Friday, August 19, 2005

raw meat fix

Atkins would love me. I've been beset by sudden urges for tartare and kitfo. Both are chopped (not ground) raw beef dishes.

Tartare involves a raw egg, finely chopped onions, and herbs, and is served with buttered toast, preferably rye. The tartare I had in the Czech republic was much better than one I had in San Francisco.

Kitfo, oooh, kitfoooo. You can feel your arteries choking up as you eat the stuff. In this Eritrean dish, the beef is saturated in clarified spiced butter called niter kibe. It's served with sides of crumbly mild cheese like queso, and steel-melting chili powder.

I made something like kitfo today. I say "like" because technically I was using berbere sauce to spice the butter instead of making real niter kibe. Berbere involves ginger, fenugreek, cardamom, black pepper, cumin, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, chilies, chili powder and paprika. Volumes run from 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of the spices up to the cloves. Paprika, 2 tablespoons, and chili powder to taste. Whole spices are toasted gently and ground. Everything is thoroughly whirled up in the blender with an onion, a couple cloves of garlic, a little water and a dash of oil. Simmer this for 15 minutes and it thickens up a bit, and you have berbere sauce.

Niter kibe involves similar ingredients, omitting a few spices and adding turmeric and a verbena called koseret. I figured my berbere (which is light on the chili powder and has no chilies at all; I like my tongue and want to keep it) could stand in adequately, and yes, on the whole it was similar to what we've had at the New Eritrea Restaurant, but less flaming.

Just for the hell of it we used filet. I melted about 3 oz of butter (turned out to be a little too much), added two heaping tablespoons of berbere, and let it simmer low about 15 minutes. After turning off the heat, I threw in the meat, mixed it up and let the butter warm the meat slightly. because I can't make Ethiopian bread to save my life (injera, and I've tried several times), we went the tartare route and toasted some rye bread in a frying pan with butter.

It's completely amazing how little meat it takes to satisfy a person when it's prepared as kitfo or tartare. The volume was surprising, but cooked meat shrinks, and the raw filet was sort of fluffed up from the chopping. The mate and I consumed about 2 - 3 oz each and were as satisfied as we'd be if we'd eaten 10-12 ounces of prime rib. One of these days I hope to serve this to my sister without telling her it's raw beef.

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