As you might imagine, I have an orientation toward flaming foods. Nothing reads 'fabulous' at the dinner table more than the sight of actual flames dancing across an entree or desert (or in this case, sauce.) I first caught the flambe bug while first learning to cook. I couldn't resist the showy (show off!) nature of the technique. And this was waaay before I even figured out that I was fabulous so is it any wonder I tend to think fablulousness is more nature than nurture?
The directions for this week's French Friday's with Dorie recipe gave the option to either flame the cognac or boil it to break down the alcohol in this traditional type filet pan sauce. Uh huh. As if there is any option here! Hello!? While I am sure the boiling-it-down method works well, I will tell you right now that I will never find out for sure. I'm a flamer through and through. I was born this way.
These steaks were lovingly prepared for my brother and sister-in-law who have been spending the last few weeks getting to know their new daughter, born two weeks ago. Its too soon to know in which ways she was born but I can't wait to find out. Children are born with so many ways, aren't they? Her parents have wisely decreed that no visitors are allowed unless they bring food (smart, huh?) so I killed two birds with one stone, packed up my supplies (including dishes and cutlery) and made them this week's Dorie victims...er....guests.
While we dined on filet I got my niece fix but before I could become a nuisance I had everything packed up and was out the door. Guerrilla bistro!written about before detailing my lackluster feelings for the beef cut itself. These feelings have always been mitigated by the creativity that gets expressed with the simple, quick, and flavorful sauces made in the pan while the meat 'rests'. While anything goes with these sauces, one that adds flame to the mix will get that much more of my appreciation. I can't help it
I hope the other Doristas took a walk on the wild side and set fire to the pan for this one. Its really not very hard and its a sure way to get your dinner remembered. I can't wait to read how they did! Follow this link for a listing of other Dorista's post on this dish. (Once again I present the recipe here as Dorie herself has already distributed this one all over the internet.)
- About 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, preferably Sarawak pepper (that's what's used at Paul Bert), or a mix of peppercorns
- 4 filets mignons, 1 to 1½ inches thick, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon mild oil (such as grapeseed or canola)
- ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
- ¼ cup Cognac, or other brandy (plus a splash more if desired)
- ½ cup heavy cream
The peppercorns need to be coarsely cracked, a job that's done quickly and easily with a mortar and pestle. Lacking that, put the peppercorns in a kitchen towel so they don't go flying about, and give them a couple of bashes with the bottom of a heavy skillet or the heel or back of a knife. Sprinkle some peppercorns on both sides of each steak, and use the palm of your hand to press them into the meat.
Put a heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat - I use a cast-iron pan - and add the oil and butter. When the butter has melted, slip in the steaks and cook them for 2 to 3 minutes for rare steaks, or a minute or so longer if you like your beef more well-done. Flip them over and give them another 2 to 3 minutes in the pan, then transfer them to a warm plate and cover them loosely with a foil tent.
Pour off all of the fat in the pan, but leave any bits of steak that have stuck to the bottom; let the pan cool for a minute or so. Now you've got a decision to make: to flame the Cognac or to just let it boil down. If you decide to flame it, pour it into the pan, stand back, and set a match to the Cognac. When the flames have subsided, stir to scrape up whatever bits of meat are in the pan. If you just want to boil the Cognac, put the pan over medium heat, pour in the Cognac, and let cook until it's almost evaporated; scrape up whatever bits of steak have stuck to the pan.
When you've reduced the Cognac, lower the heat and add the cream. Swirl the pan and let the cream bubble gently for 2 to 3 minutes. Salt with care. Spoon the sauce over the steaks and serve immediately.