I always appreciated spending time at my aunt’s or my uncle’s house when I was a kiddo. My Aunt Pegi, my mom’s “kid sister,” was simply a cool chick: whip-smart, independent, creative, spirited, funny, slightly badass, mostly girl-next-door with a lifelong love of learning. I like to think I take after her in many ways. Like others in my family, she had serious kitchen skills, and shared her love of good food and many of life’s finer things with me. That’s my mom holding me with Aunt Peg next to her.
Way back in the day, I remember AP taking us to L’Americain, a rather sophisticated restaurant in downtown Hartford–especially so for a kid. That’s where I tried steak tartare for the first time. I’ve always loved mooing meat. It was fantastic. And how cool were we kiddos eating at such a schmantzy place? We were lucky in so many ways.
Sadly, as was the case with too many of my family members, we lost AP too young–she was just 51. Today would have been her 71st birthday. Easy to remember because it’s also Bastille Day. So, as I sat watching the Tour de France yesterday with many reminders of the day to come, I was moved to celebrate AP’s birthday in a way she’d completely appreciate. I had to pull it off a day early because that’s when Meadow Meat is open, and one should source meat carefully when eating it raw.
inspired by Pegi Maturo
with input from Emeril Lagasse, Anthony Bourdain and The Polo Lounge (via chow.com)
12 oz. sirloin (.85 # is what they gave me at Meadow Meat), cut into very small cubes
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons capers, drained
2 teaspoons coarse ground mustard
1 tablespoon Cognac
1/3 cup chopped Vidalia (or other sweet) onion
fresh parsley–I added a handful sprigs as that’s what I had growing. A bit more would be even better.
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon olive oil (I used Ariston lemon olive oil)
More olive oil (again, I used Ariston lemon) to drizzle over top
½ teaspoon anchovy paste (I promise you will NOT taste fish!)
Salt (not much, taste at the end and maybe add just a bit)
Trim any fat and slice the sirloin into small cubes. Store in the fridge as you prep the rest of the dish.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, mustard and anchovy paste. Add capers (mash a bit with back of a large spoon or a fork), Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and black pepper and mix well. Slowly whisk in the oil, then add the Cognac and mix again. Fold in the onion and parsley, then the meat and combine well.
Serve immediately over a bed of lettuce. We enjoyed ours with the first San Marzanos of the season, straight from the deck, and a nice glass of Pinot Noir. And to keep it real, I made mini Ore-Ida Tater Tots–drizzled with truffle oil because we’re genetically predisposed to be a little different.
This one’s for you, Auntie Peg–you’re with me in spirit and in my heart, always! Thank you for being my good friend, my teacher and my staunch supporter. You were truly one of a kind. And whenever I hear Linda Ronstadt or John Denver, I know you’re with me, too. “Happy birthday toooooooo thouuuuuuu!” Till we meet again…