Chef Nico Romo, born and raised in Lyon, France, is the youngest member of the French Culinary Academy and is one of 66 French Master Chefs in the United States. He’s also the only one located in South Carolina. Following his training, he worked with Michelin Star chefs, such as the French Master Chef Patrick Henriroux, before bringing his background and expertise with him to Charleston. In the Lowcountry, he opened a French-style oyster bar called Nico in Mount Pleasant. This was later followed with Bistronomy by Nico in downtown Charleston and, in 2022, Laura in Summerville.
His cozy bistros specialize in a range of modern, innovative dishes influenced by his classical French background paired with a little “Romo” flair. One favorite that has been on the Nico menu for five years is his beef tartare recipe. If you’re one of those people who dislikes the idea of uncooked meat, this recipe is for you. Romo understands that eating raw beef isn’t tempting to everyone, so he leans on the idea of a grilled cheese to make his tartare recipe more appetizing for American palates.
Prepping all of the ingredients in advance helps this recipe come together in little, making it an elegant appetizer for entertaining or even a luxe dinner for one. Traditionally, Romo says, the cornichons and garnishes are served tableside so that guests can embellish the tartare to their liking, but at Nico, the chefs mix the cornichons and dress the tartare toast to create a perfect combination of flavors. Amounts for the brine and the relish aren’t provided in this recipe, as home cooks are encouraged to add amounts that season the meat to their own liking. As a final flourish, Romo spoons grated hard boiled egg (for zesty color) and dollops of caviar over the tartare (he uses Cajun Caviar), and he recommends getting a little bit of everything piled onto your fork for the first bite.
Serves 2 to 4
Pickled cornichons, drained, liquid reserved
1 shallot, minced
3½ ounces capers, drained, liquid reserved
½ cup dijon mustard
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ tablespoon salt
¼ tablespoon white pepper
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups canola oil
4 ounces ground steak (tenderloin or teres major, lean cut recommended)
½ tablespoon house relish (recipe above)
1 tablespoon of dijon vinaigrette (recipe above)
1 tablespoon raw egg, beaten
1 tablespoon of brine (recipe above)
2 slices French bread
Pickled red onion
2 to 3 egg yolks, boiled and mashed
For the brine:
Make the house relish
In a small bowl, combine equal parts cornichon, shallot, and capers chopped very finely.
Make the dijon vinaigrette
Combine all ingredients and mix until well combined. Recipe yields 2½ cups, which can be saved for salads or marinades.
Make the brine
In a small bowl, combine equal parts cornichon liquid, caper liquid, and lemon juice and stir well to combine.
Make the tartare
In a shallow bowl, mash to combine all ingredients to form tartare mixture.
Assemble beef tartare
Spread cream cheese between two slices of bread. Toast until golden brown. Cut into desired portion for your tartare base. Top grilled cheese with desired amount of beef mixture. Drizzle with dijon vinaigrette. Top with pickled red onion, mashed egg yolk, fried capers, chives, black caviar, fennel sprig
Video by: Jonathan Boncek
Edits by: Jack McAlister
Production by: Maggie Ward
Location: Charleston Wine + Food
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Recipe ByNico Romo of Nico in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina