scotland, grimaces begin to form on the faces of even my foodie friends. I feel very alone.

What if we tame it down a bit though? OK let’s try. Can we agree that sushi is yummy? Yes? OK good. That’s a start. If sushi is also out of your comfort zone, stop reading this now and go get a very well done steak. That should make you feel better. OK sushi haters should be gone now. Let’s go to the next level. What about Steak Tartar? Have you tried it? Would you try it? Well if you would, I’ll tell you how. First of all, try it at a restaurant. If you are scared of raw meat, best to not actually work with it the first time. After you fall in love with the buttery texture and herbaceous, beefy flavor combination, then give this a go at home. It couldn’t be simpler and you don’t need a super high end cut of meat. I used flank steak for this. Certainly filet would be fantastic but I just didn’t have one. Part of the trick is in the size of the actual cubes. I make then as small as possible.

I’d guess that you could fit 8-10 of them on a teaspoon. Pretty small, eh? Now you might think a food processor would do well but that creates hamburger. Hamburger tartar does not sound appealing to me but does have other applications (just ask McDonalds). I would guess (but I am not entirely sure) a more marbled cut of meat would actually be less desirable here. While that marbling creates the silkiness in a cooked steak, I think one might find it less appealing as raw fat. Just a thought. Using olive oil takes the marbling’s place for flavor. I made this and thought it was heaven. So much so, I did it a couple of times. The meat that I used was extremely lean and it was perfect. I actually am looking forward to exploring some other cuts of beef. I’ll report back.

On to more raw foods. So the next morning as I was trying to figure out what to make for breakfast, another light bulb went off. The original inspiration came from something I saw on TV although I don’t recall what show. So here I made a very simple but luxurious pasta (yes, pasta for breakfast); well seasoned and drizzled with olive oil, fresh parsley, parmesan cheese then topped with a slightly warmed egg yolk. Breaking it and twirling that golden delicious yolk into the ribbons of angel hair pasta was sinfully rich and decadent. What a great start to the day.

OK so hey. These aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but I found them to be wonderful, simple and reproducible. If you are adventurous at all, give it a go.

Here are the 2 recipes from my adaptations. You’ll find that the tartar takes only about 10 minutes and there are no pots or pans to scrub and the pasta takes about as long as it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta, 10-15 minutes, tops.

Simple and Fresh Steak Tartar

10 oz flank steak (Filet Mignon would be great too but less economical)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped shallot
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
½ tsp lemon juice or vinegar (I used a Thai chili infused vinegar)
1 tbsp drained capers.

Put the steak in the freezer for a short time (15 minutes, maybe) so that it can be sliced into very small cubes. Once chopped combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir to evenly mix all parts. It would be best to let sit in refrigerator for an hour, then let rest for 10 minutes at room temperature before serving.

To serve, divide mixture into 4 perfectly round glasses (I used my daughter’s Disney cups) and invert onto a plate. If you have a ring mold, that would work great.

Serves 4 as an appetizer.

Angel Hair with Olive Oil and Egg

1 lb angel hair pasta
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
3-4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
4 tbsp (or so) fresh grated parmesan cheese
4 egg yolks separated

Preheat broiler. Bring six cups of salted water to a boil. Add angel hair pasta and cook until al dente (approximately 4-5 minutes). Drain and place into mixing bowl. Add the salt pepper and oil and mix well.

Divide evenly onto 4 plates and sprinkle the parsley and cheese also evenly between the plates. In individual small vessels such as ramekins, place each egg yolk under the broiler for just a short time (30 sec-1 minute). Now place each yolk atop each plate.

Tell your guests to break the yolk and mix into the pasta before eating. They will be in heaven.

Serves 4

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