With so much of the U.S. buried under a blanket of snow, the idea of grilling outside seems unlikely for quite a while, so I have a suggestion for Plan B.
I have often said that I specialize in Plan B because Plan A seldom works!
The other day I watched The Barefoot Contessa on the Food Channel as she prepared a beautiful filet mignon in a skillet. Actually, she and her husband Jeffrey had a “Cook Off.” She prepared her steak in a hot iron skillet and he grilled his over smoldering charcoal on the outdoor grill.
The big question, which would taste better?
When I watch cooking shows I always wonder if anything is as easy as they make it look. So this time I decided to try it myself and see if the recipe is as “fool proof” as she said. I am familiar with a charbroiled steak, but not with one prepared in a skillet.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I am not a steak eater. I am not even much of a meat eater, but Hubby is and he is a great judge. He enjoys steak and I believe considers the act of grilling a significant part of the pleasure. So I was a bit reluctant to suggest my plan but when he figured out that I was going to do all of the work and he could just watch, he was all for it.
I knew that the flavors would be different but I wondered if Hubby would like the pan seared steak and how he would compare it to one grilled outdoors.
Recipe: Barefoot Contessa Steakhouse Steak
My notes in italics throughout recipe
4 (2 inch thick) filets mignons, tied (10 ounces each) I prepared only two and adjusted the recipe accordingly
2 tablespoons vegetable oil – I used canola, grape seed oil is also good for high temperatures
2 tablespoons fine *fleur de sel – that is a specific sea salt – I used finely ground sea salt from my cupboard–
2 tablespoons coarsely cracked black peppercorns
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Heat large cast iron skillet over high heat for 5 – 7 minutes
Meanwhile, pat dry the filets with paper towels. Brush lightly all over with oil. Combine the sea salt and cracked pepper on a plate and roll the filets on all sides in the mixture, pressing lightly to help the salt and pepper adhere.
Hubby thought that was too much salt. He said to cut the amount in half the next time we prepare this dish. Remember you can always add more salt later, but it is hard to remove it once it is cooked.
When the pan is extremely hot, add the steaks and sear evenly on all sides (top, bottom and sides) for about 2 minutes per side. (Be sure the cooking area is well ventilated.)
We had to open a window. The process created a lot of smoke. I seared the top and bottom for 2 minutes each and then set the timer for 6 minutes and continually rotated the steaks on their sides the full time.
Remove the pan from the heat and arrange all of the filets flat in the pan. Top each with a tablespoon of butter and place the pan in the hot oven.
Cook the filets for 8 to 12 minutes to 120 degrees for rare and 125 degrees for medium-rare.
Hubby says if you cook them to medium or well done, just don’t do it. It is a crime and you a ruining a good cut of meat! I told you he is hard core!
Remove the steaks to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
The Contessa kept repeating how fool proof this process is but I guess I didn’t believe her. I checked the steaks after 8 minutes and the meat thermometer read 125 degrees but the meat still looked very rare, so I put it back in for 1 ½ minutes more. BIG MISTAKE!
I didn’t think about the meat continuing to cook after it was placed on the platter and covered with foil. Allowing the meat to rest is a great trick, but since the meat continues to cook at bit after being removed from the oven, our steaks were more well done than we liked.
I advise to follow her directions and remove meat from the oven when it is at 120 degrees. If after resting the meat is too rare, it can be popped back in the hot skillet for a minute or two. Just like salt, the steak cannot be “uncooked” once it is too done.
Hubby’s Review: Excellent. Juicy and tender in spite of being cooked a bit too long for my taste. A bit too salty. Less salt next time. A wonderfully different flavor than charcoal grilled steak, but just as good. As good as any steakhouse steak I have eaten. The searing and seasoning combined for a wonderful flavor, equal to my favorite, charbroiled. I ate Grace’s heated leftovers on an English muffin the next morning for breakfast. Can’t beat that!
Grace’s Review: Knowing that I am not as much of a steak lover as Hubby, I agree, the meat was very tender and tasty. I agree about the salt. I ate only a portion of mine, but more than I usually do! Two thumbs up.
P.S. We baked sweet potatoes for our side dish. De-licious!
P.S.S. The Barefoot Contessa served her steak thinly sliced over an arugula salad with tangy dressing. Hubby wouldn’t go for that on a bet! Steak should be savored solo…given the proper respect it deserves!
* French Salt from the Celtic Sea and considered the finest French gourmet sea salt – available online or at Williams Sonoma.
For printable version of recipe click here.
Living and eating with Grace...and i'm grace