Tristan Rutherford is an award-winning travel journalist whose work appears in The Times and The Daily Telegraph. His favourite foods are gravadlax and crisps.
Chateaubriand is cut from the finest tenderloin. Due to its winsome heft it’s served large and bold, like the croquembouche of meaty mains. The dish is therefore a sharing platter. Invariably one you see the rich couple ordering alongside Épernay’s finest as you limit your partner to eau du tap.
It’s posh for good reason. The dish - although the name also refers to the cut - was created for Viscount François-René de Chateaubriand. His Excellency strode 19th-century literature like a carnivorous Salman Rushdie. Chateaubriand also thought himself as France’s greatest lover (a consideration frequent among most Gallic males) and maintained adulterous affairs with classes as diverse as rural English maids and Russian countesses. He even cranked out racy novels set within native American tribes. Classy.
Chateaubriand’s secret weapon was his personal chef Montmireil. Throughout diplomatic missions to Sweden, Prussia and Britain (the Viscount was briefly French Ambassador to London) Montmireil’s fancy nosh oiled the wheels of business. This particular beef dish was indicative of the “let them eat cake” era. The mammoth joint was enlivened by a reduction of white wine, shallots, butter, lemon juice, tarragon and a demi-glace of sauce Espagnole. The only Weight Watchers in town where the workhouse poor cowed by a ruling elite.
The Chateaubriand recipe was clever. Because tenderloin is as thick as it is tasty, the delicate interior of unfatty beef flavour could be paired with a seared exterior tang. As in the Viscount's day, those preparing their own at home should bank on £50 for a table topping joint. We're talking grass-fed and high welfare, reared in the Glens of Scotland.
For dessert? Why not follow the dish with another calorific belly-buster crafted by Montmireil. The Diplomat pudding was created to add extra weight to Viscount Chateaubriand’s 19th-century politicking. With the addition of egg custard, Kirsch syrup, candied fruit and an extra crème anglaise topping, it did so in spades. Or perhaps the Viscount’s diplomatic partners were just too full to argue back.
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