Feelin’ it with fillet steak

Fillet steak and chips with Béarnaise sauce

Chefs, butchers and any ardent beef eater might say the fillet is boring. And bloody expensive! On beefy taste, fillet will fall short of other steaks. From the whole fillet, which was removed from the loin of beef in our demo a couple of days ago, roughly a quarter of the weight became trimmings. That was with precise trimming by chef. Those trimmings are worth maybe £35 to £40 retail. Ouch. Finding another use for the trimmings is critical. Not all of it can be used, but the meat from what’s called the chain can be used for burgers.

Fillet is about texture. That’s not to say fillet is tasteless—in my opinion. Some cows are tastier than others, depending on the breed, their feed, how they lived and how stress-free they died. Good seasoning and cooking can bring the fillet to flavour town. For me, a fillet must have a crunchy exterior with a perfect Maillard reaction and rare inside.

Today’s dish was steak and chips, or as the French say, Filet de Boeuf Grillé aves Sauce Béarnaise et Pommes Pont-Neuf.

First time using the grill and fryers today. Hard not to be excited about using new equipment in the kitchen. The grill was used to quadrillage the steaks during searing. That’s creating a cross-hatch effect. Kitsch but fun. Then into the oven for a cook to rare.

The chips were triple cooked—blanched, fried at 130C, then fried at 190C. Cooling in between. Apparently the first time fried potatoes were served in France was at a restaurant near Pont Neuf in Paris. Hence the name. They’re cut precisely to 50 mm in length, 15 mm wide and 15 mm high and served in a Jenga lattice with the top chip diagonally placed on the stack.

Fillet steak served rare

Last but not least, the Béarnaise sauce. I knocked up the sabayon over a Bain Marie at 60C with egg yolks and a reduction of white wine, white wine vinegar, shallot, peppercorns, tarragon and chervil stalks. Then emulsified with clarified butter. It’s a real work out for the forearm and shoulder. Small amounts of water and reduction were added for consistency and taste, then the chopped tarragon and chervil leaves were stirred in. Final taste and any adjust on the seasoning. Booootiful.

I’m so happy. My dish was pretty much bang on. 2 rare steaks in a crispy shell. Crispy chips with fluffy centres. Everything perfectly seasoned. Maybe just half-teaspoon more vinegar in the Béarnaise. What a way to end the week. I feel I redeemed myself somewhat in the world of steaks.

Chef’s Sauté de Boeuf Stroganoff was way different to my beef stroganoff, and not in a bad way :-). The flavour was more subtle with a gentle emphasis on paprika. I like to use chestnut mushrooms rather than white mushrooms, and more of them, because I enjoy a stronger mushroomy flavour. From an economic point of view, I’ve always used rump steak rather than fillet. I think it’s a good substitute in terms of texture and brings a beefier flavour for a fraction of the price. I’ve never bothered to garnish my stroganoff but I really liked the thin strips of beetroot and cornichon. Stroganoff is an old favourite of mine that I haven’t cooked in a long time. Time to revisit and experiment with the differences in the 2 recipes.

Tips for boiling beetroot:

  1. Water must be salty like sea, as with any vegetables cooked in water.

  2. Add red wine vinegar to the water to preserve the colour at its best.

  3. Refresh quickly after cooking under the cold tap. Gloves on and rub the skin away with a jay cloth or kitchen towel.

Beef stroganoff with beetroot and cornichon