BLACK PEPPERED FILETS MIGNONS WITH COGNAC & GARLIC POTATO CRISPS
When you open a restaurant you have to ask yourself: what do people like to eat? The answer is steak, particularly a fantastic, well-cooked, perfectly seasoned one with a peppercorn crust. At least that’s what I think they like because it’s one of the things I love.
So for the restaurant we often offered a filet mignon, drenched in creamy Cognac sauce and served with the crispiest home-made potato crisps. In other words, we put my theory to the test. Almost everybody ordered it – and when they returned they were disappointed if it wasn’t on the menu. In a world of no sure bets, this is the exception.
FOR THE FILETS MIGNONS
4 x 125g-230g beef filets mignons (eye fillets) 4 tablespoons vegetable oil ¼ cup (60ml) cognac ½ cup (120ml) beef stock 4 tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces ½ cup (120ml) crème fraîche
Generously season the steaks with coarse sea salt and enough coarsely ground black pepper to cover entirely. Press the seasonings in with your hands if necessary.
Working in two batches, heat a large frying pan (skillet), preferably cast iron, over a high heat until it’s very hot. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and sear the steaks over a mediumhigh heat until well browned and medium-rare in the centre, about 2 minutes per side.
Repeat with the remaining steaks and oil. Set aside on a warm plate to rest while you make the sauce.
Pour off any excess oil from the frying pan (leave as much pepper as possible) and reduce the heat to medium. Pour in the cognac and simmer to reduce by at least half, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beef stock and simmer gently until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.
Swirl in the butter, piece by piece; as the butter melts and is incorporated, the sauce should start to thicken. Stir in the crème fraîche and continue to heat until hot. Do not boil. When the sauce coats the back of a spoon, it’s ready.
Return the steaks to the pan, along with any accumulated juices, and turn the steaks over in the hot sauce to coat.
Transfer the steaks and sauce to a serving dish or plates and serve immediately with garlic potato crisps.
FOR THE GARLIC POTATO CRISPS
450 g potatoes 2 cups (475ml) rendered duck fat fleur de sel or flaky sea salt 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Peel the potatoes, then slice them as thinly as possible with a mandoline. Soak the potatoes in a bowl of cold water for 3 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Wrap in a clean tea towel and set aside.
In a large pan, heat the duck fat over a medium heat to 160°C. Test the temperature of the duck fat by dropping in a small piece of potato. If the potato turns golden within seconds, the fat is ready.
Working in batches, fry the potato slices, turning once, until golden and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and season with fleur de sel or flaky sea salt.
Fry the garlic slices for a minute (they cook very quickly) and scatter over the crisps. Serve immediately.
WINE A peppery New Zealand syrah. Try the Church Road McDonald Series Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2013.
This is an edited extract from French Country Cooking by Mimi Thorisson, published by Hardie Grant, RRP $49.99. Photography: © Oddur Thorisson 2016