Think of classic French cuisine and there are several distinctive, iconic dishes; coq au vin, bouillabaisse, boeuf bourguignon, croquembouche – a whole cannon of recipes that every classically trained French chef comes to know. These dishes are time honoured, lovingly perfected and lauded as a showcase of the traditions and techniques of French cuisine. For our Culinary Artisans series with Stella Artois, we look at chateaubriand, which comes complete with its own folklore, as explained by André Mahé, of Perth’s excellent The Trustee.
“They say it was created in the 1800s by chef Montmireil for the visit of Vicomt Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand [an ambassador for Napoleon Bonaparte] and that’s how the name came about,” explains the French-born chef. “I first cooked it as a young chef. It’s a classic dish served in every classic French restaurant. I had to start cooking this when I was very young.”
Mahe’s chateaubriand at The Trustee is a 900-gram beef tenderloin fillet, cooked whole and carved for serving. The dish comes dressed with roasted bone marrow and béarnaise sauce, along with colcannon, pumpkin puree, Paris mash and jus, with the signature dish generously serving two or more diners.
“It’s a lot of meat in the fillet,” laughs Mahé. “It’s for two, but it can serve three or more depending on your appetite.”
Mahé says the key to plating the perfect chateaubriand is all in the resting of the meat.
“It’s actually not that complicated,” he says. “It’s simply a roasted piece of the fillet – the thick piece – roasted to your liking, but mostly cooked very quickly ... Then we roast some bone marrow and serve with a béarnaise sauce of clarified butter, egg yolk and white wine reduced.”
Mahé jokes that despite its reputation, the dish is actually quite hard to ruin. At The Trustee, chateaubriand is recommended served rare, with the fillet sliced into eight or so pieces.
“It’s all based on the quality of the ingredients. You need to have a nice fillet of aged beef, and it must be nicely rested … We seal it first in the pan and then finish in the oven, and it is rested for 12 or 14 minutes.”
For Mahé, carving and plating are key parts of presenting the chateaubriand experience and perfecting this classic French dish.
“We serve it already sliced, in a copper dish with the marrow over the top and garnish on the side.”
What you’ll need to carve
900-gram chateaubriand – or beef fillet cooked to your liking
A good, sturdy and stable cutting board
A well-sharpened carving knife
A carving fork
Place the rested fillet on the cutting board and identify the direction of the grain of the meat by looking to see which direction the fibres of the meat are running. “Always cut on the grain of the meat,” says Maher. “Look for the grain and go with it. The carving should be very easy – it’s fillet so it will be very tender.” For Mahe it’s about getting to know the cut of meat and feeling which way it will slice best.
“A nice sharp knife and a good fork [for handling and stability] will help you carve the fillet into slices that suit you. We like to get around eight slices out of the fillet, which is a good serving for two people.”