Something draws me to large hunks of meat. It’s strange really, because there are only two people who generally need to be fed in my household, and so I generally don’t need a kilo or two of solid beef in one piece to carve a meal out of. However, since the astounding success of my beef wellington recently, I’ve become somewhat enamoured with that special cut that is the beef fillet.
So, finally making progress at my Chinese butchers (they are getting better at pretending they understand me, and my pointing skills are through the roof), I bought a lovely beef fillet for next to nothing, having absolutely no idea what to do with it.
Back home and I had a vague recollection of Gordon Ramsey using beef fillet in something other than a beef wellington during the second series of his F-Word show… After a little detective work I managed to track the episode down and was rewarded with a great recipe for (hence title of post) beef fillet with mushroom gratin. According to Ramsey, beef fillet is the Rolls Royce of cuts… but from past experience, I’d rate it more like an F1 car… The ride of your life under the right conditions, but one wrong step and it all goes downhill very very quickly.
The recipe was pretty simple though… sear the fillet, top with gratin, into the oven, done. I decided to serve mine with some jerusalem artichokes I’d been hiding in the fridge, sauteed with pancetta and red onions.
- 1 beef fillet sliced into thick round medallions
- olive oil, salt and pepper to season
- fresh mushrooms (field, shitake, whatever you got)
- heavy cream (thickened, not double)
- 1 egg yolk
- sliced shallots
- 1 clove garlic (squashed but not chopped)
- fresh grated parmesan cheese
For the gratin
Prepare the gratin by chopping your mushrooms in chunks and your shallots finely, and sauteeing them in olive oil and a knob of butter. Add the smashed clove of garlic for a touch of garlic which won’t over power the mushrooms… and remove it after a minute or so. Once they’ve softened up and gotten some colour, take them out of the pan and into a bowl. Then add your thickened cream, egg yolk, some more salt and pepper to taste, and the finely chopped chives. Stir it all together and it should bond quite well, so that you can put it in a pile and it won’t all fall over.
So the rest is really simple. Season the fillet pieces in a good dose of olive oil, cracked pepper and sea salt, and then pop them in a hot pan and sear them all over. This means 30 seconds to a minute on each side, depending on how thick you’ve cut your slices… mine were a couple of inches thick (oh yeah !).
Once the fillets are done, leave them in the pan and pile the mushroom gratin on top…using all your physics skills to balance as much as possible on top. Then cover your glorious little towers with plenty of grated parmesan and slide them into the oven, to cook on medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes until pink and juicy… Important note: resist all temptation to leave them in longer… Beef fillet does not have the fat content to survive being over cooked, and will turn from melt in your mouth delicious to rubber ball disastrous in a matter of minutes if left in a hot oven too long.
Jerusalem artichokes are a great alternative to potatoes. They are sweet but earthy and a lovely texture. In the past I’ve made them into mash, but this time I figured i’d keep them solid. Another import thing with Jerusalem artichokes is that a lot of the flavour is in the skin. So unless absolutely necessary you should keep the skins on while you’re cooking them.
This time I using my newly sharp paring knife to slice off the knobbily gross looking bits, and then threw them into a pot of salted water to boil. When they were mostly soft, but not yet falling apart, I drained them and sliced them up into… ummm… slices.
Into a pan with butter, diced pancetta, and sliced red onion, olive oil, salt, pepper, the usual. Bring it all together over heat, and when the artichokes have coloured nicely you’re done.
Served with a 2004 Hardy’s Oomoo Shiraz that was just dandy. Bring on the whole cow next time… I’m ready.