A new post from Shannon Hayes, author of The Farmer and the Grill , perfect for Valentine’s Day! I wonder if the butcher has any filet mignon left at this late hour…
In the fifteen years Bob and I have been together, we’ve figured out how to orchestrate the perfect romantic evening. Flowers and chocolates were long ago dismissed. Jewelry goes largely unappreciated. Fancy restaurants or elegant stays in romantic B&Bs are over-rated. An amorous evening for us means staying home with a vodka martini in one hand, a plate of grassfed filet mignon in the other, and the romantic crackling fire of a hot grill just outside the kitchen door.
For years, filet mignon was a cut I shied away from. Since it comes from the muscle on the animal that does the least amount of work, it doesn’t pack the same beefy intensity as a chuck eye steak or London broil. I dutifully cooked it until it was medium rare, but found myself bored with the flavor by the third bite.
Then I read about the health benefits of raw or super-rare meat, how it is easier for the body to digest. So I experimented with a piece of filet…and discovered a world of delicate flavor that I’d never before appreciated. Filet mignon does not have the characteristic intense beef flavor that is so prominent in other cuts, so when left rare, the other two components that mark the distinctive grassfed flavor – the taste of minerals from nutrient-rich soils and the sweet herbaceousness from lush pastures – are much more pronounced. Compared to a rib eye or sirloin steak, a rare piece of filet mignon tastes almost floral. The flavor nuances are so delightful and interesting, I myself rhapsodizing about the extraordinary taste to the very last bite.
Admittedly, a piece of filet makes for a pretty pricey dinner. The tenderloin muscle on a beef makes up less than 2% of the overall carcass weight. There is not a lot of it to go around. But even at $28 per pound (our farm market price), the cost of a home-cooked filet mignon dinner is a whole lot cheaper than dinner out. And since it is best cooked out on the grill (even in the depths of winter on a snowy Valentines’ day), there’s not a lot of prep work in the kitchen (leaving ample time for sipping cocktails), and there are very few dishes to wash up later (leaving ample time for other pursuits). Here’s how we cook the filet in our house:
Grilled Filet Mignon with Lemon Herb Butter
- 1 pound filet mignon steaks, 1 1 /2 inches thick (two 8 ounce pieces)
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
- 1 recipe Lemon Herb Butter, see below
Sprinkle the steaks on both sides with the salt and pepper. Set them aside and allow them to come to room temperature while you light one side of your grill.
Allow the grill to heat up. When you can hold your hand four inches above the grate for no more than 3 or 4 seconds, lay the steaks across the grate and sear them for 2 minutes on each side.
Remove the steaks to the cool side of the grill. Put the lid on, and allow them to cook indirectly for 4-5 minutes. Serve immediately, topped with a generous dollop of Lemon Herb Butter.
Lemon Herb Butter
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Beat the butter until light and fluffy, then blend in the remaining ingredients. Serve immediately, or cover in an air-tight container and store in refrigerator for up to one month.
Shannon Hayes, host of GrassfedCooking.com , is the author of The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook, The Farmer and the Grill , and Radical Homemakers . She works with her family raising grassfed meat on Sap Bush Hollow Farm in upstate New York. Her newest book, Long Way on a Little: An Earth Lovers’ Companion for Enjoying Meat, Pinching Pennies and Living Deliciously, is due out in September. Copies of her books are available through GrassfedCooking.com  at wholesale and retail prices.