This dish is one of our favourites whenever we’re in France or Luxembourg and it’s far easier to re-create at home than you might think. The words ‘au couteau’ refer to the steak being hand-cut with a knife.
The most important element is the quality of the meat. You need good quality, fresh, tender and lean fillet steak for that melt-in-the-mouth taste. This actually makes it a good low-fat meal, too, especially if you accompany it with a side salad (though we do love to go traditional and have ‘frites’ – chips / fries – on the side). It is also a very filling meal due to the high protein content.
There is no cooking involved, but you do need to allow yourself an hour or so to patiently hand-slice the meat. Do not be tempted to bypass this step by buying minced meat or putting your meat through an electric mincer.
It is up to you which exact seasoning ingredients you want to add. In Parisian restaurants, they often serve it ready seasoned with egg, gherkins, capers, onions and tomato ketchup and/or Worcester sauce. Frederika can’t stand either of those last two ingredients and, although she will eat it ready seasoned in restaurants if they won’t serve it any other way, she usually asks for them to bring the ingredients and let her season the meat herself.
The recipe we share here is how Frederika seasons hers – feel free to experiment with the additional seasonings and decide what you prefer for yourself.
Important note about the capers:
We always use capers preserved in salt, not vinegar. These are quite tricky to get in the UK, but it’s worth persevering to find the right ones, as capers preserved in vinegar have a very different taste. Though if you do prefer a more acidic balance to the dish, feel free to experiment and use ones in vinegar.
Ingredients (for 4 people)
- 3-4 good quality lean fillet steaks (it depends how much meat you want to eat!)
- 4-6 cocktain gherkin
- a handful of capers (see important note about capers, above)
- one small onion
- 4 egg yolks
- sea salt flakes (or fine, whichever you prefer) – to taste
- freshly-ground black pepper – to taste
Cutting the meat – the most important step:
Using a good quality sharp knife (this is the one we like to use), finely chop the steaks. Allow a good hour to do this.
Cut thin strips of steak, about 2mm thick, then lay each strip down and cut it into thin strips lengthways, about 2mm each again.
Once you have a good few ‘matchstick’ style fine strips of beef, bunch them together and cut them horizontally so you get tiny ‘minced’ pieces of beef, about 2mm squared.
Preparing the other ingredients:
Finely chop – separately – the capers, gherkins and onion, and place them into small serving dishes/bowls.
Separate the eggs and keep each yolk separate.
Separate the finely-cut meat into four equal portions and place them onto plates as small mounds with a crater at the centre of each.
Place one egg yolk at the centre of each mound.
Serve everything else at the table, so each person can add as many of the seasonings as they wish to their own dish (alternatively, each plate could have small mounds of onion, gherkins and capers next to the mound of meat). All ingredients then need to be mixed well into the meat, which is best eaten straight away.