One of America’s Favorites – Steak Diane

September 21, 2020 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Steak Diane

Steak Diane is a dish of a pan-fried beefsteak with a sauce made from the seasoned pan juices, generally prepared in restaurants tableside, and sometimes flambéed. It was probably invented in London or New York in the 1930s. From the 1940s through the 1960s, it was considered a classic of “Continental cuisine”, and has since become retro.

“Steak Diane” does not appear in the classics of French cuisine, and is first documented in 1940, in Australia. It may have been invented in Belgium, London, or New York.

The name ‘Diana’, the Roman goddess of the hunt, has been used for various game-related foods, but the “venison steak Diane” attested in 1914, although it is sautéed and flambéed, is sauced and garnished with fruits, unlike later steak Diane recipes, so it is unclear if there is a connection.

In mid-20th-century New York, there was a fad for tableside-flambéed dishes. By the 1940s, steak Diane was a common item on the menus of restaurants popular with New York café society, including the restaurants at the Drake and Sherry-Netherland hotels and The Colony, one of which may have originated it, as well as the 21 Club and Le Pavillon. It is often attributed to Beniamino Schiavon, ‘Nino of the Drake’, the maître d’hôtel of the Drake Hotel in New York City, who was said to have created the dish with Luigi Quaglino at the Plage Restaurant in Ostend, Belgium, and named it after a “beauty of the nineteen-twenties” or perhaps “a reigning lady of the European demimonde in the nineteen twenties”. At the Drake, it was called “Steak Nino”.

The earliest attestation, however, is not in New York, but in Australia. Tony Clerici, maître d’hôtel at the Sydney restaurant Romano’s, said he invented it at his Mayfair restaurant Tony’s Grill in 1938 and named it in honor of Lady Diana Cooper. It was Romano’s signature dish, and was mentioned in a 1940 article about the restaurant.

Clerici may have learned the dish from Charles Gallo-Selva, who had previously worked at the Quaglino brothers’ restaurant Quaglino’s in London, which was serving steak cooked tableside in a chafing-dish in 1937. Indeed the head chef of Quaglino’s in the 1930s, Bartolomeo Calderoni, claimed in 1988 to have invented Steak Diane.

Other stories mention the Café de Paris in 1930’s London and the Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro.

Steak Diane is similar to steak au poivre. The steak is cut or pounded thin so that it will cook rapidly. It is seasoned with salt and pepper, quickly sautéed in butter, and set aside. A sauce is prepared from the pan juices with various flavorings. The three New York city recipes from 1953 use few ingredients besides salt, pepper, and butter: brandy, sherry, chives (Sherry-Netherland); chives, dry mustard, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce (Drake); chives, parsley, Worcestershire sauce (Colony). Only the Sherry-Netherland recipe explicitly calls for flambéing. Other recipes may use chives, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, thinly sliced mushrooms, shallots, cream, truffles, meat stock, or commercial steak sauce. The sauce is flambéed with brandy, dry sherry, or Madeira, and poured over the steak.



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