As of this writing, my parents have successfully landed in Paris. They’re doing one of those Viking River cruises that will take them up to Normandy and then back again to the City of Lights, and in the weeks leading up to the trip I helped them in researching options of things to do and places to go and where to eat around the city, as they have a few days there to themselves before they board the boat. (It served as a great beta test for something I’m working on, but that will come in due time.) Paris has been on my mom’s bucket list of places to go for most of her life, and now that both of my parents are retired they finally gave themselves permission to go there. I threw myself into the process, combing through tons of resources and pulled together a tidy little customized Google map for them, and naturally, after poring over so many bistro menus I found myself craving some French food of my own. Years ago in honor of Mad Men ending I highlighted Eric Ripert’s version from Avec Eric, but this time around I found myself drawn to the Les Halles cookbook. I’m not sure why we never tried this particular recipe before, but I think it might be my favorite one of the classic preparations we’ve tried.
It’s very no-bullshit in that the key to making it right is to make your cuts as fine as possible without using any sort of food processor. What’s refreshing about it is that because he calls for sirloin rather than beef tenderloin, you can actually afford to make this with some frequency and get really good at those knife cuts, especially if you can score thinly-sliced sirloin steaks at your local market because it’s definitely a matter of practice makes perfect. Even though the cuts here would likely be deemed too large, they are still substantially smaller from the time we made the Balthazar beef tartare a year or two ago, so to me, that’s progress.
We made a few minor changes here and there, with the main ones being increasing the number of cornichons and adding a spicy kosher dill pickle and keeping out the capers because I wasn’t in the mood for them. I actually really liked the addition of the kosher pickle, because it brought some fresh bite to the plate but also complimented the other flavors very well. As we head straight into the “I don’t wanna cook because it’s too hot!” season, I have a feeling this is going to end up on our rotation fairly frequently.
Not only have I had Les Halles on my mind recently, but naturally its most famous chef as well. Recently I followed Michael down to Miami Beach; he was there for the big cruise conference, and I had the freedom to do some exploring not only in and around South Beach but also in Brickell and Little Havana. Naturally, in preparation for the trip I found the “South Florida” episode of No Reservations (we’re saving the Parts Unknown ep for our next trip down there at the end of the month), noting everywhere he went, and I ended up taking a bunch of my husband’s colleagues to Mac’s Club Deuce, the oldest bar in Miami.
In a city that is either strictly formal or beachy casual, Club Deuce definitely veers towards the latter. It’s a dive bar with a capital D in the best possible ways, and what may be the best part about it is that it looks exactly the same as it did when he was there back in the mid-aughts. The service here is pleasantly salty–they’ll fix your drink order quickly, but they won’t blow smoke up your ass about it–and the air is decidedly smoky, which felt both very appropriate and completely anachronistic. It’s absolutely worth a visit if you’re in South Beach and want to hang out somewhere that won’t reject you for not wearing heels–just bring a decent amount of cash with you if you have a large party.
Lightly adapted from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook
Serves 4 as an appetizer
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 T Dijon mustard
- 4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped (get the flat-pack kind, not the rolled)
- 2 tsp ketchup
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Tabasco sauce to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup neutral oil (I used grapeseed, but you could use canola or soy)
- 1 oz bourbon (the original calls for Cognac but we never have that on hand, so bourbon it is)
- 1 small onion (or ½ medium onion), freshly and finely chopped, reserving some for garnish if desired
- 4 oz cornichons, finely chopped
- 1 spicy kosher dill pickle spear, finely chopped (optional but really good)
- 4 parsley sprigs, stems removed and leaves finely chopped
- 1 lb fresh sirloin, finely chopped (thinly-sliced sirloin steaks are good here)
- Flaky sea salt, for garnish (optional)
Place the plates you want to serve the tartare on in the fridge to chill while you work.
In a large, stainless steel bowl, add the egg yolks and then the mustard and anchovies. Mix these well before adding the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco (a heavy hand is better with this), and the pepper, and then mix everything together again. Slowly whisk in the oil to create an emulsion, add the bourbon, and mix again. Carefully fold in the onion, cornichons, pickles, and parsley.
When ready for service, carefully fold in the meat and mix well. Take out the chilled plates and using a 3-inch ring mold and a spatula, fill the mold near to the top on each plate. Garnish with flaky sea salt and/or chopped onion, if desired, and serve immediately.