BY LIZ PEARSON
FEW CUTS OF meat elevate a meal like
filet mignon, the petite, meltingly tender
steak cut from the center of a beef tenderloin. Quick to prepare and guaranteed to
impress, these exceptional steaks are ideal
for the holiday table.
In the book Meat: Everything You Need
to Know (Atria Books, ;;;;; not available at
Costco), butcher Pat LaFrieda and writer
Carolynn Carreño name filet mignon as
the most tender cut of beef, “made up of
very fine and delicate muscle fibers that
account for its characteristic tenderness.”
LaFrieda and Carreño describe the
beef tenderloin, from which filet mignon is
taken, as “a long cylindrical muscle … that
tapers,” resulting in round steaks, each
about ;½ inches thick. Only a handful of
filet mignon steaks can be cut from each
tenderloin, making them exceptionally
sought-after. They contain little intramuscular fat—what butchers call “marbling”—
so they’re also exceedingly lean. This
makes for a buttery steak whose mild flavor
pairs well with decadent sauces and side
dishes, a worthy splurge for the holidays.
First things first
To prepare filet mignon, first rest the
meat at room temperature for about ;;
minutes and pat the steaks dry; this
encourages even cooking and a generous
sear. Next, rub the steaks with olive oil and
season with salt and pepper. Then sprinkle
spices, herbs and seasonings, such as rosemary, cumin, dry mustard or ancho chili
powder, on the steaks before cooking.
Let’s get cooking
You can cook filet mignon on the stove,
in the oven or under the broiler; some
cooks even throw it on the grill. The most
foolproof method is to sear the steaks in a
heavy, ovenproof skillet, two to three minutes per side, over medium-high heat, and
then finish in a ;;; F oven for just a couple
of minutes more. Gently turn the steaks
with tongs, and ensure juicy results by
cooking the meat to an internal temperature of about ;;; F (medium-rare).
While the steaks rest for a few minutes
before serving, the pan drippings can be
used to fortify a quick, elegant sauce with
chopped shallots, a splash of red wine and
a pat of butter swirled in at the end.
Compound butters—softened butter
mixed with blue cheese, chopped herbs,
FOR YOUR TABLE
Look for ;let mignon, and other tasty
ingredients for a decadent holiday dinner,
in your local warehouse.
FILET MIGNON WITH
HERB;BUT TER SAUCE
4 (6-ounce) beef tenderloin steaks,
cut 1 inch thick
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1½ cups assorted mushrooms (shiitake, enoki,
straw, cremini, button or chanterelle),
whole or cut in half if large
¼ cup minced shallots
1½ cups beef broth
½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat
until hot. Place steaks in skillet; cook 10 to 13
minutes for medium-rare (145 F) to medium
(160 F) doneness, turning occasionally. Remove
to platter and season with salt and pepper,
as desired. Keep warm.
Heat butter in the same skillet over medium heat
until melted. Add mushrooms and shallots; cook
and stir 3 to 5 minutes or until mushrooms are
tender and browned. Add beef broth and thyme
to skillet, stirring until browned bits attached to
bottom of pan are dissolved; bring to a boil.
Combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl;
stir into the mushroom mixture. Cook 2 minutes
or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.
Season with salt and pepper, as desired.
Serve steaks with sauce. Pairs well with lentils
and green beans. Makes 4 servings.
Recipe courtesy of National Cattlemen’s Beef
Association ( bee; tswhatsfordinner.com).
garlic or chilies—are heavenly melted over
a hot-from-the-skillet steak. For bolder
flavor, spoon a lively, herb-packed sauce
like Argentine chimichurri or Italian-style
salsa verde over the meat.
To accompany the steak, make guests
swoon with this formidable duo: a French-inspired salad—think bibb lettuce with
chives, thinly sliced apples, goat cheese and
a Dijon vinaigrette—and roasted potatoes or
root vegetables like parsnips, beets or pearl
onions. A tart and tangy salad breaks up the
steak’s richness, and potatoes and vegetables mop up the savory sauce.
Lastly, when everyone toasts the memorable meal, choose a red wine to fill the
glasses. Pour a varietal with gentler, softer
tannins, reaching for an aged wine, if one
is on hand. Cabernet sauvignon, Bordeaux,
merlot and pinot noir all accent the best
characteristics of filet mignon. C
Liz Pearson is a San Antonio–based
contributor to national magazines.
How to wow with filet mignon