Archive | February, 2012

Special Valentine’s Day Steak Dinner – Filet Mignon with Cognac Cream Sauce

12 Feb

Decadent Steak Recipe

Last year for Valentine’s Day, D and I took a couple’s cooking class at ICE Culinary School in NYC.  The theme of the class was “The Great New York Steakhouse” and over the course of the evening, we learned how to make: Shrimp Cocktail, Clams Casino, Caesar Salad, New York Strip Steak, Filet Mignon, Pork Chops, Creamed Spinach, Truffled Mashed Potatoes and Almond Bread Pudding.  Everything was delicious and we left the class stuffed and excited to re-make the recipes at home.  Our favorite dish was, hands down, Filet Mignon au Poivre with Cognac Cream Sauce.  It’s not an easy dish by any means but it’s so, so good and the sauce makes this dish really special and also decadent.  We loved it so much, we’re going to make it at home on Valentine’s Day this year and open up a bottle of Quintessa wine that we bought on our trip to Napa last August.  Since the sauce is on the heavier side, I generally serve this dish with roasted veggies (like roasted squash and brussels sprouts seen here) to balance the steak out.  Happy Valentine’s Day!  I hope you all like this meal as much as we do!

Filet Mignon au Poivre with Cognac Cream Sauce
(Adapted from ICE Culinary Class)
Serves 6

Ingredients
6 filet mignon, 6 oz. each
Salt & pepper
Canola oil
3 tbsp. butter, divided
2 shallots, minced
1/4 cup cognac (I use Hennessy)
2 cups beef stock, reduced by half (I use low sodium stock)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. chervil, minced (or use parsley, I can never find fresh chervil at the grocery store)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Heat a large, saute pan and add oil to lightly coat bottom of pan. In a small pot, heat beef stock until half of the liquid has evaporated and you’re left with one cup.  (This intensifies the flavor of the stock.)
3. Season the filets with salt and pepper just before cooking.  *The trick to perfectly seasoned steaks is to use ROOM TEMPERATURE steaks, pat the meat dry before seasoning, season immediately before serving, and ensure the saute pan is hot BEFORE you put the steaks on it.
4. Add the filets to the saute pan and sear both sides.  *The steak is ready to be turned over when it gets a crust on the bottom and doesn’t stick to the pan.  Patience is very important here – don’t mess around with/move around the steaks once you put them in the pan unless you are flipping the steak over.  It should take max 5 minutes per side.
5. Once you finish the steaks, put the saute pan aside and transfer them to a baking dish and put them in the oven until desired level of doneness.  Estimates are   10-15 minutes for medium rare, 15-20 minutes for medium, 20+ for medium well/well done.  The temperature should be no lower than 130 degrees if you’re using a meat thermometer.  *A trick we learned in class is to relax your hand and feel the tendon part of your hand between your thumb and pointer finger.  That is how a medium rare steak should feel when you poke the middle of the steak and it’s done.
6. When done, place the filets on a wire race and let rest for 5 minutes.
7. While the steaks are in the oven, prepare the sauce.  Using the saute pan that you used to cook the steaks (Pour out the extra oil, but DO NOT CLEAN IT – the “fond” – little pieces of meat that stuck to the pan – adds extra flavor to the sauce), add 2 tbsp. butter and melt over medium-high heat.
8. When melted, add the shallots.  Cook the shallots until translucent and soft.  This should take about two minutes.
9. Deglaze (take pan off burner) and flambe with cognac.  *Trick – to flambe, pour the cognac into the saute pan then tilt the pan slightly so the liquid drains to one side.  Move the saute pan over the burner and the flame should cause the cognac to ignite.  Off the burner, swirl the liquid around in the pan until the flame has burned off.
10. When the flames have died down, scrape the pan to free the brown pieces of fond.   Add the reduced stock and let cook until further reduced by half.
11. Add  the heavy cream and reduce by half again.  It should be thick enough now that it coats the back of the spoon you’re stirring it with.
12. Finish the sauce by swirling in 1 tbsp. butter.  Do this OFF the heat.  Season with salt and pepper.
13. Serve sauce over cooked filet mignon and garnish with chervil.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Serves 6

Ingredients
1 package brussels sprouts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Crushed red pepper, optional

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Clean brussels sprouts (cut off hard ends, remove yellow leaves).  In a large bowl, lightly coat brussels sprouts with olive oil.  Season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper.
3. Spread brussels sprouts on a baking dish (cover with foil if you want to make clean up easier).
4. Roast in oven for around 40 minutes.  They should be crispy on the outside but still tender inside.


Roasted Butternut Squash

Serves 6-8

Ingredients
2 whole butternut squash (or 6 pre-cut/cleaned/peeled butternut squash halves – you can find these at Fairway Market)
Cinnamon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 stick of butter

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. If using whole butternut squash, wash well then cut each in half, lengthwise.  Scoop out seeds and gunk inside squash and discard so just the “meaty” part remains.
3. Using your hands, lightly rub olive oil on both sides of squash.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.
4. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray and place squash flesh side is face down.  Bake for 50-60 minutes (if squash is peeled) or 60-75 minutes if using whole squash.  It is finished when a knife can be easily inserted into the squash.
5. Melt butter and combine with maple syrup.  When squash has ten minutes or so left to cook, take it from oven and lightly brush squash with butter/maple syrup mixture.  The longer you cook the squash with the butter/maple syrup, the sweeter it will be.  The glaze will take around five minutes to set so that is the minimum cook time for the squash once the butter/maple syrup has been applied.
6. Remove from oven, cut each piece in half once more and serve immediately.

Decadent Filet Mignon Recipe

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Caramel Cake

5 Feb

Caramel Cake

Caramel cake is a Southern dessert that is traditionally made with white cake and caramel frosting.  Lots of variations exist (i.e., caramel cake and caramel icing, yellow cake with buttercream icing drizzled with caramel), but in my opinion, the original is the best.  When I am home, my mom always picks up Cindy Lou’s caramel cakes from the Cashiers (NC) Farmers Market (visit their website).  While I’ve tried to replicate her recipe at least a dozen times, I can never quite perfect it.  Usually, my icing is too thin (and seeps into the cake) or too hard (and nearly impossible to spread onto the cake).  While the icing in today’s attempt is darker than Cindy Lou’s version, I think I finally figured this cake out!  At the least this recipe will tide me over until I am back in North Carolina and can get a slice of the real thing!  A few important lessons I have learned during my caramel cake attempts:

1. Buy a candy thermometer.  It’s the best $5 I spent and really helps to know when the icing is done.
2. When making the caramel icing, use LOW heat.  It takes forever (or nearly an hour in my case), but you won’t burn the caramel and make a huge mess of your kitchen.
3. Wait for the cake and the icing to be fully cooled before you try and ice the cake.  If either is still warm, the icing won’t stay on the cake.
4. Sometimes, you can’t recreate a recipe to a tee and that’s OK.  However, Cindy Lou – if you’re reading this and want to give me your recipe, I would be forever grateful!!!

Cindy Lou's Old Fashioned Cakes - Caramel Cake

The Original - Cindy Lou's Caramel Cake

Caramel Cake
(Inspired by Cindy Lou’s Old Fashioned Cakes 828-526-9310)
Cake adapted from Gourmet, January 2008; icing adapted from here, source unknown  

Ingredients
For the Cake:
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For the Icing:
3 cups (light) brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons half and half
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
For the Cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8-inch square cake pan and line with a square of parchment paper, then butter parchment.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture may look curdled – see photo below). Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.

Caramel Cake Batter
4. Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.
5. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

For the Icing:
1. Mix sugar and half and half in a heavy saucepan and cook, stirring over low heat until syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 235 degrees on a candy thermometer. If lacking a thermometer, check doneness by dropping a tiny bit of syrup into a cup of cold water. When the syrup can be gathered up in fingers and will almost hold its shape, it has reached the soft-ball stage.
2. Remove pan from heat. Stir in butter, then let syrup cool. Add vanilla and beat until frosting reaches spreading consistency (note: the icing will thicken as it cools). A little cream (or half-and-half) may be added is mixture is too thick.

Caramel Cake Icing

Good icing consistency

3. Spread icing on cooled cake.  Don’t skimp on the icing!  The photo below contains only the first 1/3 of the icing that I ultimately used to frost the cake.  (Note: This is a really messy, sticky cake.  In order to make cleanup easier, I put the cake inside a disposable roasting pan to frost it and transport it to my friend’s apartment.  Not the prettiest way to serve it, but caramel would have been everywhere otherwise!)

Caramel Cake

Icing the cake