You could probably call this Japanese Steak Tartare, or maybe Japanese Carpaccio, but the proper appellation is Beef Tataki, where the ‘Tataki’ is actually the name of the specific cookery technique involved. This technique was originally used specifically for steaks of Bonito Tuna but has now been widely adapted for beef as well. Essentially, it involves grilling meat (or fish) very briefly over high heat to sear the outside and then cooling it rapidly to prevent further cooking, thus leaving the interior almost raw. The result is most commonly served sashimi style but can be easily put to other uses. In either event, the technique is one well worth having in your repertoire…
Generally, fairly small pieces of meat are used (occasionally small enough to be skewered for grilling), but I am using a pretty large piece for today’s preparation. I purchased a small oven roast and trimmed it to leave a rectangular piece (on the right) of about a pound or so. The trimmed pieces will be used elsewhere. It is not critical that you make a rectangle, but this makes grilling easier and, depending upon the finished dish, helps result in nicer slices for presentation.
Grilling is very straightforward and simply requires searing the meat on all sides (don’t forget the ends) for about a minute or so (or as little as 30 seconds for very small pieces). This can be done on a barbecue but, if you do this (and want to be very traditionally Japanese) avoid leaving ‘grill-marks’ on the surfaces if possible. My barbecue season has ended and so I pan-fried at maximum heat, using just a little oil to prevent sticking.
As soon as the meat has been browned on all sides, immediately plunge it into a bath of ice-water to prevent further cooking and leave to sit for a few minutes.
When the meat is cool, pat it well to dry and remove any excess oil.
At this point, many recipes call for the meat to be marinated, usually in a soy based marinade. Really, this is only useful for very small pieces as any marinade will barely penetrate anything larger and any additional flavoring can easily be added once everything is sliced for service. If you are not going to marinate, wrap the piece tightly in plastic film until ready to use.
For service, the meat is typically cut into slices of about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch. Make sure you use a good sharp knife (I used my Japanese Yanagiba sashimi blade) and try to employ good clean strokes rather than a sawing motion. Here, you can see how the slices have a nice thin border of seared meat while the interior is still beautifully pink.
Often, small pieces are served sashimi style with the full panoply of sides such as shredded daikon, wasabi, grated ginger and the like but, other than some scallion rings for garnish, I just served my slices in a simple Ponzu style sauce of soy, mirin and lemon juice. Personally, I would probably prefer mustard, but I gave this a try and it was really quite nice. Some of the remaining slices will be used for sandwiches, but I also want to try using some of the very thin ones for a type of roll I have in mind…