Filet mignon is, by my way of thinking, a special occasion kind of dish, one that celebrates life’s victories, even those as seemingly minor as gathering a far-flung family together for the same meal.
Until I became seriously devoted to cooking at home, steakhouses were my only source for a truly divine filet mignon, prepared Pittsburg Style if the chef was familiar with the method; otherwise, rare would do. It never occurred to me that I could recreate this dish at home, where, I assumed, I was limited heat-wise by the home cook’s stovetop and oven.
That all changed the day I saw Ina Garten prepare steakhouse steaks on her show, Barefoot Contessa. As with all things Barefoot, she made the method so simple, it would be a sin not attempt this one at home. The result? Steakhouse perfection.
This is an intimate dish, designed for two (or maybe one) because the method prohibits preparing more than two steaks at a time. You’ll need a large 10-12″ cast iron skillet; Lodge sells pre-seasoned workhorses for less than $20 online. And since that’s less than the price of one meal at even the most pedestrian of steakhouses, you’re already ahead of the game. This recipe works equally well with New York strip steaks.
If you want to go all out, check out Ina Garten’s original recipe; she’s not afraid of salt or butter, and even suggests a lovely creamy cheese sauce as an accompaniment. My version is less extravagant but nonetheless has Mr. Gonzo licking his plate clean.
2 filet mignon, 8-10 ounces each
1 tablespoon neutral oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Preheat the oven to 400°.
- Preheat the skillet over high heat until water flicked onto the surface sizzles; about 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the steaks. Using a paper towel, blot the steaks dry.
- Pour the oil into a shallow dish or plate, and lightly coat the steaks on all sides. Move steaks to a clean plate.
- Combine the salt and pepper and rub over the steaks, concentrating the rub on the top and bottom of each steak.
- Once the skillet is ready, sear the steaks, about 2 minutes per side, or until you can no longer stand the heat. Sear the edges, too.
- Place a tablespoon of butter atop each steak.
- Using a proven oven mit, carefully place the skillet into the oven and bake, starting at 8 minutes for rare, longer to your preference.
- When done, allow the steaks to rest for 10 minutes at room temperature on a plate covered in tin foil.
If you’re feeling French, serve with my version of Gwyneth Paltrow’s baked fries.
Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten.