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National Filet Mignon Day
Filet mignon is otherwise known as tenderloin, I discovered to my relief when I was searching for it – apparently in vain – in the supermarket.
The cut is part of the non-weight-bearing muscle that runs down either side of the spine, and is prized because it receives very little exercise, which makes it tender. And the average steer or heifer provides no more than 4-6 pounds of fillet, which makes it expensive. But hey, writing for the food blog was a great excuse to splurge.
I bought several portions pre-wrapped in bacon, which does a lovely job of keeping it moist while it cooks; this is a significant challenge, as it’s so thick you have to cook it for a while just to get it medium-rare, and the cut has very little fat in it to stop it drying out.
To accompany this delectable treat, I would normally go the route of my UK roots and boil up some taters. But a) it’s summer and I want lighter fare, and b) I recently read that a low-insulin diet helps combat the onset of aging. Potatoes are a surprisingly high source of sugar, and I just turned 45, so my customary food choices may be in for a shake-up.
But I like the substantial nature of potatoes. I have a fast metabolism, so if I don’t feel full after a meal I quickly get hungry again. So I decided to make two dishes to go with the filet – a lima bean salad to add fibre and bulk as well as texture and taste, and an arugula and mushroom salad to pay homage to summer.
Cooking the filet was easy – in the pan on medium-high heat for about eight minutes each side created a soft, juicy, quite rare steak that sliced up nicely. I cut up the bacon too and put the steak and bacon pieces together in the oven to keep warm. Arranged on the arugula with the beans on the side, it made a decadently delicious late summer supper.
Decadence and tenderloin seem to go together. In 1898, the Tenderloin district of Manhattan was known as “A Great Hotbed of Vice Roaring and Bubbling in the Heart of the City.” This area, full of bars, clubs, theatres, roof gardens, music halls and gambling dens, provided significant revenue to the political elite, who blackmailed lawbreakers in the Tenderloin to raise the funds needed to maintain control of the town.
Police Captain Alexander Williams was put in charge of the area in 1876, and later charged with complicity in this arrangement. Clearly aware of the perks he was headed for, he had coined the name for the precinct when he heard he was posted there:
“When I was transferred from the Fourth precinct to the Nineteenth I told a newspaper reporter that I had been eating rump steak down in the Fourth precinct and that I would have a chance now to eat some of the tenderloin.”
I hope we all have a chance to eat some of the tenderloin, even if only as a special treat on a summer evening…
Arugula Salad with Mushrooms
Slice up cremini mushrooms and shallots, toss with arugula and honey-mustard dressing.
Lima Bean Salad
Whisk 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar and 2 tsp Dijon with ¼ cup olive oil. Finely chop basil leaves. Mix two cans of lima beans (rinsed and drained) with dressing and basil and season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Leave to sit for an hour – the flavours really develop!
Melt some butter in heavy large pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper and cook to desired doneness. Transfer to cutting board; let stand 10 minutes. Cut each steak (and bacon if using) into slices.
Divide arugula salad among four plates on one half of the plate. Arrange steak (and bacon) slices on top of each salad. Spoon bean salad onto the other half of the plate. A $15 BC Cabernet Merlot went brilliantly with the flavours.