No. 48: Pepper-Crusted Filet Mignon with Red Wine Sauce

Sometimes I just crave a little red meat.

Steak had sounded good to us both for a few days, but there was no grill pan or cast iron skillet up in the mountains. We had to wait until we came back down to our home kitchen.

Kansas beef

K-State is a terrific land-grant institution in the Flint Hills of Kansas. It attracts students from all over the Midwest, and many are from farming (wheat, corn, sorgum, beef, and more) families across the state as well.

When I went off to college, I had no idea the steak/beef education I was about to receive. From my sorority sisters, no less.

I was at dinner my freshmen year with several gals from Kappa. A couple are from families that raise some of the best Angus you can buy. When I reached for the A-1 to 'season' my steak, they were horrified.

Sorority Sister: "What are you doing!?"
Me: "Oh, I hate just plain steak."
SS: "Why!? It has so much flavor. You are totally messing up the flavor of the meat. Good steak doesn't need sauce."
Me: "Really?" (slowly puts down A-1)

Years later, I have come to appreciate that wisdom. Salt and pepper are the only seasonings we usually use for steak in the McC household.

Pepper-crusted filets with red wine sauce

We love filet mignon now and then, (who doesn't!?) but I was looking for a way to make them more exciting. I decided to ignore my sister's advice and make this red wine sauce for a punch up in flavor.

Ingredients

2 filet mignons (5 to 6 ounces each about 1 1/2 inches thick)
Coarse salt and very coarsely ground pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup red wine
2 tablespoons cold butter cut into cubes

To make

For the filets
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Season filets very generously on both sides with salt and coarsely ground pepper, patting in firmly.

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high. Sear filets 4 minutes per side. Once both sides are seared and crusted, put skillet with filets in the hot oven. Cook for 6 minutes. Remove from skillet and let rest on a cutting board tented with foil.

For the wine sauce
When the steaks searing, place 1 cup red wine in a small saucepan. Boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, 8 to 10 minutes.

Reducing

Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons cold cut-up butter. Swirl pan until butter is melted and sauce is thickened, about 1 minute. Season with coarse salt.

The results

The steak was wonderful. Rich, juicy, perfectly cooked. Mr. McCormick did a great job per usual. The red wine sauce was fine, but didn't add much overall. I think I prefer the pepper crust on its own for seasoning.

Final

Next time I'd reduce the sauce for twice as long to get a real syrup going. But even then ... it's just not really necessary when you have a perfectly peppery medium-rare filet mignon.

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