Melissa Elsmo

My culinary school experience was filled with a veritable smorgasbord of pass/fail final exams. Acing my classes hinged on everything from splitting a live lobster without wavering to producing 75 identically plated composite desserts in under an hour. We were forced to flip an over easy egg in a single try without breaking the yolk, cleanly fillet a halibut in minutes, and whip up a perfectly emulsified hollandaise sauce by hand. It was hard not to feel the culinary pressure!

Theory and Production of Meats challenged aspiring chefs to grill or sauté a fillet mignon to a perfect medium-rare without use of a thermometer. What sounds simple proved to be quite a challenge. You see, I could afford to practice egg cookery at home, but filet mignon is seriously expensive stuff. As a struggling student I could barely afford to eat buttery steak once a year let alone more than once a week. I had no choice but to make the most of my one chance to ace my exam.

I cooked that steak with laser focus allowing it to cook for exactly four and half minutes per side. I let it rest and hoped for the best. I nervously presented the piece of meat to my knife wielding chef-instructor and waited for her to make that all-important first cut…and there it was a perfectly cooked filet mignon. It was a triumphant way to pass a class.

While many of my favorite cuts of beef are prized for their complex flavor, filet mignon is celebrated for its inherent tenderness. The meat holds little to no connective tissue making it difficult to determine when it is perfectly cooked. The touch test doesn’t apply to succulent tenderloin cuts; filets feel the same if they are brutally rare or woefully overcooked. Precise timing and uniform thickness are your best weapons when looking to find a robustly red and warm center when you finally slice into your filet mignon.

Today is national filet mignon day and I cannot think of a better way to cure a case of the Mondays than by cooking up a moan-inducing dish that pulls out all the steakhouse stops. When crispy onion rings crown a perfectly cooked filet mignon doused with decadent blue cheese butter an average weekday suddenly feels like a special occasion.

Happy Filet Day!

Seared Filet Mignon with Sautéed Mushrooms, Blue Cheese Butter and Onion Rings*

Expect to have leftover blue cheese butter when making this recipe. Use it as a spread for warm bread, as a topping for baked potatoes or as a dressing for hot cooked pasta.

For the Blue Cheese Butter:

  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
  • 6 Ounces soft Danish blue cheese, room temp
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

For the Onion Rings:

  • 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced and separated
  • 1 Cup buttermilk
  • 2 Tablespoons hot sauce
  • ¾ Cup flour
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • Canola oil for frying

For the Filet Mignon:

  • 2 (6-ounce) fillet mignon steaks, tied into 1 ½” thick rounds
  • Kosher salt and coarse black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil

For the Mushrooms:

  • 4 ounces sliced white mushrooms
  • 1Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

For Serving:

  • Additional Blue Cheese
  • Snipped Fresh Chives
  • Steamed asparagus

Make the blue cheese butter: Combine the soft butter, blue cheese, chives, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl until thoroughly combined. Set aside until ready to use (refrigerate leftovers)

To Prepare the Filet Mignon: Allow the meat to come to room temperature and season the steaks liberally with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter stops foaming add the steaks (presentation side down) and allow to sear for 4-5 minutes without disturbing. Flip the steaks and allow to cook for 4-5 additional minutes for medium-rare. Remove the steaks from the pan and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Alternatively you can sear the steaks on one side and transfer the pan to a 450 degree oven for 6-7 minutes to complete cooking. Remove the filet from the pan and allow to rest as directed.

Prepare the Mushrooms: While the steak cooks heat the butter and oil in a medium skillet over high heat. Add the mushrooms (do not over crowd the pan) and cook without disturbing until one side is deeply golden brown. Stir the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and allow the mixture to cook for 30 second before adding the balsamic vinegar. Transfer to a bowl until ready to serve.

Prepare the Onion Rings: Begin heating the oil while the steak cooks and cook the onions while the steak rests. Combine the sliced onion rings, buttermilk and hot sauce in a Tupperware. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Meanwhile mix the flour, paprika, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Heat 2” of oil in a medium high sided skillet until it reaches 375 degrees or a bread cube sizzles on contact. Remove the onion rings from the buttermilk mixture and allow the excess liquid to drip off. Toss the onions in the flour mixture to coat. Fry the onion rings in the hot oil in batches (do not over crowd the pan) until crisp and golden brown-less than 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside until ready to serve.

Plating: Remove the strings from the filet mignon, slice in half and set on a plate. Top the steak with a teaspoon or two of the blue cheese butter, mushrooms and a handful of onion rings. Sprinkle with chives and additional blue cheese and serve alongside a portion of steamed asparagus.

serves 2

*While I designed this recipe as a complete meal you can make all or part of it according to your personal tastes. Don’t feel like making onion rings? Totally cool, just skip that part of the recipe!

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