Nearly everyone has heard of steak Diane, Chateaubriand steak, Beef Wellington, and of course let us not forget steak Tartare. Only where did these famous steaks get their names from? Why is it called Diane? What is tartare meat? Who were Chateaubriand and Wellington?
Steak Diane was probably invented in New York, in the middle of the 20th century. It is often attributed to Chef Beniamino Schiavon at the Drake restaurant. At the time, cooking flambee dishes a la table, was very fashionable. The name Diane comes from the Roman goddess of the hunt. Steak Diane is cooked quickly and sautéed in butter. The sauce is prepared from the pan juices, adding mushrooms, shallots and cream. The sauce is flambeed with brandy, sherry or Madeira and poured over the steak.
Francois-Rene Chateaubriand was a French noble royalist at the time of the French revolution in 1789. He was a writer, politician, diplomat and historian. He founded Romanticism in French literature. He came from an aristocratic family in Brittany. He lived a tumultuous life, travelled to America, was exiled in London and then returned to political life in France. But what about the steak? Apparently, the dish was created by Chateaubriand’s personal chef Montmireil. To prepare a Chateaubriand nowadays a large steak is cut from the thickest part of a fillet of beef. In gastronomy circles of the 19th century however, the chateaubriand was cut from the sirloin. The steak was quickly seared, then fried in butter, and was served with a reduced sauce prepared with white wine, shallots, mushrooms, tarragon and lemon juice.
Steak Tartare is a dish made from raw ground beef. It is usually served with onions, capers, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. A raw egg yolk is often served on the top.
The idea of eating raw meat came from Mongolia. There lived the Tatars, who had a tradition of finely mincing meat and then binding the meat with eggs. From far away Mongolia, the idea of consuming minced raw meat travelled to Russia, and from there reached the port of Hamburg in the 17th century. Soon after recipes for steak tartare were making their way alongside the immigrants into the New World. The Hamburg steak as it was then called reminded people of the port of Hamburg they left behind. Later on, the Hamburg steak was renamed as steak tartare. The first reference to tartare steak comes from America in 1889. The first description of it was given by no less than Jules Verne himself in 1875, in his novel Michael Strogoff.
The Duke of Wellington was a very capable British army general who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1814. One of the most famous battles in history, involving 190,000 men, a turning point for Napoleon, forcing him into exile for the rest of his life. No wonder the culinary world created a dish, seeking to immortalise the Duke and his achievements.
Beef Wellington is a beef tenderloin encased in a pastry crust. There is a heated debate as to where the dish originated from and what the exact ingredients are. Early on it was basically a simple cut of beef wrapped in dough, en croute, according to the French. Nowadays, a good beef fillet is used, the meat is topped with fois gras and duxelles before wrapped in puff pastry. Foie gras is duck liver, rich and delicious and duxelles is a mixture of chopped mushrooms, shallots and herbs , cooked in butter.