Monday, September 17, 2007

Menu: Filet Mignon and Sauces

Our friends John and Anita were in town for the weekend, so I figured I'd whip up a fancy-pants meal for them, to a) practice my sauces and b) show off the fancy new kitchen, which Anita had never seen. John had only seen it before we moved in.

The sauces I went with were a balsalmic viniagrette, bernaise (a variation on the hollandaise) and mornay (a variation on the bechamel). It was going to be relatively low risk as I pretty much made all three before. We had tackled the mornay specifically in class the previous week, I had just finally succeeded with the hollandaise and the vinaigrette, well, that's really hard to screw up.

The menu:
Spinach Salad with Vinaigrette
Filet Mignon with Bernaise Sauce
Steamed Broccoli with Mornay Sauce
Corn Basil Pudding
Peach Raspberry Pie a la mode'

Overall, this went off much better than the last meal (the Pork menu). I'd rate it as a solid B.

Timing remains an issue for me. I've decided to start serving from the kitchen, rather than family style. In part, this is because plating and presentation is kind of neat. Also, it makes it a little easier to control. I also want to be able to eat with my guests, so managing courses is tricky. In this case, I served the salad with the meal all at the same time. The timing was a lot tighter than before as I didn't want the beef to get cold, the broccoli to get overdone or get cold (which it does almost immediately) and the sauces to do whatever horrible thing they might do if they set for too long.

I figured the mornay was all right sitting for a little while, so my timing was take the meat out of the fridge, bring the broccoli water to a boil, heat the grill, make the mornay, grill the steaks, put the broccoli over the steam, make the bernaise while the meat set, then plate and serve immediately. The sequence is sound I think, but it doesn't allow much room for error.

The only new recipe here is the bernaise, sort of. It's a hollandaise, but the variation involves a white wine, vinegar, shallot and tarragon reduction, which I'd never done. I'll post that separately. I need to go back through and add internal links between these posts as well, so watch for that soon.

The blow-by-blow:

Spinach Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette: Nope, you can't screw this up. This Saturday, I met Marie and Larry down at the Old Town Wine Crush, a wine-oriented street fair. In addition to the fantastic chicken tamale I had at the Adobo Grill tent, I found a tent for Old Town Oil where they had tastings of their products. I bought myself a bottle each of their Blood Orange Olive Oil and their Tangerine Balsalmic Vinegar. I mixed these babies 1-to-1 and spooned over the baby spinach leaves. Raves all around. This is great, great stuff.

Filet Mignon with Bernaise Sauce: This course actually addressed two weak spots for me; grilling beef and the sauce. I'm very nervous grilling beef since I do it so infrequently. So, this was a good opportunity. I went with the filet because, well, I'm not sure. It looks classier, so maybe that's it. But, holy God, it's expensive. This isn't helped by the fact that I went to Whole Foods. Which turned out to be a two-hour ordeal, by the way, thanks to forgetting my wallet at home, the register that my transaction was saved on crashing and the largest crowd they've had early on a Sunday that anyone could remember. Sheesh.

I was aiming for medium-rare and ended up closer to rare, which I guess is okay. It tasted alright. I toothpicked bacon around the sides (more use of leftovers), which generally turned out fine, but was a little inconsistent - blackened toward the edges, a little under in the center of the strip.

The timing got screwed on the bernaise sauce. Maybe it was having an audience or the general time crunch, but my first batch ended up scrambled. Fortunately, I had one egg left, so I went for a second round (though the broccoli ended up a bit over done as a result). The sauce turned out way, way too thin which I think was completely a function of pouring too much of the wine/tarragon reduction in, rather than doing it to taste. And, perhaps I took it off the fire too soon out of fear of scrambling again. So, that's one that needs some practice. On cheaper cuts of meat, of course. As mentioned above, I will post the bernaise recipe separately.

Steamed Broccoli with Mornay Sauce: Mornay was the variation on the bechamel that we made in class. Basically, you add a little nutmeg (three swipes of the grater, if you're using fresh) and swiss cheese to the basic sauce. It was a little thick, but very tasty. Channing couldn't taste the cheese in the sample I brought home from class, so this was an improvement. As I mentioned before, the broccoli was a touch over done as I accidently left the cover on while I made the second batch of sauce. By the way, as I was checking my spelling of "mornay" on Google, I found that according to Wikipedia, "A Mornay sauce is a Béchamel sauce with shredded or grated cheese added. Usually, it is half Gruyère and half Parmesan." Hmm. Okay. I like the swiss, though.

Corn Pudding with Basil: Well, this is a lesson learned. While this was tasty, it wasn't as world-rocking as the first batch. The clear difference was that the corn I used wasn't as fresh. For the first batch, I used corn I had just bought that morning at the Evanston Farmer's Market. This time, it was corn from that same batch, so it was a little old. I had sliced off the kernels and refrigerated them after I noticed the ears were getting a little dried out. So, it seems that fresh corn is the key for that recipe. Oh, and I know that those "hairs" as I referred to them last time are called "cornsilk." Dunno how I forgot that.

Peach Raspberry Pie: I made this to use up the second batch of crust dough I had in the freezer and the rest of the raspberries. I was very careful to follow the instructions for the raspberry variation on the peach pie, even adding a little more sugar. Also, I was careful to get fully ripe (or at least closer than last time) peaches. It tasted just like it should. Just enough tartness from the raspberries, but not too much. The top crust separated a little bit, making kind of a mess from the pie juice,. That may have been a function of a) using a shallower pie pan b) the dough having been frozen before or c) not having made adequate vents on the top. But while it was a little messy to work with, it served up and tasted great.

1 comment:

Anita said...

Hal, this dinner was AWESOME!!!!! Yes, the bernaise sauce was a little thin, but it was very very tasty. I can't believe I ate so much! You're inspiring me to cook more. I will definitely try some of your recipies and let you know how they work. I might be calling you for help!