Friday, May 27, 2011

Wagyu Beef Medallions Au Poivre

A long time ago I found a recipe for Steak Au Poivre.  This was way back when I was first learning to cook for myself as an adult, in college, in a cramped apartment kitchen. Anyhow, I followed the recipe and it was kind of weird.  The idea was good, though.  Peppered steaks, cooked in a pan, with a simple reduced cream sauce to fancy it up.  Awesome idea, actually.  That one recipe just didn't do it for me.

I tried some other things, different cuts of meat (found out that some just aren't tender enough for pan-searing), and tried some different things in the sauce (capers, beef stock, onion, herbs).  I have come to the conclusion that I like it better on the simple side.

I normally like pan gravy loaded with onions, but not for this. If I add beef stock to thin out the sauce, it's too thin. Sometimes I like the tang of Dijon mustard, sometimes I don't. Last week I made it with mustard. Last night, I made this with no mustard. (Yum yum for Jenny either way!)

Another thing, don't be put off by the liquor in the sauce.  A tablespoon is a tiny amount and it just gives a hint of flavor.  I didn't have any cognac or brandy, but I did have an abundance of whiskey in the liquor cabinet.  I used Crown Royal because it was the closest bottle of whiskey to the front.  It was delicious!

One last thing.  Below, this is enough for two adults.  I figured two small medallions per adult. One medallion is enough for a child. If you are making more steaks, it's easy to double the sauce ingredients.

Haley, my little carnivore offspring, loves this. She loves her meat medium-rare and smothered in sauce. I like to cut up the steak, then stir all the meat juices into the cream sauce on my plate. I can't wait for you to try this!

4 small Wagyu filet mignon steaks, about 1/2 inch thick (normal filet mignon is good too)
garlic salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon cognac, brandy, or good whiskey
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (Optional)
additional regular salt and pepper for seasoning the sauce

1. Season steaks generously with freshly ground black pepper on both sides.  Also lightly season to taste with garlic salt on both sides. Rub the seasoning in to make sure it imparts flavor to the meat. Let steaks rest at room temperature 10-15 minutes. Resting is important. This helps the meat absorb the pepper flavor and helps it cook evenly.

2. Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add steaks and don't move them around. Let them cook unmoved to create a good sear.  Let them cook like this about 3-5 minutes. Don't crowd the pan because this will slow down your cooking time a lot.

3. Turn steaks over and cook other side.  Let them go another 3-5 minutes without moving them around. If you aim for 3 minutes on each side, it will be fairly rare. 5 minutes on each side will be medium. I guess if you like it well done, go for 7 minutes a side. I have found that it gets pretty dry cooked that much since filet mignon is a super lean cut of meat.

4. Move steaks to a warm plate and cover with foil while you prepare the sauce. Keep in a warm place.

5. Add the cream and liquor to the hot pan.  Bring up to a boil and stir until thickened and reduced by half. This should only take 3-5 minutes.  Add the Dijon mustard if you're using it. Taste it and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

6. To serve, place two steaks on plate.  If there are any meat juices left from your holding plate, pour that into the cream sauce and stir it in. Now, drizzle cream sauce over the steaks.  Add your side items, I usually add a green vegetable like broccoli or steamed artichokes and a carb like a baked potato.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jenny's Baked Winnemucca Potatoes

Baked potatoes are so simple, so tasty, so perfect to accompany other foods.  However, they are also super when they're loaded with other things. 

I'm sure there are enough confusing varieties of potatoes out there, but let me confuse you some more.  I grew up in a little town in northern Nevada that is well-known for their potatoes. Winnemucca potatoes. They are Russet potatoes, but someting about the terroir, the dirt, the environmental conditions makes these extra tasty. I think they are slightly fluffier than Idaho Russet potatoes. And of course, since I grew up in the oh-so-glamorous WMCA, I have to prefer my local spuds.

I have even taken some green sprouting spuds and planted them at home and grown my own. Damn, I had some good potatoes. I know they weren't really Winnemucca potatoes then since I grew them in Sparks. They were miles better than most grocery store spuds.

Baked potatoes are perfect with Garlic Beef Tenderloin Roast or Prime Rib Roast

4 medium-large potatoes
about 2 Tablespoons butter (or margarine or shortening)
kosher salt

1. Wash, scrub, rinse, and dry the potatoes. Make sure to dry them well.

2. Using about 1/2 tablespoon of butter, rub all over the exterior of one potato. Generously sprinkle all over with kosher salt. Cut a small slit or poke with a fork on one side for venting. Repeat for other potatoes. Do not cover or wrap them.

3.  Bake in a preheated oven. Baking times will vary depending on the size of the potato and the oven temperature. If you have a roast in the oven at 325-350F, the spuds will need to cook about 1 hour 15 minutes or even an hour and a half.  If they are cooking alone, go for 375-400F so they will take about an hour.

4. Be sure to squeeze them with a pot holder or mitts to test if they are done. If the potato easily yields when you squeeze, they are done.  The skin should be nice and crispy, with the inside very tender.

5. Serve with butter and sour cream as a side. 

6. If you want to make yours into a stuffed potato meal, slice open the top, squeeze the spud to loosen the insides, fluff with a fork, and top with other things. Cheese, crumbled bacon, cooked broccoli, sauteed onions, chili, or something with gravy like chicken a la king, are great on a baked potato.