The origin of the ‘Filet Américain’ recipe invented by
Joseph Niels in 1926
- chopped beef class one,
- rump roast or tâche noire (more flavour) from which all nerves have been carefully removed,
- mayonnaise spiced up with finely chopped piccalilli,
- add 4 egg yolks per litre of mayonnaise,
- genuine Worcester sauce (Lea & Perrins),
- finely chopped onion and parsley,
- no lemon nor anchovies or cucumbers,
- mix well with a wooden fork to a smooth paste,
- Of course this dish is served with Belgian chips (bintje) not too thick,
- a few sprigs of watercress, onions and sweet and sour cucumbers
- that will not spoil the flavour of the meat.
The Waiter would come at your table and mix up a mayonnaise with eggs, mustard, salt, pepper, chopped onion and parsley, capers, Worcester sauce, anchovies, garlic, and often lemon, which he blended into raw minced beef. This dish was accompanied by French fries, watercress, onion and pickled cucumbers. In the 1920’s, this French recipe was called ‘Steak Tartare’ and was very popular in Belgium.
However, the problem was that the waiter or the head waiter often made the seasoning either too bland or too spicy depending on his mood.
When my grandfather, manager of the ‘La Taverne Royale’ restaurant in the Saint Hubert gallery, opened the ‘Canterbury’ tavern-restaurant at 129 boulevard Emile Jacqmain in 1926, he decided to create a steak tartare in his own special fashion, and called it the ‘Filet Américain’.
The Canterbury restaurant was a school to many Belgian cooks, and little by little the recipe acquired a following in Belgium.
Moreover, this recipe is now prepared in the kitchen, which makes for a consistent seasoning. This was not the case when the waiter made it at your table.
Philippe Niels 1970