Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. If you’re a meat lover, that means steak—specifically, the tenderest, leanest, most romantic cut of steak there is: filet mignon. Cut from the beef tenderloin, filet mignon makes the perfect centerpiece for a romantic dinner. It’s properly extravagant (this is one dinner you want to spare no expense for.) It’s quick and easy to prepare, leaving you plenty of time for romancing. And if this holiday is all about tenderness, the filet mignon is tender enough to cut with the side of a fork.
Wait. Doesn’t Raichlen routinely inveigh against filet mignon, preferring the more robust strip steak or more generously marbled rib-eye? Hasn’t he called its flavor “mild—bordering on bland?
Well, there are filets mignons and filets mignons, and the American wagyu filets sent to us by Holy Grail Provisions had all rich beefy steak flavor any carnivore could wish for.
Actually, Holy Grail sent us three filets mignons.
To test drive the filets mignons, we asked barbecuebible.com Fire Wrangler Steve Nestor to fire up his grill. We also asked him to try three different classic filet mignon preparations. Bacon wrapped and grilled with sage leaves. Crusted with pepper and served with mustard cream sauce in the style of French steak au poivre. And reverse-seared with a healthy blast of wood smoke.
Filet Mignon Recipe
I selected the Santa Carota Prestige Carrot finished filet for the bacon-wrapped recipe. Because it’s lean, it cooks faster than other steaks; I thought the faster cooking time would minimize the chances of drying out the bacon-wrapped filet while cooking. I paired the pepper-crusted filet with the Akaushi American Wagyu due to its intense beefy flavor. I felt it would stand up to the pepper crust and the peppery cream sauce. I selected the second American Wagyu filet for the reverse-seared steak because I was only adding wood smoke and bearnaise butter and wanted to experience a Wagyu steak without too many competing flavors. This was my first time eating Wagyu steaks.
Reverse-sear is the first method I selected since it is my go-to for thicker steaks. Reverse-searing entails smoking the steak to a temperature between 110 and 115 degrees, followed by a rest. Then it’s seared (finished) over a hot fire. I like this method because it creates an even doneness through the whole steak, and it adds a smoky aroma and flavor. Prior to cooking, I made Steven’s bearnaise butter to melt over the steak while resting.
The second method is one of my favorites for filets. It is my twist on a Francis Mallmann recipe, a filet wrapped in bacon and sage leaves. (Mallmann is a South American chef and the author of the popular book Seven Fires. I started by lying out a strip of bacon. I then placed 3 to 4 large sage leaves on the strip of bacon. I seasoned the filet with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper and then wrapped it up in the bacon and sage leaves with a piece of butcher’s twine.
The third method was one I had never tried. I painted the filet with Dijon mustard and crusted it with freshly cracked black pepper. I prepared Steven’s peppery cream sauce while the first filet was smoking. The pepper cream sauce contains Dijon mustard and I felt it would pair well with the pepper-crusted filet.
Once the first filet was smoked and rested, I took all three filets to the Big Green Egg (BGE) that I heated up earlier. I had it set it up with a plancha (flat griddle) and cast-iron grate. I placed the bacon and sage-wrapped filet on the plancha on its sides to crisp the bacon.
At the same time, I placed the reverse-seared and the pepper-crusted filets on the cast-iron grate for direct grilling. One of the challenges I faced was that each steak was going to require different cooking times. The reverse-seared steak only needed about 3 minutes a side. The pepper-crusted steak required 6 to 7 minutes a side. I managed to finish the bacon-wrapped filet without burning the bacon. I used an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature of the filets and cooked each steak to 135 degrees for medium-rare. I removed the filets from the grill and rested them on a wire rack over a sheet pain.
While the steaks rested, I finished preparing two classic sides for steaks, mushroom risotto and sautéed spinach. I also topped the reverse-seared filet with the bearnaise butter so it would melt while resting.
It was finally time to taste the steaks and see if I was able to elevate the flavor of the filets.
Each steak had the melt-in-your-mouth tenderness I expect from a filet. I feel the bacon added the right amount of salt and fat to the lean steak and the sage leaves stand up the bacon and add a fresh herbal note to the steak.
The reverse-seared Wagyu filet had a tenderness that I had never experienced with a steak. It had the smoky aroma and flavor I’m familiar with from the smoking process. The fresh herbs in the melted bearnaise butter provided a brightness to the filet.
The black pepper formed a spicy crust that I loved. It created a contrast in textures between the crust and the tender meat. The creamy pepper sauce balanced the crispy exterior of the filet and made the filet more luscious. I think the flavor of the filets was over-the-top (definitely not your grocery store filets) and with the addition of the bearnaise butter, the bacon and sage, and the pepper cream sauce, these filets were next level.
My favorite of the three filets was the pepper-crusted one with the pepper cream sauce: I was surprised by how good it tasted. I think any one of these recipes will create the ultimate experience for your Valentine’s Day dinner.
Try one of these filets and you will understand how “the way to the heart is through the stomach”!