Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pan-Seared Filet Mignon with Mushroom Wine Sauce

I am not a big beef-eater. I mean, I like it just fine when I have it, but I don't feel the need to gorge on red meat every day. I think that stems from the fact that my dad is a Meat-and-Potatoes guy who didn't think that it was a real meal unless there was some sort of 4-legged animal on the plate. Growing up, beef was on the menu at least 3 out of the 7 days, and of course, in order to swing that, we had a lot of the cheaper cuts: ground beef, cube steak and pot roast for example.

I remember the first time I ever had filet mignon I was stunned at how tender it was with no sign of gristle running through it interrupting every bite, which was my recollection of cube steak. Last night I wanted to treat myself to something special, and I was craving beef, so I opted for a little home-cooked filet. I started by pan-searing the meat on both sides to develop a crust, and then roasting it in a preheated pan really hot oven. Topped off with a mushroom-wine sauce, and you've got everything you need: the tender meat which literally almost melts in your mouth, and the rich flavor of the sauce.

Pan-Seared Filet Mignon with Mushroom Wine Sauce

  • beef tenderloin cut into two 1-1/2 in. - 2 in. thick filet mignons
  • butter
  • salt
  • pepper
For the sauce:
  • 3 T butter
  • 2 T chopped shallot
  • 1/4 cup cremini mushrooms, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine (I used a Bordeaux)
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 2 T fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 450 F.
  • Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil and spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray and place in the oven to preheat for 30 minutes.
  • Season the filets with salt and pepper on both sides and let come to room temperature
  • Place a heavy skillet over high heat and melt 1 T butter. Sear the filets for 3 minutes on each side, flipping with tongs, NOT a fork. You don't want to pierce the meat.
  • Once the meat has browned on both sides, remove from the skillet and place in the preheated roasting pan and roast for 4 to 6 minutes for rare, 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare, or 8 to 10 minutes for medium. If the filets are thicker cut, opt for the longer cooking times of the ranges given.
  • Take the meat out and let rest on a plate, tented with foil.
  • While the meat is roasting, melt 3 T butter over medium-high heat in the same pan you seared the meat in. Add the chopped shallots and mushroom and stir up all the browned bits (fond) from searing the meat.
  • Cook for 2 minutes and then add the wine, bring to a boil and really scrape up all of the fond. Once most of the wine has cooked down, add the beef broth, thyme, sugar and tomato paste and let reduce. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary.
  • Additionally, you can stir in 2 T cold butter to the sauce, but this is good as-is.
  • Slice the meat across the grain and serve with the sauce.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chocolate Cake

In addition to Crisis Bownies, cookies, pie and cheesecake, I like cake.

Not just this kind of cake:

But cake, cake.

You know, Devil's Food cake, pound cake, Angel Food cake, red velvet cake... Just, cake. I decided that today was a good day for cake - a lazy Saturday at home with my kids, unrelenting snow outside, yes. Time for cake. I didn't want a lot of cake though, just enough for the 3 of us for a few days without leaving use feeling like complete gluttonous deviants. I also was out of eggs, so it limits what kind of cake I can make.

For our super-chocolate cravings,  this vegan chocolate cake really delivers. You really would not know that this cake is vegan unless someone told you. Of course, there is nothing vegan about the buttercream frosting. Nothing dietetic either, but it is so worth it. :)

Vegan Chocolate Cake
Makes one 10 in. round cake

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 1  tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Sift flour, sugar, salt,  baking soda, and cocoa together in a large bowl.
  3. Add the vinegar and stir. Pour in the oil and stir well. Pour in the cold water and mix until everything is well-combined.
  4. Pour batter into a round 10 in cake pan that has been buttered or sprayed with butter-flavored cooking spray.
  5. Bake for 30 to 35, or until cake tester inserted comes out clean. 
  6. Put the pan on a rack and let cool for a half hour and then turn the cake out onto a rack to finish cooling before frosting.

Simple Chocolate Frosting

  • 3 T salted butter
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar (approximately)
  • 3/8 cup milk (approximately)
  1. Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Add the cocoa power and stir to combine well.
  3. Stir in the vanilla extract and mix.
  4. Add the confectioner's sugar 1/2 cup at a time and alternate with a litlte milk to moisten it, and beat, not stir, but really beat it well to break up all the clumps of the powdered sugar and get it into the mixture.
  5. Continue to add the sugar and milk and beating, tasting as you go, until you have the taste and consistency that you like.
  • I really prefer brown sugar to regular white granulated sugar in chocolate baked goods. I swear I read something once that said that the molasses in the brown sugar enhances and intensifies the chocolate flavors. I think that brown sugar also tends to make baked items moister because it is already wetter than regular white sugar.
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