You had to die only to be served up covered in some licorice. At least you got to spend your life on a farm, pastured and nibbling on grasses.
Menu No. 13: Spice-Rubbed Beef Filets; Golden Potato Puree; Port-Glazed Pearl Onions; Chocolate Truffles
Prep Schedule: make truffles and refrigerate; simmer and glaze onions; boil potatoes and steep bay leaf in milk; rub filets with spice crust and sear; puree potatoes
Truffles: In a fit of rebellion, we declined to make these. Of late I can’t eat chocolate, especially dark chocolate, without getting a migraine or at least a regular headache. The Husband is similarly afflicted at times. I made chocolate truffles at Christmas for a treat exchange and this recipe appears similar, except that it seems like more of a pain in the ass because it demands using an ice bath. When I made them, the chocolate mixture was refrigerated, then scooped into balls. Moving on…
The recipe is a tad unusual in that you steam some milk with a bay leaf in it while the Yukon Gold potatoes are boiling. Using her ratio of milk to potatoes would have left me with a pile of dry boiled potatoes. I used twice as much of the milk, and a bit of the cooking water, per her suggestion, along with a bit of butter. The bay leaf flavor was so, so subtle that the potatoes were really just kind of boring, and definitely not creamy enough; they were a touch watery. More butter and milk were needed.
Port-glazed Pearl Onions:
I used some red pearl onions, but Martha says you can also use white. I am a bit confused about why both Martha and the package say the easy way to peel the onions is to blanch them then squeeze the onions out of the peel. Am I the only one who thinks boiling another pot of water (and then washing the pot) is more trouble than using a paring knife to cut the skins off raw? It didn’t take that long ,even though I cut off the tops when I only needed to cut off the bottoms. Live and learn.
This was the the best part of the meal, although her directions were somewhat outside the realms of reality and science. The onions and wine were simmered until the liquid was reduced to a thin syrup. Then, a bit of sugar, beef stock and red wine vinegar were added; supposedly it would reduce and thicken if just simmered gently for 10 minutes. The directions specifically said not to boil it. Well, of course it hadn’t reduced at all after 10 minutes of a simmer, so I had to crank up the heat and boil it, for more than 10 more minutes, to get it to thicken and for the onions to become tender. The house didn’t explode when I boiled it against her instructions, but there was quite a bit of thunder outside. Hmm.
This was the best thing on the plate. It was a tad sweet, a bit spicy from the onions, and it had a rich flavor. Here’s the recipe (adapted from Dinner at Home, by Martha Stewart):
2 c pearl onions, peeled
1.5 cups tawny port (we used a sweet red wine, labeled as such, from Trader Joe’s)
1 T sugar
1 c beef stock, low sodium if store-bought
1 T red wine vinegar
2 T unsalted butter
Bring onions and port to simmer in a medium saute pan over medium heat; cook, stirring ocassionally, until liquid reduces to a thin syrup, about 10 minutes. Add sugar and cook until dissolved, about one minute. Pour in stock and vinegar, and cook until reduced and thickened, and onions are tender. Add butter, stirring until melted. Add salt and pepper.
Oh, I was so not looking forward to this recipe. I haven’t been eating beef for a variety of reasons, then I just read Omnivore’s Dilemma, which made me even less inclined to eat meat. The recipe calls for rubbing star anise on a filet mignon. My aversion to licorice-y substances is well documented in this blog, so there was no way I was going to eat this one. Mr. Squeaky Peanut likes beef and licorice, and was, in fact, having a licorice-y cocktail while I made this. Ew.
I managed to procure a filet from Dragonfly Farms via the Fall Line Farm co-op I mentioned last week. All of the farm’s meat is grass-fed and finished, so I at least felt good about that. However, the recipe calls for grinding up some star anise, peppercorns, and coarse salt and using it as a rub. Why, oh why, oh why, would you want to ruin a lovely, expensive piece of meat by putting that terrible spice on it?
The filet was seared on both sides, then put in the oven at 450 for ten minutes. It was supposed to be medium rare at this point, but even though I took it out a minute early, it was overcooked. I was worried because grass fed beef has to cook lower and slower than corn-fed beef. The Husband likes his beef well-done, so he didn’t mind.
The anise flavor was pretty noticeable, and I didn’t like it. That aside, it really had nothing else to recommend it. It definitely needed more pepper. The Husband said it would have made more sense to use an herb de Provence mix to get an anise-y flavor, with some other herby goodness along with it.
This meal made me sad, but Martha calls this a “celebratory dinner.” You know what I’m celebrating? The end of the Winter recipe section!
Beef: C Too plain, yet too licorice-y at the same time. A waste of a nice piece of meat.
Potatoes: D I mean, seriously, who can’t make good mashed potatoes?!
Onions: B+ In the context of the meat, it’s an A-, since it helped the meat tremendously. This is the only thing we’d make again, but paired with something better.