Filet Mignon and Cherries. Summer party!
I’m not much of a TV watcher (except “So You Think You Can Dance”) and a while back, I was passing by the den one visit to my Mom’s when the “Gilmore Girls” was on. The scene was a woman in a dimly lit kitchen. She was standing by the sink, tore open a bag of salad mix, dumped some bottled dressing in it and forked up an unenthusiastic mouthful. Sad.
Nourishing yourself should include feeding your soul. This menu (thanks to the recipe plugin I use) can be an elegant meal for one or the basis for a mid-week party without any fuss. All the components can be made ahead and assembled while your guests are arriving. And as for bagged salad at the sink? No way! You need a wonderful meal to look forward to after a long, busy day.
Skip the drive through window. Set out some pretty dishes. Fire up the Spotify playlist and enjoy! I’ve chosen tunes for summer lushness – a little humid with the occasional light breeze.
The salad recipe is based on one from Cooks Illustrated. The original featured chicken breast and an orange-marmalade dressing. When I saw fresh organic cherries at the market, I remembered the recipe, but chicken didn’t seem to do the cherries justice. At the time, I was the personal chef for several clients, and I had to cook all the dishes in advance. I loved steak right off the grill and served with crisp salad vegetables, but this wouldn’t be possible with a pre-prepared dish. And rib eyes or sirloin served another day are just leftovers. I thought about filet mignon, and when I tried it out, it was perfect. Why? Because the lack of marbling means that you won’t run into streaks of cold, hard fat. The tender texture of cooked tenderloin doesn’t suffer as much from refrigeration. A little of the luxurious meat goes a long way, plus filet mignon demands bold flavors to offset its inherent blandness, which is why Béarnaise or another assertive sauce almost always accompanies this cut of beef.
Harris isn’t a main-course salad kind of guy generally. But he loves this meal. There are so many interesting textures and tastes, and the dressing is perfection. For a paleo version, you can omit the goat cheese, but do try to use Sherry vinegar and orange peel and juice in the dressing. They pull the dish together the way that the perfect shoes and jewelry make an outfit. I opted to use a fresh orange instead of commercial marmalade to keep the dressing real.
I love dishes like this for entertaining because guests can easily bypass ingredients they don’t appreciate. And dressing a salad is a matter of personal taste. Some like a little, others like a lot.
The sweet potato soup is a great way to open the menu. People love soup, but we don’t often think to serve it as an appetizer. It’s fresh and light and delicious. A novel way to present the dish is in a mug with or without a spoon. I like the clear taste of the sweet potatoes with its water base, but feel free to use homemade bone broth instead if you like. The squeeze of lemon in the end adds zing and perks up a flagging mid-summer appetite.
- 2 large sweet potatoes peeled and diced
- 1 tbsp butter or ghee or coconut oil
- 1 medium onion minced
- 2 medium celery stalks minced
- 2 tbsp gingerroot peeled and grated
- 2 bay leaves dried, not fresh (which can taste like menthol)
- 4 cups water
- salt, white pepper and cayenne to taste
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or coconut milk
Melt butter in Dutch oven or large saucepan. Add onion and sauté without browning about 5 minutes. Add celery and sauté 5 minutes. Add ginger and bay leaves and sweet potatoes. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add water, stir to combine, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let cook 20 minutes.
Check sweet potatoes for doneness. They should be tender and mash easily. Remove bay leaves and using an immersion blender, purée. You can also purée in batches in a blender or food processer. Or you can use a potato masher if you prefer a chunkier texture.
Add heavy cream or coconut milk, stirring to combine and heating for a minute or two. At this point you can cool to room temperature if serving later and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat. Ladle into serving dishes, squeeze lemon juice on each serving, garnish with lemon slices and serve.
- 1 lb. filet mignon also called beef tenderloin
- 1 tbsp ghee or tallow or refined, expeller coconut oil
- 1 cup organic cherries pitted, if desired
- 4 oz. goat cheese optional, sliced (use unflavored dental floss for neat presentation)
- 1/2 cup pecans roasted and lightly salted
- 1 head organic lettuce Bibb or Romaine are good choices
- 1 cucumber thinly sliced
- 1 orange zest removed, one half juiced (save remaining half for munching)
- 1 tbsp shallot minced
- 1/4 cup Sherry wine vinegar
- 1/3-1/2 cup organic olive oil or avocado or macadamia nut oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes. Season beef with salt (pepper will burn). Add ghee or other fat to skillet. Place filets in skillet. Sear on first side for two minutes. Turn and sear on second side for two minutes. Turn on rounded side and sear for one minute. Continue rotating filets on their rounded sides until complete seared, moving each after one minute. Return filets to flat side, flip after 30 seconds. Using an instant-read thermometer, test for doneness: 125 degrees for medium rare, 130 for medium. Continue turning and flipping every 30 seconds, test again after a minute or two for doneness until cooked to desired temperature.
Set filets aside on plate to rest and cool to room temperature, place in covered container and refrigerate.
Make dressing: Place orange zest and juice (from half the orange only) in very small sauce pan. Reduce over medium heat 3-4 minutes until syrupy and thick. Do not brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit.
In a small bowl add minced shallot, salt and pepper. Add orange mixture and Sherry vinegar, stirring to combine. Add 1/3 cup oil, whisking while combining. Taste before adding more oil. Continue to add oil until tartness is to your liking. Cover and chill.
Wash and dry lettuce, placing it in a large plastic bag with a sheet of paper towel and refrigerate. Wash and dry cherries and pit if desired; place in covered container and refrigerate. Wash and dry cucumber and refrigerate (slice just before serving.) Using unflavored dental floss, slice goat cheese without separating slices until serving time, wrap gently to keep from squeezing slices back together and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, line a platter with lettuce, slice filets and place on platter along with cherries, cucumbers, goat cheese and pecans. Recombine dressing and pass separately.