For my beloved Brother who introduced me to the art of cooking, who taught me how to taste and truly love food. Without him I'd never be able to be where I am today.

July 6, 2012

Yeah Baby I like it Raw

A beloved child has many names as we say in Finland. Raw beef meat eaten as such  – raw – is called in various ways depending on the country and the way of preparation, the cutting and the way of serving. Whether you eat beef carpaccio, tartar steak, råbiff, carne cruda, crudos kibbe nayyeh or çiğ köfte, you’ll find yourself lusting for beautiful, red, raw meat. I don’t know about you but it sure awakes the barbarian in me.

Raw meat is one of those things that people usually either have a mad obsession for or then avoid totally. I’ve never really understood the ones who spoil perfectly good meat by overcooking it into a hard and dry gum-like thing. I belong to the ones who order a steak as raw as possible. As a matter of fact, my obsession for raw meat is quite compelling from time to time. However, I haven’t always enjoyed sinking my teeth into raw, bloody meat. It’s a love that hit me only four five years ago but has since then only grown on me.

I started thinking about my lust for raw meat. Sometimes, I swear that I can feel that my body needs just that. Probably some of you have already heard about the blood group diets. It’s nothing new and I’m sure some scientists have already proven it completely bogus. But still, in a nutshell, what your system needs, craves for and digests the best depends on your blood type. It’s pretty straightforward and follows the general course of human evolution. Why this is connected to raw meat and red meat especially, is because according to the philosophy behind this diet, the most ancient blood group – the 0 blood – is most adapted to red (raw) meat and least adapted to agrarian products, such as cereals and white sugar for example.  My blood type is 0. No wonder I like my steak “blue” like they call it in France.

On a warm and sunny day not so long ago, my Belgian friend Caroline hosted me for a few days. Caroline is one of those people who don’t think much of their cooking skills, even though they manage to make perfectly tasty food. She might not be an enthusiastic foodie, but she sure knows how to please my stomach. Any way, I had heard her talk about one of her favorite Belgian dishes, fillet Américan. This was something she missed while studying abroad, this and real Belgian fries, of course. Not necessarily eaten together though. I wasn’t familiar with the dish so I asked her to enlighten me. She started by explaining that it’s some type of marinated meat and that it’s usually eaten in the summer time. A special mixture of spices and some sauce is used in preparation. Of some reason she left out the part of it being uncooked meat. Or maybe she mentioned it, but this essential detail just slipped my mind completely. She was happy explaining it because she had just received a package containing all the needed ingredients (minus the meat of course) from her boyfriend in Belgium.

A couple of days later Caroline invited me for lunch. She was going to make fillet Américan! Finally I’d get to try this mystery dish. I arrived to her house and she started cooking. All ingredients were set on the table: Capers, mustard, onion, Worchester sauce and egg yoke. It looked awfully familiar and I got excited immediately. There might just be raw meat on the menu for lunch! I asked Caroline whether this Belgian dish could possibly be anything like tartar steak. “That’s the other name for it that I was looking for the other day!” she answered. Yes! Caroline told me that in Belgium it’s also common to eat fillet Américan as a spread on bread. Gotta try that sometime.

A thing that I love about raw meat dishes what ever you want to call it, is that it’s super easy to make and it always tastes amazing. The only thing that can go wrong is that you buy crappy meat. What comes to seasoning and serving, you can basically do whatever you feel like. Use lemon, lime, onion, mustard, mustard seeds, salt, pepper, paprika, cinnamon, herbs… simply listen to your taste and trust your imagination.

The Belgian version was delicious indeed. The Worchester sauce was a first one for me. I usually call my raw meat dish “carne cruda”, literally “raw meat”. It’s the (north) Italian version most often made of minced beef meat and seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon, chopped celery and topped with parmiggiano cheese. That’s the version that I fell for five years ago and it’s still the one I prefer.

Some of you might have guessed which song inspired me for the title of this post. Shimmy Shimmy Ya by Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Good memories, thanks to both the dish and the song.

P.S. Forget about getting sick or catching a nasty worm when eating raw beef meat. As long as the meat is fresh, you’re good to go!

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