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.

Green Goddess Green Beans

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Because a girlfriend of mine loves green beans, I’m always on the lookout for interesting green bean recipes.

Like all food lovers, I like to please the folks for whom I’m cooking, so finding special recipes is mandatory!

So I was on Epicurious searching something, and came across a unique green bean recipe – Green Goddess Green Beans – and the reviews were pretty good.

Of course, there were a few heated arguments comments about the term “green goddess” in the review section, (these are always fun to read), but overall it seemed like a good, unique recipe.

Turns out, the recipe is definitely worth sharing!

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Oh, and the great thing with good friends right next door? I can share with them all of the dishes that my husband won’t eat, so none of my blogging food goes to waste!

A perfect example is this recipe. Out of all of the ingredients, my husband would only eat the green beans, salt, and pepper. Thank goodness for good friends, especially good foodie friends!

Green Goddess Green Beans
slightly adapted from Epicurious

1 lb green beans, trimmed
1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 small clove garlic, peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Cook the beans in a steamer over a pot of boiling water until just tender, about 6-7 minutes.
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When cooked, remove the steamer from the boiling water; set aside.
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If the beans are cooked a bit too much, drop the beans in ice water for a few seconds, then place them on paper towels to remove excess moisture.

Using a small blender, purée the parsley, mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, lemon juice, anchovy paste, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth.
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I also added a small clove of garlic after the fact, and I’m glad I did.
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Transfer the green goddess sauce to a bowl and toss with the beans.

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I added more salt and pepper to the green beans, as you can tell.
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The beans were served slightly warm, with a simply grilled filet mignon. A lovely combination.
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The green goddess sauce is superb. It would also be lovely on grilled potatoes and tomatoes!

Pesto-Roasted Squash

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There are two varieties of winter squash I can depend on being available where I live. These are acorn squash and butternut squash. I discovered too late last fall that my local store quits selling pumpkin soon after Halloween. Lesson learned for this year.

I would love to be able to try all of the fabulous squashes I see in food bloggers’ photos from farmer’s markets, but because of my living in a more rural area of the United States, I must be satisfied with what I can get my hands on.

If I plan on roasting peeled chunks of squash, I always reach for the butternut. I mean, would you ever even consider peeling an acorn squash with all of those ridges?
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Alternatively, If I want to roast squash for a dip, a puree, or as vessels for stuffing, I reach for acorns.

Today, I’m roasting chunks of butternut squash, but using pesto instead of tossing the chunks simply in olive oil. It just adds so much flavor, and pesto is especially handy flavoring ingredient during the months when fresh herbs aren’t growing outside.

When I make large batches of pesto to freeze every summer, I always omit the cheese. First of all, it reduces the volume of pesto, and thus, the number of jars, and secondly, I prefer to add my own amount of freshly grated cheese when preparing a dish – such as, for example, pasta with pesto.
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So the pesto I’m using on this squash contains basil, parsley, garlic, pumpkin seeds, and olive oil. The flavor is condensed, without the dilution of cheese. I actually think the inclusion of cheese in the pesto might cause some burning and sticking during the roasting process. If you really want cheese on the squash, wait till the roasting is over, and sprinkle some on right before serving. I did not add cheese.

Pesto-Roasted Butternut Squash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.

Place 1/3 – 1/2 cup of pesto (without cheese) in a large bowl. Add a little olive oil, if necessary, to make a nice slurry. Set aside.
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Meanwhile, trim and peel a large butternut squash. Remove the seeds, then chop up the squash into uniform-sized pieces. Obviously, the smaller the pieces, the less the cooking time, so it’s really up to you and how well you know your oven. Just try to get the pieces similar in size.

Toss the squash pieces in the pesto mixture. Add a little more pesto if you think it’s necessary.

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Add a little salt only if you don’t include salt when you make pesto, which I don’t. Toss, and gently pour the squash into a large roasting pan. Just so you know, I happen to love my 15-year old Mauviel roasting pan, and highly recommend the brand. It’s non-stick and heavy duty.

Place the pan in the preheated oven. The squash should be tender within about 30 minutes, but it depends on your oven, and how small you cut up the squash. Test the squash at some point to make sure you don’t overcook it, or else you’ll end up with pesto-flavored squash mash!
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Today I served the butternut squash with some grilled filet mignon.

You can really mix and match the pestos to the proteins included in a meal. For example, a cilantro pesto would lend itself well to an adobo-rubbed filet. Alternatively, a lemongrass pesto would pair beautifully with an Asian-marinated filet.

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note: If you don’t have any leftover pesto to use simply blend up a slurry of any herbs you can find at the grocery store, such as basil, parsley, and cilantro. Add garlic and olive oil and make a thick marinade of sorts; nuts are not necessary.

Fruited Duck Breasts

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With Spring finally here, I wanted to make something inspired by what my mother made once for Easter, which was a leg of lamb with a dried fruit stuffing. The lamb was rolled around the bready stuffing and served sliced like pinwheels, showing off the lovely bits of dried fruit.

Being that my husband won’t eat lamb, I thought I could make something similar using duck, since I’d just received four duck breasts from D’Artagnan. That way, I’d only have to eat four duck breasts instead of a whole leg of lamb, because he won’t eat duck either. Another sacrifice for my blog.

People tend to be a little fearful of working with duck, but it’s really no different than a working with a steak. Primarily, the rule is to cook the duck medium-rare, which also applies to steak. The cooking process is the same: some searing on the outside in a hot skillet, and then a few minutes at a lower temperature to get the inside cooked to the proper temperature. Medium rare temperature for steak, lamb, and duck is 125 degrees. I also set my steaks out for at least an hour at room temperature before I cook them.

One difference with duck is the skin. It’s really thick, which is why ducks can hang out in freezing cold water, I imagine.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m leaving the skin attached to the duck breasts. I like the presentation. But duck skin can be removed, diced, and cooked just like you would bacon, for resulting cracklings. These can be added to a sauce, or even sprinkled over the duck breasts or your side dish, like sautéed spinach, for added flavor and texture. The skins can also be rendered for the sake of duck fat, if that is desired.

Duck has a significant flavor, which is a plus because it can stand up to some serious seasoning. Some think the flavor is gamey, but I disagree with that. Of course, maybe I like gamey. Plus, it might depend on the source of your duck.

Duck is often served with berries or cherries in a sauce, because the fruitiness and sweetness pairs well with the deeper duck flavor. So today I’m making a sauce for the duck, using dried fruits.

To season the duck breasts, I’m using ancho chile paste, that I made with anchos, guajillos and chipotles. It has quite a kick to it, and will really shine with the fruit sauce accompaniment.

Duck can be served with just about any green vegetable, like asparagus or green beans, and for side dishes, a rice pilaf or roasted potatoes would be lovely. Since I have a lot of duck to eat in the next few days, I’m keeping it simple, serving my duck breasts with steamed asparagus.

In today’s recipe, I’m including a sous vide step, which means the final step for me is to brown the duck breasts only; the cooking is already done. The most important thing is to make sure that when you’re pan-frying the duck breasts that you don’t overcook them.

So here’s the recipe I created for the duck breasts. You’ll see how easy it is to cook duck after this recipe!

Fruited Duck Breasts

4 duck breasts, with the skin attached
Salt
Pepper
Juice from 1 orange, strained
Ancho chile paste*, about 4 heaping teaspoons
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Pat the duck breasts dry, and place them on your cutting board skin side up.
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Season them with salt and pepper generously. Using a sharp knife, slice diagonally into the skin only, making about 5 diagonal lines, then making 5 more diagonal lines, forming diamond shapes. Try not to cut into the actual meat.
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Place the breasts skin side up on a platter. Then pour the strained orange juice over the tops.
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Using a spoon, place a heaping teaspoon of ancho chile paste on each duck breasts and spread it over the whole breast.

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Then divide the teaspoon of ground cumin between them.
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Let the breasts marinate for 30 minutes up to an hour.

Prepare the sous vide set at 131 degrees F.

When the sous vide is ready, place two breasts each in two vacuum sealable bags and seal.
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Add them to the water and mark 3 hours on your clock.

At the 3 hour mark, remove the duck breasts from the sous vide.

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Remove the breasts from the bags and place on paper towels to drain.

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Since sous vide meat can’t sit around at room temperature, you need to work quickly. If you’re not making the duck breasts to serve within the next hour, refrigerate them first.

Add a teaspoon of oil in a skillet. I’m using my cast-iron skillet. Heat it up over high heat and turn on the ventilation system, because the fat will smoke.

When the oil is just smoking, add one or two duck breasts at a time, depending how big your skillet is. I start them skin-side down.

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After a good minute, turn it or them over, and cook for the same amount of time on the other side. Remember, I’m only browning the breasts, not cooking them through.
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After you’ve browned all four duck breasts, slice them crosswise for serving.

Pour a little of the fruit sauce over the top, and pass the rest around at the table.
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Because of the length of this post, my sauce recipe will be posted tomorrow!

* If you don’t own any ancho chile paste, and don’t want to make it, recipe here, you have a couple of options. One is to use ground ancho chile pepper. You could also include a little ground chipotle pepper for a little more flavor. Or, buy a little can of chipotle peppers that come in adobo sauce, and use the sauce. Stay away from the actual chipotle peppers for this purpose, but if you love them, you could always chop one up finely and add it to the resulting sauce.

note: If you’re not doing the sous vide step, cook the duck breasts as you would a steak, searing both sides, then letting the center reach 125 degrees. At that point remove them from the skillet and place them on a plate. Cover them loosely with foil and let them rest for 15 minutes. Then slice and serve.

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!