Honoring Mother’s Day this Sunday, I made a dish worthy of the goddesses, specifically Diana, the ancient Roman goddess of the hunt, who inspired the name of the luxurious Sauce Diane. The history of Sauce Diane wasn’t consecrated during the James Beard-Julia Child, swanky New York City steak house era, as often supposed. One might have to travel back centuries to find the origins of this recipe.
According to Foodtimeline.org, the history of cooking meat with sauces, and the evolution of Sauce Diane, dates back to ancient times. According to Larousse Gastronomique, Sauce Diane was traditionally made with truffles and served with venison. Certainly the mythic goddess inspired more artistry than mere accoutrement for meat. Diana has also been romanticized through much of Shakespeare, and was carved into marble, Diana of Versailles, displayed at the Louvre. A sonnet or marble statue chiseled in Mom’s honor would always be appreciated, but Steak Diane will suffice for yours truly.
When making the recipe, pay careful attention to Diana’s needs, who insists, first and foremost, upon organization. You shouldn’t be slicing mushrooms as the steaks grows cold awaiting the sauce. Read the directions to the recipe then spend the few minutes required organizing the ingredients in small ramekins or bowls, known as your mise en place. If you heed these words, you will be rewarded with a decadent dish in no time. No doubt Mom would prefer you spending time with her instead of a saute pan.
I omitted the traditional flambe; my pan was hot enough to reduce the brandy and I was wearing floppy, flammable sleeves. But if you’re “of age”, aren’t afraid of pyrotechnical theatrics, and Mom has no qualms with you playing with matches, flambe the brandy at the table side as the plated steak awaits the sauce. (A practice round is encouraged.)
A few words about that plated steak; which should you select: corn or grass fed beef? Corn fed beef has rich flavor and marbling, while grass fed is much leaner.
According to noted author Michael Pollan, cows are not meant to eat corn so are given antibiotics to “…teach them how to eat it.” If you want antibiotic-free meat, select grass-fed. Options for both are available at most groceries and markets in town. When using grass-fed, I always season both sides of the meat with kosher salt and refrigerate the meat 6-12 hours, which allows the salt to break down and tenderize the meat.
Forget Lady Gaga or Madonna; Diana is the mother of reinvention. There are more recipes and opinions regarding Steak Diane than Cher has wardrobe changes at a Vegas show. I kept true to vintage Diane: the rich flavors of beef juices, shallot, brandy, butter and cream reduced to their heart-throbbing essence.
I did add a smidgen of garlic and assorted mushrooms, which lends a note of heresy. A side dish of seasonal sauteed fiddlehead ferns completed this chef-d’oeuvre. Powerful Diana, forager of ancient forests, goddess of the moon, would no doubt approve.