Monday, October 24, 2005

Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 10 - It's the meat stupid

My local Frys was having a special sale the other day, filet mignon for $5 a pound, and I took the opportunity to pick up about 4lbs (6 nice full filets - not medallions).

Perfect opportunity to dash out a quicky recipe...


4 8-10oz filets
4 strips of thick cut black pepper bacon (optional)
4 tbsp crumbled aged feta, gorgonzola, bleu cheese, or aged parmaggiano or romano


1/4 cup red wine, brandy/cognac, triple sec, or bourbon
1/4 cup light cream or half and half
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
2 tbsp vinegar based hot sauce
1tbsp dijon mustard
2 tsp salt
1/2 lemon, juiced


My favorite way to cook filet is to just to brush it with butter and olive oil, rub a bit of cracked black pepper and salt into it, squeeze some lemon juice over it (let it sit at least 20 minutes, or up to four hours to get to room temperature if you can), and then lightly grill it.

However, if it's not grill time, or you feel like cooking indoors... or you just want a spectacular meal with 10 minutes worth of actual effort, go for the skillet method.

Heck, you may end up never going back to the grill again.

To prep the filets, trim to less than 1/4" of fat around the outside (or less than 1/8" if you're going to use bacon, otherwise the fat won't sear), rub with more salt and pepper than you think you need, plus the optional addition of a strip of thick cut black pepper bacon wrapped around the outer edge and stuck with a toothpick; and let rest for at least 20 minutes, or until reaching room temperature.

About 20 minutes before cook time, turn your oven to it's maximum heat and move the top rack to the upper middle position.

Get an oven safe skillet (either cast iron, THICK aluminum, or THICK stainless. You want heat retention and heat spreading capability. Non stick is OK, if it is thick enough and can handle the heat, but most aren't and can't) just about smoking hot on your cook top, with browned butter and a little olive oil. Pan sear the filet on all sides till it crusts up (for an inch and a half to two inch thick, 8-10oz filet it should be about 2-3 minutes bottom and top, plus 30 seconds each on all four sides - 2 minutes for just past rare, 3 minutes for just past the middle of medium rare).

When the pan searing is done, deglaze the skillet with a little red wine, triple sec, brandy, or bourbon; and a little vinegar based hot sauce or even just balsamic vinegar, and glaze the filets in the pan with it (shake them around, turn them over, shake them around... maybe spoon a little over the op), then take them off the heat.

If the cuts aren't done to your liking (they should be perfectly medium rare, or just on the edge of rare based on the 2 minute cooking time above, or medium rare just below medium on the 3 minute time); stick your skillet into the hot oven, flip it over to broil, and place the steaks under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes, or until the glaze begins to chars a bit on the tips of the meat, then pull them out quick.

If you are using steaks other than filet, the same technique applies, you just need to adjust your timing; but don't turn the steak on its side like you do
with a filet, so you just do the total time split evenly across both sides.

For strip, presuming 2" thick or thereabouts, the same technique and
total timing applies. So 4 minutes is VERY rare, 6 minutes total cooking gets rare, 8 minutes is medium rare, 10 minutes is medium, and 12 minutes is medium well.

Please for the love of god though, if you want a steak done more than medium... just don't. Go have a hamburger or something. You don't LIKE steak, so don't waste it.

For ribeyes it's not much different, but you want to up the time a bit, to make sure you sear the fat thoroughly. Unless you like very rare, in which case 3 minutes on a side is just fine.

Actually, with ribeye or porterhouse, I prefer to deliberately undercook in the pan by at least one degree of doneness, and then finish in the oven; because it ends up more even that way, especially with a bone in steak.

Obviously, the thinner the steak, the less time per side. 1.5" needs about 30 seconds less on each side. 2.5" needs an extra minute on each side, or an extra 6 minutes in the oven after searing to avoid creating too thick a layer of char. 3" thick, you're definitely going to want 8 minutes in the oven after your 4 minutes per side.

Once you have a feel for your cookstop, pan, and cuts of meat, you can usually just sort of tell when something is done right; but until you get that experience, USE A GOOD INSTANT READ THERMOMETER.

Cook your meat until it's 5 degrees BELOW what the chart says; so by the time you serve it, it will be where it should be. That means get it off the heat at 125 for rare, 130 for medium rare, 135 for medium rare/medium (please, stop cooking here if you actually LIKE steak), 140 for medium, and 150 for medium well. Anything above 150 is hockey puck territory.

Remember, one minute on each side, or four minutes in the hot oven, is usually enough heat to hit the next degree of doneness.

At this point, whether you went into the oven or not, you're going to want to add a little cream or half and half to the pan sauce, and if needed a bit more acid (hot sauce, lemon juice, maybe a tiny bit of dijon mustard) to help emulsify the hot drippings and dairy.

To plate, pour a small disk of the sauce on to the plate, and put a filet right into it as artistically as you care to; and let them rest on the plate for a few minutes if you so desire (I usually don't bother for such a small piece of meat).

After you've got them all plated, drizzle the remaining pan sauce over them; and unless you feel like you're gilding the lily, crumble a bit of feta, gorgonzola, or bleu cheese over the top... or maybe few shreds of fresh grated parmigiana and romano.

Honestly, you can serve filets with basically anything, but my personal favorite is sourdough cheese toast, and freshly fried seasoned potato wedges. For a little balance to the meat, slice in half some grape tomatoes, and then quarter some cucumber slices, and toss in extra light salad oil with cider vinegar and cracked black pepper on the side.

And so that's what I had for lunch today.

Oh and yeah, that recipe serves two good sized guys, four women, or eight metrosexuals.

And be sure to check out:

Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 12 - Lard Ass Wings
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 11 - Bacon Double Macaroni and Cheese
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 10 - It's the meat stupid
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 9 - Labor Day Potatos
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 8 - It's a pork fat thing
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 7 - It may not be Kosher...
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 6 - Andouille Guiness Chili
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 5 - Eazza the Ultimate Pizza
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 4 - Two Pound Meat Sauce
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 3 - Highbrow Hash
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 2 - MuscleCarbonara
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 1 - More Beef than Stew