A new post from Shannon Hayes, author of The Farmer and the Grill, perfect for Valentine’s Day! I wonder if the butcher has any filet mignon left at this late hour…
In the fifteen years Bob and I have been together, we’ve figured out how to orchestrate the perfect romantic evening. Flowers and chocolates were long ago dismissed. Jewelry goes largely unappreciated. Fancy restaurants or elegant stays in romantic B&Bs are over-rated. An amorous evening for us means staying home with a vodka martini in one hand, a plate of grassfed filet mignon in the other, and the romantic crackling fire of a hot grill just outside the kitchen door.
For years, filet mignon was a cut I shied away from. Since it comes from the muscle on the animal that does the least amount of work, it doesn’t pack the same beefy intensity as a chuck eye steak or London broil. I dutifully cooked it until it was medium rare, but found myself bored with the flavor by the third bite.
Then I read about the health benefits of raw or super-rare meat, how it is easier for the body to digest. So I experimented with a piece of filet…and discovered a world of delicate flavor that I’d never before appreciated. Filet mignon does not have the characteristic intense beef flavor that is so prominent in other cuts, so when left rare, the other two components that mark the distinctive grassfed flavor – the taste of minerals from nutrient-rich soils and the sweet herbaceousness from lush pastures – are much more pronounced. Compared to a rib eye or sirloin steak, a rare piece of filet mignon tastes almost floral. The flavor nuances are so delightful and interesting, I myself rhapsodizing about the extraordinary taste to the very last bite.Admittedly, a piece of filet makes for a pretty pricey dinner. The tenderloin muscle on a beef makes up less than 2% of the overall carcass weight. There is not a lot of it to go around. But even at $28 per pound (our farm market price), the cost of a home-cooked filet mignon dinner is a whole lot cheaper than dinner out. And since it is best cooked out on the grill (even in the depths of winter on a snowy Valentines’ day), there’s not a lot of prep work in the kitchen (leaving ample time for sipping cocktails), and there are very few dishes to wash up later (leaving ample time for other pursuits). Here’s how we cook the filet in our house: Grilled Filet Mignon with Lemon Herb Butter Serves 2
- 1 pound filet mignon steaks, 1 1 /2 inches thick (two 8 ounce pieces)
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
- 1 recipe Lemon Herb Butter, see below
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice