Monday, April 4, 2011

Filet Americain

"You are going to do WHAT?!" my butcher exclaimed, wide eyed. I had just asked him to recommend a cut of beef for filet americain. He shook his head, so I explained to him that I wanted a tender piece of beef to grind up, mix in with some seasonings and then eat it on a bread roll. Raw. I had him nodding agreeably up to the "mixing in the seasonings" part. Up until there it all sounded like a precursor to a nicely grilled hamburger, which is what everybody else in line ahead of me was asking for. But when I told him I was going to let it sit for a while and then eat it raw, I lost him.

"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.

Filet americain, or American filet, is a raw beef spread that is served on a roll for lunch, or on crackers as an appetizer. Not for the faint of heart, and most certainly not for anybody with a compromised immune system, or the elderly, children, pregnant women, it is however a much sought-after product and dearly missed by Dutch expats.

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'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.

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.

Filet Americain
1lb of sirloin steak
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!


  1. Definitely going to have to try this even though it's a little scary (which is odd, cause I never thought twice about it when living in Holland and I ate this pretty much at least once a week).

  2. I'm game..I ate this in a train station when I was in Europe (many years ago...before we worried about food borne illnesses). Of course, no one else will eat it, so I will have to pass. :-(

    I am so glad I ran across your blog and I hope you don't mind if I try a few of your recipes...some things I haven't seen since I was a child. I've had to invent a few things of my own. My worstebroodjes (that's not the formal spelling, I know) come very close to yours. I will be back!

  3. I am going to do this. I love Steak Tatar.. sometimes referred to as a Cannibal Sandwich.

  4. The Germans have a similar dish. I do not remember what it was called. Had it in a restaurant in Bavaria (Tegernsee). Not so *pasty*, but a bit coarser grind, and they put raw chopped onions on top of it. Not half bad (take that literally !!).

    As a matter of fact some of their *Teewurst* tastes vaguely similar.

  5. So excited to find this recipe.
    Again, love your blog and am recommending it to people as often as I can!
    i want to make so many of your dutch recipes!

  6. very nice, ate this for 3 weeks whilst in holland.
    no bad guts or anything. :)

  7. to the poster of Anonymous Sep 16, 2011 03:36 PM..

    the German dish was probably a Mettwurst..
    here's a recipe for it..

  8. and while we're at it.. for the Dutchmen who like and miss another typical Dutch treat..

    "Amsterdamse Osseworst"

    here my recipe for it - sorry it's in Dutch..
    if you need a translation let me know..!1197

  9. Oh how I miss stuff like this on a boring sunday afternoon. We used to have this as appetizers. Lots of onions on top and a sprinkling of ground pepper.... One of the down sides of living abroad is not having nice little foods like this in the supermarket, and having to make it yourself if you want it. Happy about sites like this to find the recepies.

  10. I had to laugh at all your precautioning and disclaimers (but being in the USA they are understandable). However, I did not really understand why you should clean the knife and all that, when you are eating the meat raw. hahaha

    I LOVE filet americain!! albert hein sells a variant with pesto mixed in which is also quite good. and do you like kalfsfilet? that's maybe better for americans because its not red but more pinkish. Anyway I am enjoying your blog very much.

  11. Oooo filet Americain!
    I have been living in the UK for almost five years, and of all things Dutch, this is what I miss most. Glad to have found your recipe!

  12. Een tijdje terug heb ik een aflevering gezien van "de keuringsdienst van waarde" op de Nederlandse televisie.
    Daarin werd uitgelegd dat filét americain bedacht werd door een Belg.
    Zijn zoon heeft nu een restaurant in Brussel.

  13. Just back from Bonaire. My daughter had filet Americain with chopped onion on Melba round with wine as we watched each sunset. OMG how great is that along with some smoked Gouda with cumin? Then off to dinner!

  14. The German dich is called "Tartar".

    1. You could be right.
      Here in Germany it is pretty common to eat raw grounded meat. Every butcher sells normal grounded beef and pork for cooking but also a version called "Mett" which is grounded pork that is sold for eating raw. Sometimes they sell preformed patties with onions on top for spreading it in your bread or rolls.
      At local bakery stores it is Common that you can buy some prepared half rolls to take away topped with cheese, ham and such and pretty often they sell some with Mett aus well. These are called "Mettbrötchen".
      So no butcher would find it strange of you bought this here to eat it raw.
      We also eat Tartar of couse.
      Mett and Tartar are both pretty tasty!

      And I'd like to thank you very much for the recipe. We discovered Filet americain lately and we love the taste and texture.

  15. Love this. My dad made it for us on the weekend. It's been a long long time since I had it last.

  16. I like this made the proper way. Not the garbage from Albert Heijn or Jumbo which is day-glo orange and about 30% sugar and chemicals!

  17. We in America have no problem eating under cooked red meat. Any steak that is not "well done" is not sanitized by cooking as the red or pink portions do not reach 140 F. In fact that only warms it which technically makes it even more "dangerous". I'm not a big fan of gray hockey pucks but I am one of Filet American.

  18. One of my favorite things in Dutch fast food places is Broodje Tartaar, which is coarsely ground raw steak, seasoned only with salt and pepper, topped with raw chopped onions, served on a soft white roll. So good! It is quite different from Filet Américain, which is ground much finer and has a richer taste from the mayo and seasonings.

  19. So happy that you explained! I am in England now and searched for filet American, but couldn't find it anywhere. Now I know :( Will just have to wait till I am home agian for eating it.

  20. thanks for sharing the recipe, definitely going to try it at home, I used to eat filet americaine sandwich when living in Brussels with chopped fresh tomatoes and ciboulette, not sure its English name...yummmy

  21. So tasty, still I think it is a belgian dish
    Heel lekker, toch denk ik dat het Belgisch is

  22. wallrider jan van goolNovember 2, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    always when i go back to Holland this is one of the first thing i eat. and some worstebroodjes.
    i go and try this tomorrow and let you know
    thanks for the recept

  23. This is a Belgian dish and Belgian only. Furthermore, one of the very big, substantial and broad differences between BE and Holland is that the former has a deeply integrated culture of cooking, cuisine, and making home made food. Holland is defined precisely by lacking this. The recipe is Belgian and she got it from Belgium. Her butcher indeed couldn't believe his ears, since making such a request in Holland is unheard of. The Dutch even are using the wrong name for the this Belgian dish, which I won't tell as they are like sponges sucking their environment, like octopuses grabbing everything on board as if it would be their own, and they are the China of Europe.

    1. Do you hold a grudge against the Netherlands or something? I've tried both filet Americain (NL) and prepare (BE) and I can assure you the taste really differs. It's made by a completely different way and different spices.

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  24. last year my wife went 2 Amsterdam & brought this tube of meat home with her . the next day I decided 2 try this meat . it didn't get refrigerated from the time she bought it till I consumed it . I didn't think much about it till now . with some illnesses I have I could have died from this but I'm typing about it live & well . when I would take my lunch 2 work sometimes I would fore get 2 eat it I would eat it after it sat in my tool box over the week end a ham sandwich with mayonnaise in the evening hot sun . I have always eaten food in this matter even when I wasn't sick .

  25. I've had American Filet a few times when I've been visiting my friend in the Netherlands and I love it. I'm nervous to make it myself here in the U.S. because of the unsanitary conditions that cattle are raised in here. In Netherlands and the rest of the E.U. they have strict laws that forbid this kind of nasty raising of beef which is why it's not recommended to eat any raw American beef.


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