simple method for a traditional French pepper steak with
quite controversial origins. At least four chefs claimed
to have invented this dish at various times between 1905
origins of steak "au poivre", a steak coated with
crushed peppercorns or served with a peppercorn
sauce, are controversial. Chefs who claim to have
created this dish include E. Lerch in 1930, when
he was chef a the Restaurant Albert on the Champs-Elysees;
and M. Deveau in about 1920, at Maxim's. However,
M.G. Comte certifies that steak "au poivre" was
already established as a specialty of the Hotel
de Paris at Monte Carlo in 1910, and O. Becker
states that he prepared it in 1905 at Palliard's!"
classic French Steak au Poivre (pepper steak),
a restaurant showpiece demanding pyrotechnical
skills, remains popular in some quarters. The
recipe appears to be relatively new: Escoffier
doesn't include Steak au Poivre in Ma Cuisine
(1934) but his contemporary, Henri-Paul Pellaprat,
does give a recipe for it in Modern Culinary Art
(1953)...Food historians of solid reputation dismiss
the Prince Leopold theory as apocryphal. Or pure
fantasy. Whatever the origin, though, Steak au
Poivre became the culinary tour de force of many
stylish big-city American restaurants early this
chateaubriand is a thick steak cut from a beef fillet.
It was named after the French writer and statesman Francois
Rene, Vicomte de Chateaubraind. The original application
of the term appears to have been to a particular method
of preparing steak-grilled and served with bearnaise sauce-which
was invented by the chef Montmirail in 1822, when the
Vicomte de Chateaubriand was French ambassador in London;
but by the 1870s, when it was introduced into English,
it had been transferred to the steak itself: The steak
which had formerly been served...under the name filet
de boeuf was now always announced as Chateaubrand,' E.S.
Dallas, Kettner's Book of the Table (1877).
is the name given to a large piece of fillet steak, either
much thicker that usual or big enough to serve at least
two people, or both. There is some disagreement, e.g.
between French and American butchers, over the exact size
and nature of this cut. A tedious accretion of tales about
the origin of the name was robustly hacked out of the
way by Dallas (1877) in Kettner's Book of the Table, indeed,
the author of this would have gone further and banished
the term altogether, as hd the members of a certain London
club (so he tells us) when a fancy chef sought to install
it on their menu.
is the original passage from Kettner's Book of the Table
(1877), quoted in full:
another example of mystification, and it must be added,
of exceeding folly--to use no stronger epithet. It is
connected with the illustrious name of Chateaubriand.
One of the foremost clubs in London one day changed its
cook; and its members were astonished to find that the
steak which had foremly been served to them under the
name file de boeuf was now always announced as a Chateaubriand.
The cook was called to account. What was the meaning of
the new name? Why should plain Englishmen be puzzled with
a new name--the slang of the kitchen? Why should they
not, as of old, get the fillet were accustomed? The cook
had really nothing to say. He could only tell that a Chateaubriand
was the fashionable name in Paris for a steak cut from
the ordinary fillet-steaks--nearly two inches. The members
of the club were not satsified with this explanation;
and to the great disgust of the chef, who felt the sumblimity
of the name of Chateaubriand, the order was given that
henceforth a steak from the fillet should be announced
as before on other bills under the time-honoured name
of filet de boeuf.
RECIPES THROUGH TIME
"Fillet steaks a la Chateaubriand.
Cut a fillet of beef crosswise, in 1 3/4-inch steaks;
trim them; sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and oil
them slightly; broil the steaks over the fire, --six minutes
each side; put them on a dish; and garnish with potatoes
sautees, and cut to an olive shape; pour some Chateaubriand
2 gills of French white wine, and 1 oz. of Meat Glaze;
add 1 quart of Espagnole Sauce; continue reducing; then
strain, through a tammy cloth, into a bain-marie pan;
Before serving, boil up the sauce, and thicken it with
This is considered the acme of steaks. It should be cut
from the fillet, quite two inches thick, and put into
a marinade of the purest olive oil, with a little pepper,
for a few hours. Some cooks add a few drops of French
vinegar. The steak is best grilled; to ensure perfection,
a double gridiron, well oiled, is recommended, and some
authorities insist upon the envelopment of the steak in
two thin slices of beef (any lean part; it can be put
in the stock pot afterwards), to protect the exterior,
as it should not be allowed to harden. Without this precaution,
great care is needed to cook thoroughly, without hardening,
owing to the thickness of the meat. After eighteen to
twenty minutes' grilling, lay the meat before the fire
on a hot dish, and finish off in either of the following
ways: (1) Put a pat of maitre d'hotel butter under the
steak, and a little gravy round; this can be made by mixing
a grill of stock No. 16 with the same measure of brown
sauce No. 2. (2) Put a pat of maitre d'hotel butter in
a gill of brown sauce, first heated with a glass of white
wine and a teaspoonful of lemon juice. (2) Mix chopped
parsley and lemon juice, a teaspoonful of each, with a
gill and a half of stock No. 16, thickened with a small
quantitiy of roux and glaze, to the consistency of good
cream. Serve fried potatoes, chips or ribbons with this
steak. Cost, variable."
"Chateaubriand of Beef.
Cut the desired number of thick slices from a tenderloin
of beef, and slit each one nearly in halves; place a teaspoonful
of beef marrow seasoned with salt and cayenne and a few
strips of onion in this cavity, pressing the sides together,
and brush over with warm butter or oil; place on a warm
gridiron over a clear fire for ten minutes. Remove, dish
and squeeze a litte lemon juice over them, serving as
hot as possible. Care should be take to prevent the marrow
from oozing out during the process of cooking."
Chateaubriands are obtained from the centre of the trimmed
fillet of beef, cut two or three times the thickness of
an ordinary fillet of steak. However, when it is to be
cooked by grilling the Chateaubriand should not be more
than 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) in weight as, if larger than this,
the outside tends to become too dry and hard before the
inside is properly cooked. Many strange ideas have been
put forward concerning the proper accompaniements for
Chateaubraind; correctly speaking it should be Sauce Colbert
or a similar sauce and small potatoes cooked in butter.
In modern practice though, Chateaubriands are served with
any of the sauces and garnishes suitable for Tournedos
and fillet steaks."
The Chateaubriand steak is an aristocrat, and is listed
on most all a la carte bills. It is a double tenderloin
served for two, three, or four. In price it ranges from
$2.50 to $5.00, depending upon the size and garnish. Only
one Chateaubriand is listed, as a rule, and is named after
the house, as "Chateaubriand, Tip Top Inn,"
$3.50; "Chateaubriand, Blackstone," $4.00. The
above quoted bills list but one Chateaubriand steak and
the service is for four. The garnish varies with the different
establishments, and generally consists of a rich sauce,
fresh mushrooms, and fancy vegetables. Some places list
two or three sizes with varying prices and garnishes,
such as "Marchand du vin," "Bernaise,"
or "fresh mushrooms." In cutting the Chateaubriand
for two it should be cut to weigh one and a half pounds;
for three, two and a quarter pounds; for four, three pounds;
and to be at its best is should be take from the "heart"
or center of the tenderloin strip."
cup butter, cut into pieces
1-1/2 Tbsp tarragon vinegar
1-1/2 Tbsp dry white wine
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 egg yolks
1 pound beef fillet, about 5 to 6 inches long, cut from
the thickest part of the fillet
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
freshly ground black pepper
sautéed potatoes, to accompany
Clarify the butter by melting it gently in a saucepan;
do not boil. Skim off any foam and set aside.
Put the vinegar, wine and shallot in a small heavy
saucepan over high heat and boil to reduce until
the liquid has almost all evaporated. Remove from
the heat and cool slightly. Add the egg yolks and
whisk for 1 minute. Place the saucepan over very
low heat and whisk constantly until the yolk mixture
begins to thicken and the whisk begins to leave
tracks on the base of the pan, then remove the pan
from the heat.
Whisk in the melted butter, drop by drop until the
sauce begins to thicken, then pour in the butter
a little more quickly, leaving behind the milky
solids at the bottom of the pan. Season with salt
and pepper and keep warm, stirring occasionally.
Place the meat between two sheets of wax paper or
plastic wrap and pound with the flat side of a meat
pounder or roll with a rolling pin to flatten to
about 1-1/2 inches thick. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan over medium-high
heat. Add the meat and cook for about 10 to 12 minutes,
turning once, until done as preferred (medium-rare
meat will be slightly soft when pressed, medium
will be springy and well-done firm).
Transfer the steak to a board and carve in thin
diagonal slices. Strain the sauce, if you prefer,
and serve with the steak, accompanied by sautéed
Yields about 1-1-2 cups.
make béarnaise sauce, you use the same
technique as for hollandaise, replacing the
lemon juice with a reduction of wine, vinegar,
shallots, and tarragon.
medium shallots, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
10 crushed black peppercorns
4 large sprigs fresh tarragon
Salt to taste
10 oz. (2-1-2 sticks) good-quality unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks
3 Tbs. water
and freshly ground pepper to taste
To make the reduction: Combine the shallots, wine,
vinegar, peppercorns, and tarragon in a heavy-based
saucepan and simmer over medium high until 2 Tbs.
of liquid remains. Strain and discard the solids.
To make the sauce: In a heavy-based saucepan, melt
the butter. Simmer it rapidly for at least 10 min.;
the water will evaporate and the milk solids will
coagulate on the bottom and sides of the pan. Let
the melted butter sit for a few minutes so the solids
will fall to the bottom. Skim off the foam on top
and then either decant the golden liquid, leaving
the solids behind, or pour the melted butter through
a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Whisk the eggs and
clarified butter (see Making the sabayon and adding
To finish the sauce is done, whisk in 1 Tbs. of
the reduction (or more to taste). Season with salt
and pepper. Stir in finely chopped tarragon, if
You may serve the sauce over the C, or, to the side.