About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Carpetbagger Steak
Just prior to last Australia Day, I was pondering what I might cook in celebration. Something that could go on the barbie and had a uniquely Aussie tang. Prawns are always good, especially cooked in the shell, which lends a smoky, concentrated, seafood flavour. The ubiqitious lamb chops were another contender, but we eat them all the time and whilst tasty, they're not really all that special. But there is a dish, quite old, that stands up and salutes the Australian flag, a classic combination of surf 'n' turf, the carpetbagger steak.

It is a simple dish to prepare. In a thick piece of eye fillet steak, simply cut a pocket in the centre and stuff in as many seasoned oysters as you are able, two or three should suffice and if you wish to be careful, close the hole with a toothpick to retain the oysters inside, for as the meat cooks and seizes, there is a tendancy for the oysters to be squeezed out. Then it's just a matter of cooking to your preferred level of doneness.

That was the easy part, for when checking provenance of carpetbagger steak, there are in fact two peoples claiming the recipe, Australians and Americans. According to The Food Timeline, the first recipe for carpetbagger or carpet bag steak is attributed to Louis Diat in 1941, though Americans had been eating steaks topped with oysters since the 19th century. One problem for the American claim, is the term carpetbagger, means something else entirely, while in Australia it means only one thing, a steak stuffed with oysters. Tellingly, in an American publication, the Time-Life series, Foods Of The World, in the Pacific And Southeast Asian Cooking edition, carpetbagger steaks are attributed directly to Australia.

Though once very popular, in Australia at least, it seems to have all but disappeared. Indeed, I read one blog where it was said the dish doesn't work very well and it's hard not to agree; many recipes abound that add quite a few other things including wine, blue cheese and onions perhaps in attempt to better marry the protagonists. If I was to do it again, the oysters would be marinated with a few drops of Worcestershire sauce plus a little finely chopped parsley to tie the two ingredients together. Even looking at the photos, it seems as though the oysters are doing their level best to get out of the steak. Still, it was fun to do something that my parents probably ate a few times and it was great to cook something that speaks of my country.
  posted at 2:49 pm

At 1:10 pm, Blogger Lydia said...

Haven't heard of carpetbagger steak in years -- what fun! I think this was a popular "steak house" entree when I was a kid.

At 4:46 pm, Blogger Ed said...

Gosh, the other day something like that sneaked through my spam filter.

At 9:53 pm, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Couldn't find anything on carpet bagger steak Neil.
Looking at these is weird - my feeling alternates between they look really lush and yummy and oh I don't think so. As a kid I loved oysters and haven't had them in years now ... why not, don't know.

At 7:42 am, Blogger katiez said...

Hmmm, my first thought when I saw the photo was Jonah escaping from the whale... No clue why. My mind has been stuttering lately..
Mon mari would love these!

At 9:33 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi lydia, it was a bit of fun too! I don't ever remember seeing one myself, though I had heard of it when I was still a boy. I think it needs some reconstructing, perhaps the steak could be finely chopped and served raw, along the lines of tartare.

Hi ed, oysters and spam...I don't think so!

Hi tanna, I think your feeling about the dish is right, perhaps that's why it's not seen anymore. I found the reference to carpetbagger in the Good Cook series, citing Foods Of The World.

Hi katiez, hahaha! I thought it looked more like a tongue poking out.

At 3:24 pm, Blogger kitchen hand said...

A truly wonderful dish, Neil, sadly lacking from the modern list.

Being a pedant, I must point out that the correct name is Carpetbag Steak.

And it is delicious. I had one just last year. It was on a kind of retro menu at a Brunswick pub.

The steak is best done very rare (I prefer blue) as the oysters are then eaten as close to natural as possible - as they should be; the other benefit being they do not try to escape as they will from a well-done steak.

PS: A slice of blue vein or gorgonzola would be a welcome addition on top of my carpetbag steak.

At 4:12 pm, Blogger stickyfingers said...

Nice porn! Being mad oyster fiends we love to occasionally stuff our Black Welsh steaks with Coffin Bay oysters and serve with home made Bernaise and a bit of watercress. You need the more pungent oysters with the rare breed meats as sweet little rock oysters seem to get lost in the melange of delicious meaty juices.

I did recall seeing one on a menu late last year, but can't recall where I was.

At 5:52 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi kitchen hand, thanks for the name, I quoted what was in the Good Cook series, which quoted Foods Of The World. It would be intersting to know exactly why it got its name. All steaks except one were cooked rare, the odd one out was sans oysters too. I cooked them on the barbie and as soon as they hit the heat, the meat siezed and the oysters were on the way out immediately. Blue cheese anytime, I still like the idea of a few drops of Worcestershire sauce on the oysters.

Hi stickyfingers, good point about the oysters, sounds absolutely fab the way you served them.

At 1:03 pm, Blogger Scott said...

I love this steak, try grilling the filet. then split stuff with about 3-4 fried oysters and top with a little bernaise sauce.

At 9:17 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi scott, I can see you've put a bit of thought into your carpetbagger steak, it sounds really good.


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