Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day, a Review...

Lest you all get the wrong impression, all my culinary forays do not turn out perfectly. Last night was a prime example.

Oh, everything we had was still lovely, but not exactly as I'd planned. I panned the rolls early on (who needs 'em when you've got a huge plate of steak to eat?) and then totally forgot about the salad (we'll have it Saturday with the Chicken Scallopine in Lemon Caper sauce), mostly because the potato incident threw me completely off my game.

The Potato Incident.
Did you know that, in fact, to get mashed potatoes to go through a star tip on a pastry bag, there can be absolutely not even the tiniest speck of un-mashed potato left in the mix? Yeah, I should have, but I didn't exactly think of that. Unless you use a potato ricer to make your mashed potatoes (which, naturally, I do not), you can't do that piping thing. Also, did you know that if you just use straight mashed potatoes in expertly arranged slightly decorative mounds, and top these with butter and attempt to broil, they will in fact just puddle on your cookie sheet? Yeah, me neither. So, the potato incident gets a big FAIL for me, but I'll research some more and I WILL make potatoes with the broil-y crisp tops one of these days, don't you worry.

SO, we had regular old goat cheese mashed potatoes (extra butter keeps them from getting chalky from the goat cheese, just so you know), no salad, and no rolls, but everything else was simply spectacular. I don't know if Matt even noticed the missing salad, but if he did he was gracious enough not to say anything. The steaks were awesome, and I got my first attempt at homemade bearnaise sauce absolutely perfect. The asparagus was more mushy than I usually like, but still delicious, and we have the funny smelling pee to prove it. (was that too much? I feel close to you all, it didn't feel wrong to share, but then again, this was a discussion about *dinner*)

The cake was divine, and, though this is not unusual for us, I never had to lay a finger on the after-dinner dishes. Year-round kitchen clean up is so awesome, let's face it, the boy could call that his Valentine's Day, Birthday, and Christmas present to me and I wouldn't balk. Luckily for me, he doesn't. :)

So, per Sunday's request, here's the rundown for Seared Filets Oscar:

Tenderloin Beef Filets (filet mignon), 1 1/2 inches thick
Lump or backfin crab meat, picked through for shells
3 or 4 asparagus spears per filet, steamed
Bearnaise sauce (recipe follows)

To cook the filets:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Heat a cast iron skillet or other oven proof skillet on high with a tablespoon or two of olive oil (if you don't have an oven proof skillet, you can put a cookie sheet in the oven as you are preheating and transfer steaks to it for the final step). Season both sides of filets with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper. When the skillet is smoking hot, place the filets in (don't overcrowd) and *do not move them* for three minutes. This will give you an amazing crust. Flip and repeat on the second side, another three minutes. Once both sides are seared, transfer skillet to oven and roast filets to desired doneness. I like super rare, so I only cooked them another 4-5 minutes. Remove the skillet and allow the steaks to rest, tented with foil to stay warm, 5-10 minutes or so.

To serve, place each filet on the plate, and top with a heaping 1/4 cup or so of crabmeat, the asparagus spears (I just toss these in a small skillet with a thin layer of water, turn on high, and let cook until the water is gone--this should steam a thin stalk completely through. Criss cross them over top of the crab meat for maximum decorative effect ;) If your asparagus is kind of thick, chop into bite sized pieces instead, which incidentally is what I did), and drizzle with the warm bearnaise. Serve with remaining sauce on the side, and smile and eat and moan, etc.

Bearnaise Sauce:

I will say this is kind of tricky, so if you're truly scared, you can get a mix and doctor with a little butter and fresh tarragon, but this is so far and above the powdered stuff that it's really worth a shot!

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp minced shallots
1 Tbsp dried tarragon
salt and pepper
3 egg yolks
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted in a saucepan
2 Tbsp minced fresh tarragon

In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, wine, shallots, and dried tarragon and simmer over moderate heat until reduced to about 2 T of liquid, cool and strain out shallots and tarragon.

In the top of a double boiler or heat proof bowl (I use my glass bowls), whisk the egg yolks until they are thick and sticky. Whisk in the reduced vinegar and some fresh cracked pepper. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering but NOT boiling water, and whisk until warmed through, about 2 minutes. (If the mixture starts to lump, it means it's too hot and the yolks are cooking too fast, so dip the bowl into and ice bath to cool, whisk until smooth and then continue the recipe). The yolk mixture has thickened enough when you can see the bottom of the pan between strokes and mixture forms a light cream on the wires of the whip.

Continue to whisk while gradually pouring in the butter, a tablespoon or so at a time, whisking thoroughly to incorporate before adding more. As the mixture begins to thicken and become a creamy sauce, you can add the butter more rapidly. Try not to add the milk solids at the bottom of the melted butter.

Season the sauce to taste with the fresh tarragon, salt, and pepper. Keep the sauce warm until serving by placing the bowl in lukewarm water, or pour into a thermos.
Hope you all have a lovely weekend. Matt and I are off to Florida for a week to visit the parents at their respective winter homes, eat too much, and say hi to the migrating manatees. See you when we get back!


KatieKate said...

You are AH-mazing.
Thanks for the recipes. I cannot wait to try the bernaise sauce. MMMMMM.

It is so stinking hard to get everything to be done and warm at the same time, don't you think?

CortneyTree said...

Aww, thanks Katie!

And yes, timing is the most frustrating thing to me in cooking. I had to write out a little chart last night, and even then the bearnaise *could* have been a little warmer, and the asparagus a little crisper. *sigh* I have to remind myself, as long as it's all edible, no one cares!

Michie said...

Hey, I don't know about Matt, but I'm impressed, even without the rolls and salad!

Have a great trip!

sunday said...

thanks for the recipe. i can't wait to try it!