One of my best friends called me the other day and told me that she needed help coming up with a recipe. She was planning to cook a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner for her fiancé, but since he tends to wear the chef’s hat most of the time, she wanted to change things up and cook for him. I was more than happy to help since I’m always behind the idea of avoiding restaurants on v-day. Who wants to go sit in a stuffy room and pay for an overpriced pre-fix dinner when you can whip up something fancy yourself at a fraction of the price?
She gave me some loose guidelines on what kind of meal they would want to eat so that I could come up with a custom creation just for them: He loves red meat (cool, I guess that means tofu is out)…something that appears a little on the fancy-pants side of the spectrum (okay, no sloppy joes, got it)… something that you can prepare relatively quickly (will do my best, but I tend to relish the process, so no guarantees!) What I came up with was a filet mignon with a port-wine reduction accompanied by a truffle sunchoke purée and a simple watercress salad.
As I shopped for groceries, created the recipes, taste tested, photographed, and (eventually) ate the meal that I’d designed for them, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of happiness. This was a labor of love done for someone so incredibly special to me on many different levels. She’s my best friend who lives three thousand miles away. My friend who has been by my side through some of the hardest times of my life. A person with whom I’ve cried, fought, laughed, and done many other ridiculous things (things that can’t be posted on the internet for all to see because she’d kill me ;)). Not to mention, she’s one of the few people who was around when I was still a newbie cook in college and she always pretended to love everything I made. And while I don’t get to see her and her fiancé frequently because of the distance, I felt like they were there with me every step of the way. It was like I was making this love-filled meal in their kitchen, exclusively for them.
I know what they’ll be eating tonight, now what about you? If you’re still on the hunt for that perfect romantic dinner to prepare, take a stab at this simple filet mignon with port-wine reduction. Serve it with a mashed potato or sunchoke purée, a simple watercress salad, and enjoy!
Sending you all love on this day of love.
Filet Mignon with Port-Wine Reduction
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 cuts of filet mignon (mine were approximately 1/3 pound each)
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- ¾ cup of Port wine (I used Dow’s)
- ¼ cup of beef broth
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- flour (optional)
Remove the filets from the refrigerator roughly 30 minutes prior to cooking to bring to room temperature. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Heat a heavy sauté pan (or a cast iron skillet if you have one) on medium-high on your stovetop. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Wait until you start to see the olive oil become shimmery and then lay the filets in the hot pan to get a good sear. Sear them on each side for about 3 minutes (6 minutes total) to get a nice brown crust. Depending on the thickness of the steak, this time can vary. 3 minutes/side is a good starting point for a 1-inch thick cut. Add a minute for every inch of thickness. When you flip it to its second side, add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan. Baste some of that butter onto the top of the filet too. Filets are beautiful cuts, but don’t have much fat so it’s easy to dry them out and we don’t want that to happen!
Once they’re browned on both sides, stick the entire pan into the preheated oven. Allow to cook for another 3-4 minutes. The length of time that it’s in the oven depends, again, on the thickness of the cut. If you’re worried about overcooking, take the pan out of the oven and gently push your finger onto the top of the filet. The firmer it feels, the more well done it is. When in doubt, use a meat thermometer to get to your desired doneness.
When done, remove steak from oven and wrap in tin foil for 5 minutes. This will allow the juices to get reabsorbed into the meat.
While steak is resting, take the sauté pan, place it over high heat on the stovetop, and deglaze it with the port wine. Add beef stock and boil down to thicken, stirring frequently (about 3-5 minutes). Reduce heat to medium and add your remaining tablespoon of butter and some sea salt and freshly ground pepper, a little bit at a time. You should taste as you go and add more salt/pepper/butter if needed. At this point, if the sauce is still not thick enough for your tastes, you can gradually whisk in small amounts of flour to thicken it.
Once sauce is done, plate your steaks and top with port wine sauce.
Serve with sides of your choice. I served mine with a truffle sunchoke purée and a simple watercress salad. The watercress salad was tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. The recipe for the sunchoke purée will be featured next week so stay tuned!