Who doesn’t like a special night out at their favorite steakhouse for a succulent filet mignon?
But did you know you can cook a steak at home and have it taste just as good for a fraction of the price? It’s all in knowing how. In honor of National Filet Mignon Day, Aug. 13, we’re going to explain how you can be your own steakhouse chef.
“It’s low in fat, and a very tender cut of beef,” Jonathan Levine, chef/owner of Memorial’s Jonathan’s The Rub restaurant, said of filet mignon. “It’s definitely the most popular steak we serve; there’s a prestige to it.”
Which may be why it’s so famous. Filet mignon – French for dainty fillet – is not the most expensive or possibly even the tastiest steak. But sliced from the small end of the tenderloin, found on the back rib cage, these little cuts of beef make wonderful entrees. They don’t have as much marbling as a rib eye or prime rib, but filet mignons are so tender you often can cut them with a fork.
Levine serves about 120 filet mignons a week. He said the cut does well paired with sauces. “We have a steak au poivre, with a mushroom demi glace, and the ‘black and blue’ [see sauce recipe below], topped with sautéed onions and blue cheese.”
But you don’t even need a sauce for your perfect at-home filet mignon.
First, start by choosing a great piece of meat. Levine, who uses organic, certified Black Angus at his restaurant, says since the cut is already so lean, you don’t have to pop for prime (the top designation from the United States Department of Agriculture). A “choice” cut, the second best designation, will do.
But it’s what you do next that can make or break your meal.
One chef tip for those who like well-done filets is to butterfly the steak – cut and fold it open to make it half as thick; this way you can finish both steaks at the same time.
Another trick for a restaurant-type taste that both Levine and Benjy Levit of Benjy’s restaurant recommend is to marinate the steaks in olive oil and garlic in the refrigerator for at least four hours before cooking. Remove the steaks from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking.
“A lot of people like to grill steaks outdoors,” said Levit. “But my grill at home isn’t shaded, and it’s too hot during the summer so I do it indoors.” Levit suggests using a cast iron skillet to char the steaks on top of the stove before finishing them in the oven. Other than the marinade, he only uses salt and pepper to season his filets. Oh, and one other ingredient.
“When my wife’s not looking I put a little butter in the pan,” he says.
And really, what more does this delightful little cut of beef need? Except maybe a few good sides.
“We always do one indulgent side,” said Levit, “and one green side.” His kids like their filets with French fries or macaroni and cheese. The healthy side might be sugar snap peas tossed with olive oil, vinegar and Parmesan cheese, although, he admits his steak-loving kids do also insist on ketchup on the side.
And, here’s one final, cost-saving tip from Levit: “If you find some nice filet mignons on sale, go ahead and stock up. Red meat freezes very well and you can keep it for a couple of months.”
Jonathan Levine’s Black and Blue Filet Mignon Sauce
½ jumbo sweet onion
1 Tbsp. clarified butter
1 Tbsp. garlic-infused, extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. turbinado (raw, brown) sugar
2 oz. heavy cream
Splash of Chardonnay
¼ tsp. cracked black pepper
3 oz. creamy Italian Gorgonzola
Sauté the sweet onion in clarified butter, olive oil and turbinado sugar until caramelized. Add heavy cream, a splash of chardonnay, cracked black pepper and Italian Gorgonzola. After cheese is half melted and still chunky, plate the steak and top with the sauce.
Benjy Levit’s Filet Mignon
2 6-ounce filet mignons
1 cup olive oil
1 small garlic bulb, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Marinate steaks in olive oil and garlic in refrigerator for four hours. Remove 30 minutes prior to cooking and allow to rest at room temperature. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Liberally top all sides with salt and pepper. Place the cast iron skillet on stove top and set to high. Once the skillet begins to smoke add a pat of butter and quickly add steaks. Cook the bottom for approximately 2 minutes until a nice char forms. Flip and add an additional pat of butter to the pan. Cook for an additional two minutes. Place skillet directly in oven on middle rack. Cook for 3 minutes, flip, and cook for another 3 minutes. Cook time will vary based on desired doneness and thickness of the steak. Remove steak from pan and cover loosely with foil; let rest for 2 minutes.