I was lucky enough to spend most of the holidays in Montréal and Québec City, where, in addition to sampling the Canadian version of a bagel, I ate a lot of tartare. I hadn’t planned on doing so, but beef and salmon versions kept popping up on menus, so I found myself, always prone to patterns, engaging in a sort of comparative survey of different options available across the province. In between weighing the merits of pairing tartare with crackers or toast points, I also began researching how to recreate my new favorite dish when I returned home.
Although I’m pretty much fearless when it comes to tasting bizarre (at least to me) and even suspect food prepared by others, I harbor some significant reservations when it comes to me creating a dish comprising uncooked animal flesh dish. That random dude totally not wearing gloves cooking my omelet with not-so-fresh-looking-oysters on the streets of Shanghai? Yeah, he’s competent; I’ll be fine. But I shall surely mess things up.
To bolster my confidence, I a) did a lot of research and b) decided to warm up with salmon tartare as the likelihood of getting toilet-hugging sick from eating lackluster rare fish is less than that of bad, uncooked beef.
The real secret to great and safe tartare is freshness and quality. Sorry, it’s clichéd but true: you want a filet of wild-caught salmon, preferably from a fishmonger or a purveyor who makes it their vocation to vend fish that has just shuffled off its mortal coil. In Houston, that translates to Airline Seafood or the seafood departments of Central Market or Whole Foods. Looking for sushi-grade at a Japanese market such as Nippan Daido or Seiwa Market isn't a bad tack, either. The recipe below is adapted from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook.
- 1 pound salmon fillet (skin removed)
- ¼ cup minced shallots
- 1-2 tablespoons olive (or even truffle) oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons capers
- Salt and pepper to taste
When making tartare the key is “ASK.” No, not query the internet or your neighbor, but “A Sharp Knife.” Don’t be trying to chop your salmon with that thing you use to spread PB on your toast.
- Finely dice your salmon into small cubes. Do not put in a food processor.
- Combine diced salmon, shallots, oil, lemon juice, garlic, and capers thoroughly.
- Chill in fridge for about 2 hours.
- Remove from fridge. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with toasted baguette slices or even Ritz crackers. Admit it: the former has a certain je ne sais quoi, while the latter has "natural flavor."