Valentine's Dinner for Two
Fillet Mignonby David Bulla
Nothing can set a mood for romance like a fine home cooked intimate meal for two. This Valentine's day, I wanted to give my sweetie a few of her favorites, beef tenderloin, sweet potatoes and asparagus. I wanted to make it a little different by adding some Texas flair, yet keep it simple enough to allow time to concentrate on other aspects of the evening.
We start our special meal with a simple and elegant salad of mixed greens with strips of jicama and fresh avocado, dressed with cilantro-lime vinaigrette and garnished with crusty pepper jack cheese croutons. For the main course we have a marinated seared beef tenderloin filet with a roasted shallot and port wine sauce accompanied by savory chipotle sweet potatoes and asparagus roasted with garlic and olive oil.
While this meal may sound a little bit complicated by description, it is elegant and simple to prepare. The menu is designed to have complimenting and contrasting flavors with unexpected twists. The potatoes are surprisingly savory in a world where sweet potatoes are expected to be "sweet." The chipotle pepper does not add much discernable heat but it does add a wonderful slightly smoky and tangy flavor to the potatoes. The beef tenderloin and the accompanying sauce add the sweetness for the dish. The asparagus has the slight crunchy texture and accompanies the other items while adding a contrast in color.
Find a good loaf of bread that you want to serve with the main course of this meal. I go for a nice crusty baguette, but this can be done with any bread that you can slice.
From the baguette, slice about 6-8 slices about ¼ inch thick. Arrange these on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil, and sprinkle with a little bit of salt and pepper. Place a thin slice of pepper-jack cheese on each crouton. Bake at 350degF until the cheese is melted, and the bread is crisp and toasted.
Mixed Green Salad with Jicama and Avocado
Peel the jicama. I find it easy to use a paring knife instead of a peeler. Slice a few ¼ inch disks and then cut into very thin strips. Halve the avocado, remove from the skin with a large spoon and slice into strips lengthwise. In a large bowl, toss the salad greens with enough dressing to coat. Plate the salad. Arrange the avocado in a wagon wheel pattern around the salad. In the same bowl, add the jicama strips and a little dressing. Toss to coat. Place a small pile of the jicama strips on top and in the center of the salad. You can garnish with a little diced tomato or shredded carrot for color if you like. Place some of the pepper-jack cheese croutons around the rim of the plate. That's it!
Chipotle Sweet Potatoes
Beef TenderloinHave your favorite butcher cut two nice 8oz tenderloin filets for you.
Roasted Shallot Port Wine Sauce - Make ahead of time.
2 whole shallots, cut in half, tough outer peel and root ends removed, coated with a little olive oil. Roast in a hot oven (450-500 °F) until deep golden brown and soft, almost burned. Allow to cool.
You can find demi glace at gourmet food stores and in many supermarkets. Demi glace is a reduced fortified brown veal stock with an amazing depth of flavor. It will be near other broths or stocks. The best ones are in the freezer section. If necessary, substitute with beef stock or beef consume.
Cooking the SteakPreheat the oven at 500°F. Heat a cast iron or oven proof pan over medium high heat until very hot. Place the steaks in the hot pan and sear until a nice crust forms. You will get a lot of smoke from doing this so make sure your vent is on. When the bottom of the steak is nice and brown and crusty, turn it over and place the entire pan into the hot oven.
Cook to desired doneness. For medium it will take about 10-15 minutes depending on the cut of the steak. When the steak is done, remove from the hot pan and allow it to rest at room temperature while you cook the asparagus and reheat your sauce. This will allow the hot juices to redistribute through the steak and finish the cooking process. This is step is very important, and often overlooked in restaurants where time is not on the side of the cooks. You will notice the difference. You don't want your steak cold, so don't let it rest too long.
Asparagus Roasted with Olive Oil and GarlicTrim the ends of 1 bunch of asparagus and place in a bowl. Mince 1 clove of garlic very fine. Smash the garlic with the side of a large chef knife or cleaver into the cutting board and mince fine. You don't want to see big chunks of garlic in this. Drizzle the asparagus with a few tablespoons of olive oil and toss with the minced garlic. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange in one layer on a baking sheet. This can and should be done ahead up to this point. When the steak is cooked and out of the oven, the asparagus goes into the hot 500 °F oven immediately. Roast until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.
So, there you have it, an easy meal with a complex feel. Below I will give a cooking sequence for timing purposes to let you see just how quick this will go when you cook.
David Bulla is a chef living in Austin, Texas.
Online Since 1997
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