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Jul 11, 2009 07:30 AM

Filet Mignon US - vs - Filet Mignon UK

In Britain, we'd rarely see filet mignon on a menu outside of one having pretensions to Frenchness. But, if I did see it I'd know exactly what I was going to get - a fillet steak with a rich Madeira sauce.

But am I right in thinking that in America, "filet mignon" is what folk would just call a fillet steak? Possibly no sauce? Or with a sauce that wasnt Madeira?

And, yes, to complicate matters further, I know that in France this is a term more often used for pork not beef.

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  1. No sauce unless specified in the description, and no guarantee that the steak will be a "real" filet mignon, i.e., from the small end of the tenderloin - I've seen steaks cut from pretty much anywhere on the tenderloin sold as filet mignon.

    1. I dont know for sure but since filet mignon is a relatively tastless steak it is usually served with some kind of sauce to liven it up. It is also called "Tenderloin". I understand that on the east coast of the US Filet Mignon is sometimes called "Chateaubriand" but "Chateaubriand" on the west coast is just thick cut Top Sirloin.

      2 Replies
      1. re: malibumike

        One of the things that has happened in the U.S. over the last thirty years or so is that butchery has all but disappeared and been replaced with caveat emptor style shopping. In true culinary jargon, a "filet mignon" is a cut of about an inch to an inch and a half thick taken from the small end of a tenderloin.

        For those who have never seen a whole tenderloin, in today's U.S. market it ranges about two feet long, give or take a bit, and tapers from a larger blunt end that is about five inches in diameter to a smaller end that is around three inches in diameter. The tail of the small end is often reserved for beouf Stroganoff or kabobs. The filets mignon are from the three inch diameter part.

        Steaks cut from the larger 5 inch diameter end are called tournedos. Traditionally, they are seared, rested, then served on a butter-browned crouton the same size as the steak, with a sauce and garniture. A famous tournedo is "Rossini" in which case it is topped with a slice of foi gras that is topped with a slice of Perogord truffle, then sauce Perigourdine with extra sauce on the side.

        There is some controversy over where, exactly, the chateaubriand is cut from. Tradition states unequivocally that it comes from the fat, transitional center of the tenderloin. However, last weekend I watched a "Jacques and Julia" show on PBS, and he cut his chateaubriand from the fat end of the tenderloin. Some would call that heresy, but hey, I like Jackques! But if anyone else had done it, I would be yelling heresy with the rest of them.

        The original method for cooking a chateaubriand was to sandwich it between two lesser cuts of meat of the same size or a bit larger, then char the hell out of them over scorchingly hot coals. For service, the outer steaks were thrown to the hounds and the perfectly cooked rare center steak was served with chateau potatoes and chateau or Bearnaise sauce. Today many restaurants serve chateubriand a la forestier. I've been known to serve a chateaubriand "en croute" or as beouf Wellington.

        1. re: Caroline1

          Yes, it drives me crazy when the butcher tries to sell the whole tenderloin as "filet mignon". I've even been known to take photo copies from Julia Child's books explaining this. Needless to say though, I don't go to those butchers again.

      2. Oooookay, gang... now that we've got that about settled, who wants to tackle the latest bit of restaurant/butcher sharp doublespeak, the "on-the-bone filet"?

        5 Replies
        1. re: Will Owen

          LOL! Known to elicit the complaint, "Hey! Who ate half of my Porterhouse!" Lazy in-house butchers.

          1. re: Will Owen

            Good one! My latest WTF? peeves is the term "bone in filet" thats popping up on menus everywhere.

            1. re: rednyellow

              Yes. It is either on the bone or it is a filet, by definition. My pa-in-law, who is even more of a pedant/purist about these things than I am, practically got into a shouting match with his favorite meat guy over that term, which was left unresolved. The meat man's position was that "filet" refers to the piece of meat itself, not its detachment from the bone. Pops assumes this is due to the fact that the man doesn't speak French.

              1. re: Will Owen

                He should ask the meat man how many fish filets he's ever seen with the bones attached. The art of butchery is dying.

            2. re: Will Owen

              I think I'd just rather have the whole t-bone :D That's good eatin! as my grandmother would say.

            3. Just the name for the cut of meat, then. Thanks.

              I had wondered why a French dish was so popular.

              Next time, I must ask why Americans refer to "prix fixe", and not "fixed price" :-0

              1 Reply
              1. re: Harters

                ...and then, like as not, spell it "Pre Fix" on the menu.