How to Cook a Filet Mignon

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Many people like to throw t-bones or ribeyes on the barbecue grill outside, and are happy with the results.

My husband used to be one of those, but in recent years he’s become more “picky” about beef, and so these days, if he eats steak, it must be grass-fed filets. As a result, I had to learn to cook filet mignons inside; it’s not always barbecue weather.

A filet is a cross-wise slice from a beef tenderloin. If you’re trimming one yourself, you can get about 6-7 intact filets from the main tenderloin, depending on the thickness of course.



For quite a few years I’ve ordered grass-fed beef tenderloins from various sources. It’s less expensive to buy them whole as opposed to two filets at a time. Plus, after trimming the tenderloin and cutting filets, you’re left with about 2 pounds of beef tenderloin that I usually turn into a stir fry.

I prefer my filets a good inch in thickness, but however the thickness, it’s important to cook them properly. My point with this post is to show how straight forward it is to pan-cook a filet to perfection.

Have your filets close to room temperature. Salt generously; you can season after cooking.

Have a large cast-iron skillet on hand with some grapeseed oil, long-handled tongs, and a plate topped with a rack. You’re going to be resting the cooked filets and you want them to “breathe” on all sides.

The skillet should hold the steaks without crowding. The maximum number I cook in my 10” cast-iron skillet is four, shown browning in bacon grease.

When you’re ready to start, place the skillet over high heat. Turn on the fan.

Pour in some grape seed oil – about 1 tablespoon per steak. When the oil is hot, place a filet in the skillet. Repeat with remaining steaks if cooking more than one.

Brown on that side for at least one minute, then turn them over and brown the other side.

Now here’s the deal. Many people at this point would place the skillet of browned filets in a hot oven to finish. If your steaks happen to be 3” thick you might have to do that. But I do something different. I take advantage of my stove.

Turn the filets back over and turn down the heat! Give them a couple of minutes, turn them over, and let the insides cook for maybe a couple more minutes, and they’ll be perfect.

I used to use a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature didn’t go above 125 degrees. That is a very good technique, but it’s easy to learn when the steaks are ready by squeezing them with your tongs. If the steaks are mushy, then they’re still undercooked. Alternatively, if they’re getting firm, get them the hell out of the skillet.


Cover them loosely with foil. After at least 10 minutes of resting, generously season the filets with coarsely ground pepper or garlic pepper.

Today I served the filets with green beans cooked with shallots and tomatoes, and topped with pine nuts.

Also, there’s truffle butter…

Here is a garlic pepper I highly recommend.

Tomato Beef Curry

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It’s not out of disrespect for Indian cuisine that I don’t often use recipes from my Indian cookbooks. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Indian cuisine is our favorite cuisine, if we had to pick only one. As a result, I quite often turn a soup into a curried soup, lentils into curried lentils, or seafood crepes into a curried version. And I don’t mean simply adding curry powder.

Cooking Indian food is about being familiar with Indian ingredients. When I began cooking, I followed recipes in order to learn about Indian cuisine as well as other international cuisines, but now that I’ve been cooking for almost 40 years, I enjoy creating Indian-inspired dishes without relying on recipes.

I want to point out that I’m very aware of the various regional cuisines, meat-based and vegetarian, that exist in India, from the south to the north, from west coast to east. So of course I’m generalizing when I refer to its cuisine when there isn’t only one.

My first experiences were from this ancient cookbook, from the Time-Life Foods of the World series.

Eventually I purchased other cookbooks over the years, and that’s when I figured out that many recipes – again, generalizing – are similar. Most begin with onion, ginger, and garlic, for example, cooked in clarified butter, or ghee.

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A meat, poultry or seafood curry can be prepared in a yogurt-based sauce, or one that is tomato based. Some are enriched with creamed nuts, like almonds or cashews, which are some of my favorites.

Regarding spices, there are many. Cumin, cardamom, coriander (seeds and leaf), turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, pepper, garam masala (as varied as curry powder), cloves, fennel, saffron, and more. Some recipes contain many spices, some only 3-4.

Sometimes chile peppers are included for heat – both fresh and dried. But, of course, the temperature can be controlled.

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So following is an example of an easy beef dish in a curried tomato sauce. It was done in 15 minutes.

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Tomato Beef Curry

6 ounces ghee, divided
1 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 – 1″ piece of fresh ginger, diced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cayenne, to taste
4 ounces drained diced tomatoes
4 ounces tomato purée
2 teaspoons garam masala
Fresh cilantro, optional

Heat 3 ounces of ghee in a heavy pot over high heat. In batches, brown the cubed beef, then place in a bowl until all the beef has browned; set aside.

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In the same pot, add the remaining ghee and lower the heat to medium-low. Sauté the onion, ginger, and garlic for a few minutes, being careful not to let them brown.

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Then add the salt, spices and, if using, cayenne pepper. Stir well and cook for about 1 minute.

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Add the diced tomatoes and purée. Stir, then let the mixture cook at a gentle simmer for about 5 minutes.

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You want the mixture fairly thick. Because I am using beef tenderloin in this recipe, the cooking time is minimal.

Add the browned beef from the bowl, including all juices, to the sauce.

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Stir to coat the beef and cook for about ten minutes, uncovered; the beef should be tender. Remove from the heat.

Just before serving, add the garam masala and stir.

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Normally I would sprinkle fresh cilantro leaves over the curry, but I decided instead to make a cilantro rice as a side dish, seasoned only with cumin and coriander.

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If this dish is too meaty for you, chickpeas can be added.

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If you want the dish creamier, you can add some heavy cream, a bit of yogurt, or even creme fraiche to the sauce.

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Many years ago I turned friends on to Indian cuisine, and my friend Claire bugged me to show her how to “cook” Indian. I told her that there is no difference in cooking techniques with Indian cooking, but she didn’t seem to believe me. So she came over once, and we cooked maybe 4-5 dishes. And we had a wonderful dinner. Her verdict? She wasn’t impressed! I don’t know what she thought I’d be doing in the kitchen, but it’s the same pots and pans, knives and spoons. She now cooks Indian food! Everyone should!

Beef Wellington

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I made beef Wellington for my husband and myself for our 32nd anniversary in January. The idea to make this for our dinner came from watching Masterchef Junior on TV.

There was an episode where the little kids were challenged to make beef Wellington, a Gordon Ramsay signature dish. But judge Ramsay didn’t show them how to make it. He simply cut through a perfectly cooked beef Wellington and told them how to make it. My brain would have shut down part way through his instructions, especially without any visuals. But these kids proceeded to tag team their way through their own beef Wellingtons, plus two sides. And most all of their beef Wellingtons came out perfectly.

So my husband turns to me at some point and says, “Those look so good. Why haven’t you ever made them?” And I really had no answer. It made me think, and I think that I thought that all beef Wellington contained liver paté, which my husband refuses to eat. But I learned that night that duxelles, essentially diced, sautéed mushrooms, can be substituted for the paté. So I figured it was about time to make Wellington. And it was well worth it!

I’ll show you what I did to make these beef Wellingtons, the Gordon Ramsay way. And if you didn’t catch Masterchef Junior the first time around, watch it next time it’s on. The kids are lovely, and act so much kinder than their adult counterparts on Masterchef or any other cooking shows.

Beef Wellington is quite extravagant, but it’s just the sum of many parts, each of which is not difficult at all to prepare. I’ll discuss all of these parts next.

Beef Wellington
This recipe serves 2, with leftovers

Crêpes: I’ve posted on making crepes, so I won’t bother with a tutorial. You only need a total of four for these two beef Wellingtons. Crêpes are used to absorb any beef juices that leak out of the filets. This keeps the puff pastry from getting soggy!

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Duxelles: Duxelles is a name for finely-diced sautéed mushrooms. The ones I made for the beef Wellington aren’t super finely diced; I wanted a little more texture. I made duxelles in a post called Crêpes Fourées. For those crêpes, I used a combination of fresh and dried mushrooms. For the Wellingtons, I used only fresh mushrooms. Either will work.

The duxelles recipe I used for the beef wellington:
1 stick of unsalted butter
3 finely diced shallots
1 pound finely-chopped fresh mushrooms
Salt, pepper
Chopped parsley

Sauté the mushrooms and shallots in the butter for at least 5 minutes, over medium heat. Season, then stir in the chopped parsley. Place in a colander over a bowl.

I used no liquid in the mushroom recipe whatsoever, although you can tip in a little marsala or madeira if you wish. Just make sure to drain the mushrooms in a colander before beginning the beef wellington. And whatever you do, always save the mushroom liquor to use in any kind of sauce or reduction. Check out this post if you’ve never prepped mushrooms before.

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Prosciutto: I used 2 thin slices of Prosciutto in each of the two beef wellingtons.

Puff Pastry: I used purchased puff pastry that I thawed overnight in the refrigerator. There are two pieces in the box of puff pastry and I used both for the beef Wellingtons; there was plenty of pastry, but I couldn’t have wrapped any more filets.

Miscellaneous Ingredients: Dijon mustard and 1 egg.

Putting together the beef Wellington:

Have your meat sliced off of a tenderloin if you’re doing the butchering yourself. I cut two – 8 ounce filets, using a scale. It’s important that they’re the same size, for cooking purposes. Season the filets with a little salt and a generous amount of crushed black pepper.

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Pour some olive oil, about 3 tablespoons, in a skillet over high heat. Sear both filets on both sides. You’re just searing the meat to get some caramelization. You’ll be using the same skillet to make the wine reduction later. Don’t wash your skillet!

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Remove the filets from the skillet and place them on a plate. Place a teaspoon or so of Dijon mustard on each filet. Using a pastry brush, brush on the mustard. Mr. Ramsay, of course, recommends English mustard, but I don’t own any. A tidbit of info from Mr. Ramsay – it’s essential to brush the mustard on the filets after having just been seared. Supposedly mustard won’t get absorbed by the meat once it’s cooled off.

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The next thing to do is roll out the pastry dough that has remained chilled.

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Roll it into a kind of circle, using a little bit of flour and a good rolling pin. Place a crêpe in the middle of the dough, top with a layer of duxelles, then top them with the prosciutto.

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On top of the prosciutto place the mustard-brushed filet, mustard side down.
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I cut a little circle out of the remaining two crêpes and placed those on top of the filets. These will eventually be at the bottom of the beef Wellingtons.

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Then begin the wrapping process. Have one egg beaten well in a little bowl, and a pastry brush. The wrapping process was a little challenging, and it’s definitely harder than rolling the pastry around a whole tenderloin, with an easy one-seam fix. If you’ve ever wrapped a brie in puff pastry, this is similar, except for the fact that I like seeing the wraps of dough on the top sides of the brie. In this case, I wanted smooth tops for the beef wellingtons. I also didn’t want the pastry bottoms too thick.

It was also challenging for me to take pictures during the process. I already mucked up my camera with this one shot.

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Eventually, I got them both wrapped and sealed. Then I wrapped and stored them in the refrigerator.

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Bring the beef Wellingtons out of the refrigerator for at least an hour before you plan on putting them in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush the Wellingtons with the remaining egg mixture.

For the first time ever, I used a temperature probe that came with my oven. Right when I put them in, I pushed the probe in to the middle of one filet. I didn’t want to keep poking the poor things with my meat thermometer. And this thing worked beautifully!

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The 2 Wellingtons took only 20 minutes to cook; I removed them from the oven when their internal temperature reached 125 degrees. This is for rare beef. From the photos, you can tell we like our beef rare.

I removed the beef Wellingtons from the oven and put them on a plate. They would have continued cooking if I’d left them in the hot baking dish. They rested for 15 minutes, during which time I got my vegetables together and heated the red wine reduction.

I placed some of the hot red wine reduction on two plates, and topped them with the beef Wellingtons. (Red wine reduction in a future post.)

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Then I added peas à la Française as our simple but delicious vegetable side.

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I must say, beef Wellington is a fabulously extravagant meal. You can taste all of the parts – the beef, the mushrooms, the prosciutto, and a hint of Dijon mustard.

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My pastry wrapping could have been better. It should have been a tighter fit. But fortunately that didn’t affect the flavors!

Note: this recipe is for 2 individual Wellingtons. Many recipes utilize whole chunks of tenderloin, from which slice’s are cut.

verdict: Sure, this meal took a while to prepare. But yes, I’d make beef Wellington again. And it’s already been requested of me for my husband’s upcoming birthday!

Surf and Turf

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My surf and turf was inspired by a recipe in one of my latest cookbooks entitled Barbecue, by Stéphane Reynaud.. (Info in this post.)

It’s skewered beef and shrimp in a very interesting marinade. At least, it is very unique to me. The photo in his cookbook came out much better than what my skewers look like, but then, he probably had a food stylist! But it’s this photo that intrigued me about the recipe in the first place. In fact, it’s the first recipe I’m using from his book.

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I made three times as much marinade as his recipe called for, because I felt it was necessary. And I also had to make a substitution because I don’t know what “meat extract” is. His “note” claims that Bovril is a good meal extract. What? It sounds interesting, but I’ve never come across it before. So I used demi-glace.

So I’ll never really know what his actual kabobs tasted like, but I can assure you that these, using “my” recipe, came out fabulous. Read ahead and check out this marinade. It’s very interesting!

Surf and Turf

1 pound beef tenderloin or flank or skirt steak*
1 pound shrimp
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons ketchup, yep, that’s right**
1 teaspoon beef demi glace
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Coarsely ground pepper

Slice your beef of choice into approximately 1″ pieces only about 1/4″ thin. Then slice the shrimp in half lengthwise. Place both proteins in a medium bowl.
To make the marinade, combine the olive oil, ketchup, demi glace and garlic in a small blender.
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Blend until fairly smooth, then pour over the meat and shrimp. It becomes very orange after blending.
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Toss together gently until evenly distributed, then cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
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The next day, make your skewers by alternating the slices of beef and chicken. Then let them come to room temperature or close to it.
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I love the fresh garlic in this marinade.

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Start your grill of choice. I’m using the electric one because the cooking time is so short. I cooked each kabob about 2 minutes on each of four “sides” at 400 degrees.
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Then I turned off the heat, put the cover on, and let them cook for another 2 minutes. They really smelled good while they were grilling!
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After a little rest, I served the surf and turf with some sautéed greens and steamed corn on the cob. Delicious.

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* I used beef tenderloin because I had an odd-shaped end left over. But flank or skirt steak would both work well because there’s very little cooking involved. You want the meat to take as long (or as little) time to cook as the shrimp.

** Even though I’ve been making my own ketchup, I used commercial ketchup to more closely mimic the author’s recipe.

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verdict: I will definitely use ketchup in more marinades!!! You can’t really tell it’s ketchup, but it probably adds some salt and sugar, as well as tomatoey goodness to the sauce.