Cupid’s Favored Love Potion: Combine equal parts pink champagne, cut-out paper hearts, red roses and anything chocolate, with old-school, piano-bar, steak-house glamor; shake well and serve.
Nothing tugs at my heartstrings like an old-fashioned, elegant meal sprung from Cupid’s bow; a smooth, buttery steak, a steak as luxurious and as tender is the night. On Valentine’s Day, only a filet mignon will do.
Filet mignon translates from French to mean a “cute” or “dainty” tenderloin. This Coeur de Filet, these hearts from the tenderloin, lack some of the flavor of meat that has the bone attached. In order to maximize the mild flavor, I rub the steaks with garlic, aggressively season the meat with salt and pepper, then sear it on both sides to give it a rich flavor and dark crust.
Purchasing beef tenderloin for filet mignon is confusing. Why do the prices vary so greatly-between $5-$30 per pound? Can a $5-per-pound cut of beef dare call itself “tenderloin”? There is a distinct difference between grades of beef tenderloin; the choice you make may influence how you prepare your beef.
Bob Sparrow, the owner of Sparrow Meats in Kerrytown, is not adverse to selling and cooking with the less expensive, lower-grade beef tenderloins. “As long as you marinate it or coat it with olive oil and herbs 24 hours before preparing,” he said. But a top-grade, well-marbled, prime-cut tenderloin, needs no alteration; and it is at its pinnacle, unadulterated, and cooked to rare or medium-rare.
When laying out this kind of cash for a meal you want to make sure the meat is cooked properly, and I hesitate to specify exact cooking times with premium cuts of beef. Your oven may heat differently than mine, your steaks may not be as thick, I may have seared mine longer than yours; a $6 meat thermometer is worth the investment.
You could cut into the meat, but this allows precious juices to escape. If you don’t have a thermometer, I’ve found the “touch” method to be reasonably accurate. Press the meat — if it feels soft and mushy and leaves an imprint, it is rare. If it is soft, but slightly resilient, it is medium-rare. The minute it begins to feel firm, it is well-done.
I prefer making the mushroom sauce a day in advance. Gently reheat while the steaks are in the oven, then whisk the beef pan drippings into the gravy before serving. Twice-Stuffed Spinach Potatoes are the perfect side dish.
Be mine, medium-rare.