Filet Mignon with Cranberry-Zinfandel Sauce

Filet mignon with cranberry-zinfandel sauce

Food, like music, is a sensual pleasure summoning old memories from Christmas past.  I’m fantasizing  a holiday dish that will complement the lush, albeit scratchy, tunes from my Bing Crosby White Christmas album. I want to re-ignite memories of old-school, piano-bar, steak-house glamour, and serve up a steak with a texture as smooth and buttery as Bing’s vocals. Only Filet Mignon will do.

Filet mignon translates from French to mean a “cute” or “dainty” tenderloin.  The meat is an extremely tender, thick steak cut from the tenderloin which lacks some of the flavor of meat that has the bone attached. In order to keep the flavor, you must cook the fillet quickly.

Purchasing beef tenderloin for filet mignon is confusing.  Why do the prices vary so greatly– between $5.00-$30.00 per pound? Can a $5.00# cut of beef dare call itself “tenderloin”?  Wouldn’t that be akin to me changing my last name to Rockefeller?

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. I might add that if you prefer your meat cooked medium or well-done, you may also consider purchasing a lower-grade cut and marinating it.  A top-grade, well-marbled, prime-cut tenderloin is at its pinnacle when cooked to rare or medium-rare.

And these  2-inch thick cuts of prime tenderloin steaks are exactly what I splurged on from Bob Sparrowfor my holiday dinner: A filet served in the finest steak houses, a filet that melts in my mouth with buttery richness, only enhanced with salt, pepper and a festive wine sauce.

Knocking back a high-ball seems an appropriate complement to Bing’s White Christmas, but I will enjoy the beef with the Zinfandel I used to make the sauce. Certainly you may substitute a big Cabernet for the Zinfandel but I found the flavor of Zinfandel with the cranberries lovely. Freshly mashed, buttery potatoes with crumbled gorgonzola stirred in at the last minute is a divine complement to the fillet. I would highly recommend this side dish to complement the beef, as well as your favorite holiday tunes to usher the holidays in grand style.

Recipe: Filet Mignon with Cranberry-Zinfandel Sauce


  • 4 ( 2-inch thick) beef tenderloin steaks (fillet mignon)
  • 2 tablespoons grape seed or canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Zinfandel wine
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. If time allows, let steaks rest at room temperature 1 hour before cooking. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. Liberally season both sides of beef with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet until hot but not smoking. Add steaks to the skillet and sear on one side for 2-3 minutes, or until a crust forms. Flip steaks, add butter to pan, and sear an additional 2-3 minutes. Do not jiggle or move pan while searing so steaks may develop a crust.
  3. Remove seared steaks from pan, reserving 2 tablespoons pan juices, then turn off heat on stove. Place seared steaks on baking sheet, on middle rack of oven, four to seven minutes, or until steaks are cooked to the desired level of doneness, 120 degrees – 130 degrees for rare to medium rare*. Remove steaks from oven and tent with foil.
  4. While steaks are in oven, make sauce by adding shallots and garlic to the reserved pan juices in skillet and saute, stirring over medium heat, for 1 minute. Stir one cup of the wine, stock and cranberry juice into the pan. Over medium-high heat, reduce liquids to 3/4-1 cup.
  5. Combine the cornstarch with the 2 remaining tablespoons of wine. Whisk the cornstarch-wine mixture, rosemary and cranberries into the reduced pan liquid and bring to a simmer for several minutes, whisking the sauce until it thickens adding salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
  6. Spoon the sauce over the steaks, garnish with rosemary sprigs if desired, and serve.

* Cutting into the meat to check doneness lets precious juice escape. Use a meat thermometer or the touch method: 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 overdone.

Time for beef to rest (optional): 1 hour

Active time: 30 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 4

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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