Very little beats fillet cooked with Brie
AH, THE French. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. The French enhance a sophisticated, well-lived life in so many ways. Not only in the obvious merits of fine wine and some of the planet’s greatest recipes. Not only for the style of Gallic fashion or the magnificence of their architecture.
The French give us many other things. Their movie industry is among the best in the world. They boast one of the world’s greatest capital cities in Paris. As for the restaurant, that space where we spend our precious times and in all likelihood far too much money, there has been no greater influence on restaurants and the culture of eating in the world, with the arguable exception of Italy.
Yet who has not visited France and walked into a department store or a boutique and been given the cool Gallic down-the-nose stare or the gruff response when asking the price of something?
Anyway, give me a lovely bottle of Burgundy or a sinful round of stinky Brie, and I’ll tell you how wonderful I think the French are when they aren’t being aloof. I bought some French Brie only this week. Deeply flavourful, quite unlike the pallid versions we seem to make in South Africa.
I had been planning to write about beef fillet this week, and indeed that is what I cooked, but it was the Brie that was the object of desire in this dish. My selection was supremely soft with that oozy, not quite runny, texture that is perfect for Brie or Camembert. I had already decided to grill beef fillet steaks, and fancied topping each with a big, fat mushroom which in turn would be topped with some kind of cheese, and finished under the grill. Then I spotted a lovely round of French Brie at my local Cradock supermarket and decided to cut it through the middle. There had to be garlic in there, obviously, and then I popped into my herb garden and was about to pick parsley when I remembered the sage.
In the end, the combination of a pan-fried mushroom with chopped garlic, a generous round of Brie and a scattering of chopped sage leaves was the best stuffed mushroom I remember eating.
The trick with mushrooms is never serve them raw. First fry them off in olive oil, on both sides, but before doing that, carefully cut away the stems and fry those alongside. Season the mushrooms on both sides with salt and pepper, then put them on a rack over an oven dish. Scatter finely chopped garlic over, place a round of Brie on top to fit edge to edge, and scatter chopped sage leaves on top. Cook them on the lowest rung of the oven below the hot grill. They will heat through as the cheese melts.
Most of the above can be done before you fry the steaks. I used my ridged griddle pan, in which I melted butter, to which I added more sage and cooked the steaks on a moderate heat, spooning over the sage butter every now and then, and turning as needed. Judge cooking according to your own taste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
On the plate went a steak, topped by a Brie- cheesy mushroom. Deglaze the steak pan with dry red wine and a splash of whisky, and into it stir a tablespoon or three of creme fraiche. Serve with julienne courgettes cooked simply in olive oil with garlic and salt and pepper.