Warm Ethiopian Steak Tartare
When I go out to eat, typically, my eyes are way bigger than my stomach. I have to control my (over)ordering and have this mildly obsessive habit of going through each menu item and doing a process of elimination. It’s never about what I want to eat, but rather, what I DON’T want to eat…Steak tartare almost never makes the cut. It always seems like a bland caloric waste when there are other tastier options to choose from. That is, until I tasted kitfo.
Kitfo happens to be one of Ethiopia’s most popular dishes. It’s a steak tartare that has been warmed in butter infused with a bunch of spices – amazing. It’s typically served with the country’s famous flatbread, injera, and a side of spiced collards. The first time I tried it, I was in sensory overload. The warm creaminess of the butter, the texture of the meat, the strong heat hitting me at the back of my tongue, the spice combo – it was, by far, the most delicious and unexpected steak tartare I had ever had.
For my version, I used top round from Dickson Farmstand Meats. All of their beef is dry-aged, all natural, humanely raised – basically fantastic quality. For working with a raw product like this, I wanted to make sure I was using a high quality source. They coarse ground the top round for me, and I would never advise using ground beef for a raw application. Ground beef has a higher bacterial count; you’re better off using a steak you’d feel comfortable eating rare and grinding as close to consumption as possible. I chose top round over sirloin or tenderloin because it keeps a great texture. It stays a bit toothsome and doesn’t become mushy, which I can’t stand.
This dish is extremely easy to make, and there are limited ingredients. So it’s important to develop the flavors. Mine differs from authentic kitfo with the addition of shallots and garlic and because I like to toast up the spices first in the butter. Browning the butter, making beurre noisette, adds even greater complexity. I typically serve this on a sliced baguette sprinkled with chives, but it would be equally delicious on toast or pita points. Oh, and Ethiopians eat the tartare several different ways –t’ire (raw) or leb leb (medium rare) and sometimes cooked further, so go ahead and cook to your preference. Enjoy!
Yields 4 to 6 servings
1 stick butter
¼ tsp cardamom, ground
½ tsp black pepper, finely ground
1 ½ tsps cayenne pepper, ground
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb top round, freshly ground to your desired texture
Salt to taste
Let the beef come to room temperature. Adding it to the pot cold brings down the temperature of the butter and would necessitate reheating, which could then overcook the beef.
Heat butter on low-medium heat. When it melts add the cardamom, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Cook stirring for a few minutes and notice how the smell becomes nuttier. Add the shallots and garlic and cook another few minutes until softened. Butter should brown, and this is actually desired. Crank the heat a little if it hasn’t.
Let the butter cool slightly. You should be able to dip your finger in the pot without burning yourself. Add beef and stir to combine thoroughly. You don’t want to cook the meat (if serving rare), just warm through, so make sure the heat is off. Add salt to taste and serve sprinkled with chives. You won’t be disappointed.