I am a meat and potatoes kind of girl. It’s how I grew up, it’s what I like, and I can’t deny it.
I don’t cook a lot of steaks at home though. I think steak is just one of those things that is better when eaten out. Is this because steak houses paint their steaks with butter? Hard to say. Haaaard to say. And living in an apartment, grilling is not a regular option, so I just tend to focus on other proteins when I am cooking. AND, I tend to try to eat lighter when I’m cooking at home, so I can not worry about calories when I am out.
But this recipe – it gets me.
Lean filet mignon, with a little something extra but not too complicated – an herb crust on the bottom, and a rich but simple sauce over the top.
Made with red wine.
I told you it gets me.
This recipe is an oldie but goodie; we met at a Williams-Sonoma demonstration cooking class ages go. The printout says 2006, and that sounds about right (and also makes me feel old). My friend EB and I used to go to these classes to pick up tips here and there. I prefer hands-on classes, but on weeknights, it can be nice to not have to do the work (and the classes were shorter – and free).
The chef-instructor gave us so many modifications – including 10 minutes in the oven at 500 degrees that was not in the original recipe (!) – that the printed recipe is really just a starting point. My hand-written notes and wine stains on the paper are where all of the action is at.
I have served this recipe for a few special occasions, including most recently this past New Year’s Eve. Don’t let the sauce scare you – it’s really just cooking some shallots, wine, and beef broth on the stove for a while and then blending it with the smallest pat of butter. And the rest of the bottle of wine will be just perfect with dinner! Broccolini and/or asparagus only take a few minutes to roast at a high heat in the oven, and your potato of choice will be a great addition to round out the plate.
Don’t let buying filet mignon scare you either! Just ask the butcher for two filets, about 2″ thick (it’s ok if it’s a little less or more). Yes, it’s a pricier cut of meat, but the quality will be high and you don’t need to do anything fancy to the steak to add flavor. The filets in these photos are from Trader Joe’s. They sell two in a package, and I have found the quality to be great! These were about 2.5″ thick.
I use a cast iron skillet with this recipe. If you have been reading along, you might have realized that I didn’t have a cast iron skillet until somewhat recently. So before I did, I just used a regular all-clad pan. However, I found the herb crust would separate from the steak more easily with that pan – I think the cast iron skillet helps form a thick, crunchy crust, and this most recent batch was my best. If you don’t have cast iron, just use anything that can go from the stove top to the oven. It will be fine (even if you have to replace the steak on the crust by hand).
One last tip: the wine! The chef suggested a red Zinfandel called Tamas. I haven’t looked very hard for this wine, but if you find it, let me know how it is! I just look for a wine that is described with words that sound like they would go with steak, at my price point, and that I otherwise will want to drink once I use one cup of it in the sauce. Trader Joe’s had many options when I was picking up the steaks (and potatoes, and broccolini and asparagus!).
- one or two shallots, large enough to fill your palm before chopped
- 1 cup red zinfandel wine
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 tsp unsalted butter
- .5 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme (stems removed)
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
- 1 egg white
- 2-4 filet mignon steaks, each about 2" thick
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Chop the shallots into small pieces, and place them in a small heavy saucepan. Add the cup of wine, bring to a boil, and cook over medium-high heat until all of the wine is absorbed by the shallots. This should be about 20 minutes.
- You can chop the herbs for the herb-crusted coat while this is cooking.
- Once the wine has evaporated, add the beef broth, bring to a boil, and cook until the sauce reduces to only have about .75 cup remaining. This should be about 20 minutes.
- Add the pat of butter to the pot, stir to melt it, and transfer the sauce to a small food processor, or use an immersion blender, and blend or process the sauce until it is smooth. You can blend it after the steaks are done, if you prefer. If the butter seizes into little pieces, just microwave the sauce for about 10 seconds and stir.
- Prepare the herb-panko crust right before you start the steaks. Stir the panko and herbs together, and add the egg white. Stir with a fork to make sure the egg is evenly distributed.
- Now it's time to start the filets!
- Preheat the oven to 500. That is not a typo. Five hundred degrees.
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the skillet with canola or vegetable oil (not an aerosol). Olive oil will smoke more, but you can use it if you are ok with that!
- Place the filets on the hot skillet, and sprinkle kosher salt and freshly ground pepper over the steaks.
- Sear for two minutes, flip using tongs, and sear the other side for two minutes.
- Lower the heat to low, and remove the seared steaks from the pan to a dish or cutting board. Lightly coat the pan with a bit more oil (again, not aerosol).
- Scoop a handful of the panko mixture into your hand, and pack it onto one side of the steak. Carefully place the panko-side of the steak back on the pan. Repeat for each of the steaks you are making.
- Heat on the stove for 2-3 minutes, and then transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook at 500 for 10 minutes.
- Very, very carefully remove the skillet from the oven, and lightly tent it with tin foil (= fold the foil in half and place it lightly over the top of the pan).
- Plate the steaks, crust-side down, and top with the shallot sauce.
Adapted from a 2006 Williams-Sonoma recipe, not available online. The printout says that the recipe is adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Lifestyle Series Fresh & Light, by Lane Crowther (