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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Faux-filet or Contre-filet - A UK Sirloin, a USA Strip Steak.

Behind the French Menu.
Bryan G. Newman

A contre-filet with a jacket potato.

A contre–filet or a faux-filet is a UK Sirloin Steak, in the USA a Strip Steak, a Kansas City Strip or a Delmonico.     (N.B. The USA and UK sirloins are not the same cut).  
The Contre–filet or a Faux-filet make great steaks; they come from just below the French entrecote. That is the cut comes from below the UK and US rib-eye and just above the rump.  In the UK, this is a cut to the lower end of the UK sirloin steak and despite the confusion created by the different names it is the same cut as a US strip steak.  Worry not, these are juicy steaks; if you have the choice then order yours as thick as possible. A contre-filet or faux-filet will be grilled, roasted or lightly pan-fried, and never well done. Well done this cut will be tough.  For more detail on ordering your steak cooked exactly the way you like it click here.

A Contre –filet or Faux-filet with French fries.
Photograph by courtesy of Smoked Salmon through

The Contre –filet or Faux-filet on French Menus:

Duo de Veau: (Ris de Veau aux Morillons, Pavé de Contre - Filet de Veau Rôti)- This is a two-part serving of veal: (Veal sweetbreads prepared with the “half-free morel” mushroom and a thick cut of a roasted UK sirloin). The half-free morel mushroom tastes quite similar to the morel mushroom, but it has a smaller cap, and the stem is longer and is also eaten.
Two Contre-filet steaks ready for the grill.
Carpaccio de Contre-Filet de Boeuf et Copeaux de Parmesan -  A Carpaccio from the  UK sirloin, the USA strip steak, served with shavings of Parmesan cheese.
Faux Filet de Bœuf Sauce Poivre Vert ou Cèpes- A UK sirloin, a US strip steak, prepared with a green pepper sauce and served with wild French cepes, porcini, mushrooms.
Le Faux Filet et Son Os à Moelle et Sauce Bordelaise – A UK sirloin served with a marrow bone and a Sauce Bordelaise.  Sauce Bordelaise is made with a veal stock, a Bordeaux red wine, butter, shallots, and herbs. When the sauce is made with the addition of  a marrow bone and moelle, bone marrow, then the menu will note Os à la Moelle.  The more bone marrow added to the sauce creates a sauce with a velvety texture. Additional pieces of bone marrow may be added to the steak just as it is about to be served.
A Contre-Filet with French fries.
Photograph courtesy of Moyses
The minimum amount of French you need to know when ordering a steak in France:

Bleu -A very very rare steak.
Saignant -A rare steak.
À Point - Perfectly cooked. For a steak, in France, this is a rare to medium rare steak.
Entre à Point et Bien Cuit - Medium rare, a little closer to medium.
Bien Cuit - A medium to well-done steak.
Très Bien Cuit – A well-done steak; however, do not order a contre-filet or faux-filet well-done. At least do not do so without reading the paragraph on steaks Très Bien Cuit in the post: Ordering a steak in France, cooked the way you like it.

Contre-filet or faux-filet steaks are good juicy steaks.  The French spend a great deal of time preparing steaks, far longer, and with much more attention than your average USA or UK steak house.  If the chef realizes that the faux-filet or contre-filet, the US strip or UK sirloin steak, needs tenderizing he or she will not simply hammer it out; French chefs will rarely do that. The French tenderize steaks and keep their shape by marinating them, usually in a red wine marinade.

At this point it may be a good time to remove a rather unnecessary story that floats around USA and UK dining rooms.  A sirloin was never created by an English King or Queen knighting an exceptionally well-prepared roast and creating a Sir Loin, that is nonsense.   Much of the English in today's kitchen comes from Norman French brought to England by William the Conqueror and his friends.   The French, the word sur, means above; so the sirloin is, for the British, a sur-loin , a cut above the loin.  From asking British, French and American butchers and looking at all the various diagrams, the British sirloin is mostly the USA short loin.

Steak Frites.

To order France's famous steak frites see the post: Ordering Steak Frites in France..

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Bryan G. Newman

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