Hunger Games Craving: Steak Tartare

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I stayed up until 3AM finishing The Hunger Games, then woke up every hour on the hour thinking I was under attack. I attribute this largely to our recent interview with my fellow USC Trojan Emily Ansara Baines, who just released The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook. When I groggily roused and reached for my book only to remember I'd finished it, I was seized with a really weird craving given the context. Well, not weird for me, I have this craving pretty frequently. Raw meat.

This particular raw meat craving is pretty specific — I don't want carpaccio or very rare steak. I want hacked up beef, or as the more refined would call it, tartare. Screw your toast points, every last one of them. That is the only thing that will provide me the unscrupulous, carnal drive I need to run to the conference room, crack open the next book and pretend I'm doing something productive for a bare minimum of one hour. Hear that, everyone? I'm going to the conference room with a container of mooing cow to nerd out. Now where I obtain that container very likely won't involve a silver parachute. It will involve one of three restaurants: the French place down the street, the upscale Korean joint on 32nd or the Turkish spot nobody knows about and which I'm not divulging because the line at Minar is now out the door.

Classic French steak tartare is undoubtedly the most commonly known of the hacked-up raw meat dishes. Seasoned with a simple but potent mixture of Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, chopped onion and cornichon and a little hot sauce if you desire, tartare is beefy, tangy and tender. The acidic mustard and Worcestershire cures the meat very lightly, giving it that slightly opaque pink outer coating rather than remaining a uniform glossy red. Why the egg yolk? It's nature's perfect raw sauce.

I also love Korean yukhoe, the same very coarse grind or hand-chop of lean steak, mixed with classic Asian ingredients like soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and ginger, also served with a raw egg yolk on top. You'll be happy that egg is in you when you're running from mutant wolves.

Finally, Turkish çiğ köfte (pronounced CHEE-kofta), an entirely underrecognized dish of more finely ground beef or lamb mixed with bulgur wheat, chopped onion, parsley and scallions is absolutely delicious. It's kind of like a meatball made from tabbouleh-spiked raw beef. If you see it on a menu, çiğ köfte is a great introduction to eating uncooked beast.

Your risk of gastrointestinal demise (CANNON) from eating any of the above dishes hover right around zero if you use the highest quality ingredients and prepare them correctly.

Once the animalistic craving for freshly slaughtered prey has left me, I'll feel a lot better about tonight's dinner at the Capitol. I mean, The Yale Club.