I talk about vegetables here fairly often, and I do love them, but when I'm in the mood for a treat, I like a good steak. Filet mignon is one of my top choices, but crusted filet medallions take perfection to a higher level. I first ordered crusted filet medallions at Wildfire (a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant... gosh I love them!) years ago. Since then, whenever I've been lucky enough to find them offered at a quality restaurant, I indulge.
Last week, my husband and I happened upon a lovely beef tenderloin at our local market. We were having a small dinner party over the weekend and as soon as we found it, we knew what we were serving!
I've made whole beef tenderloins in the past. They're good. Very good, in fact. But this time I decided to slice the tenderloin into filets. Even better, I decided to try -- my first attempt ever -- to crust them.
Success? Yes. Absolutely.
But I did a practice run first with some small pieces and I'm *so* glad I did.
I found a recipe online for a blue cheese crust. Mmm... sounded great, and I love blue cheese. So what went wrong? I'm not sure exactly. Maybe it was the brand of blue cheese I used, but when I finished broiling the medallions and brought the pieces up for my husband and eldest daughter to sample, I noticed a peculiar smell. Not blue-cheesy. Something else. A smell I recognized from a recent excursion. One that does not belong in a kitchen.
My husband (who will eat anything) claimed no issue and thought the samples were great. But my daughter and I exchanged glances. "You know what this smells like?" she asked me. I knew before she said it. "This smells like the zoo."
It did. Specifically, like the elephant house.
Why am I telling you this? Isn't this an absolutely horrific topic to include in a recipe blog? Sure, it is, but there's a happy ending, so bear with me.
My husband and I love horseradish, so I tried a new crust using that ingredient. Excellent, if I do say so myself. But we realized that there are a lot of folks who don't care much for horseradish, so I came up with an alternate idea. Mushroom crust.
Oh boy, these were excellent! And easy. What I loved about preparing this dinner was that I could make the side dishes ahead of time and cook the steaks right before I served. This means lots more mingle time, lots less hassle in the kitchen. And that's what dinner parties are all about, right?
What follows below is my mushroom crust (simple, simple, simple)
and directions for preparing crusted medallions (just as simple)
The only thing I'd change going forward is the size of the medallions. Next time I'll slice the whole tenderloin into thicker servings.
Mushroom Crusted Filet Medallions
Filet medallions allowed to come to room temperature (one thick filet per guest)
About 3 Tbsp butter
Fresh mushrooms (I used 1/2 pound for four guests) coarsely chopped
Saute mushrooms in butter until softened and brown and until they've given off their liquid. Combine with enough Panko crumbs to make a nice mealy mix that almost holds together. Not too wet, not dry. <-- See picture. Set aside.
Set oven to 500 degrees and place an oven-safe frying pan inside to heat. It's empty at this point. Don't add the steaks yet. Coat both sides of each filet with olive oil. (I added a little of our favorite rub too. But just a teeny bit.)
Once the oven has gotten to 500 degrees, and you're almost ready to serve, remove pan from oven and set it over high heat on your stovetop. Be super careful. I burned my wrist on this. Ouch!
Sear filets (don't let them touch each other) in the hot pan. My filets were thinner than they should have been (they felt thick when I was slicing, but not so much once they sat a while), so I only seared them for about 1 minute per side. Depending on the thickness, you may want to go up to 2 minutes per side.
As soon as both sides are seared, place pan back in the super hot oven until meat *almost* reaches desired doneness. We like ours medium rare and we left them in for two minutes. Yep, really. Only two.
Remove from oven and turn oven to broil. Arrange prepared crust atop each filet. If some spills, no problem. As soon as each filet is crusted, place pan back in oven, under the broiler, close enough for it to crisp those crusts.
Watch carefully. Ours broiled up nicely in about a minute and a half.
Remove from oven and let the meat sit, lightly covered with aluminum foil, for about ten minutes.
This is a really elegant meal. And the best part is how simple it is.
Hope you have fun. I can't wait to try this again. Soon! Maybe I'll even be brave and attempt it with a different brand of blue cheese. Just not when guests are expected. I wouldn't want our visit to be "trunk"-cated.
Grace Interrupted (second in the Manor House Mystery series, coming in June, 2011)
Buffalo West Wing (fourth in the White House Chef Mystery series), out now!