"So how do you cook it then?" he asked, not sure whether he heard me right. "Well, see, you don't cook it", I said, "you just mix it all together and eat it. With some crackers", I added, sheepishly, as if the addition of carbs would all of a sudden make the concept somehow sound more sane. "But how can you make sure nobody gets sick?" he then wondered out loud. Hmmm..."I don't know", I hesitated, "I guess I'm just making sure I buy good quality meat from you and keep my fingers crossed" and smiled nicely.
My butcher had nothing to say to that, so just nodded at the piece of wrapped top sirloin steak I was holding in my hand and said that it would do nicely.
How the name came about is anybody's guess. It's a variation on the famous steak tartare, a dish supposedly named after the nomadic Tartars who roamed the plains of Russia. They were so busy running about and doing Tartar things that they did not have time to stop, cook and eat, so they consumed raw steak that they tenderized by putting it underneath their saddle for a day's ride. Nowadays, steak tartare is a patty of ground beef, topped with capers, an egg yolk, seasonings, and served tableside so that each guest can mix in the ingredients themselves and adjust it to taste.
In the early days of the 20th century this dish was called "steak a l'Americaine", steak the American way. Why? Not sure. Maybe back then they figured that our cowboys were as busy as the Tartars, and ate their steak raw. With capers and an egg yolk. Yeah, somehow I don't see that happening. But either way, one thing turned to another and the steak a l'Americaine was born, dubious past included.
Filet americain is a ground up version of the steak tartare: beef, seasonings, capers, onions, and some mayo and mustard to bind it all together....it's ground into a paste and spread on a white crunchy roll, topped with some sliced or diced onions and a few capers by choice.
CAUTION! PLEASE READ BEFORE PROCEEDING!
Before you make this dish, I want to warn you about the possible risk of foodborne illnesses. Raw meat can be dangerous to your health and as mentioned above, anybody elderly, young, pregnant, sick, etc etc, should really NOT eat this dish. Raw meat can be a source of foodborne pathogens such as E.coli or Salmonella, and eating raw meat can cause foodborne illnesses that may lead to serious illness or even death. If you decide to make this dish, you are on your own! I am just posting the recipe as a part of sharing about Dutch culture and food customs, but for pete's sake, don't make yourself sick.
Rubbing the meat with Worcestershire sauce which has a vinegar base will kill some of the pathogens, but not all. After cutting up the meat, clean the knife with hot water and soap and let it air-dry, clean your counter and use a different cutting board for the rest of the ingredients. Take care to not cross-contaminate any other food items and wash your hands frequently. Immediately refrigerate the meat paste after you've decided it's seasoned to taste. Refrigerate for at least an hour before consuming.
4 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of capers
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of black ground pepper
4 medium sized crunchy dill pickles
3 tablespoons of diced red onion
3 tablespoons of mayo
1 tablespoon of mustard (optional)
Curry, paprika, garlic etc optional
Rub the steak on both sides with the Worcestershire sauce and let it sit for a minute or two. Then cut the fat off the meat and any silver skin, chop the beef in large chunks and place it in the food processor. Add the capers, salt, black pepper, chopped pickles, onion and mayo and grind to a paste. Taste. Adjust seasonings.
Refrigerate until use. Eat within four hours of preparing. Do not keep longer than 24 hours!