Monday, February 13, 2017

Hickory Smoked Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon with Vanilla Bean Gastrique

     Beef Tenderloin Information & Rustic Refined Flavors!  
     By American definition, a beef tenderloin has three sections.  The three sections are the head, the filet mignon (middle) and the tail.  The head is the thick end and the tail is the thin end.  Where the middle section begins and ends is usually a judgement call.
     By French definition, a Beef Tenderloin has four sections.  The thick end is called the Tornados, the thick round middle section is the Filet Mignon (or Chateaubriand), the tapering part of the middle section is the Medallions (Fr.-Medaillon) and the slender thin end is the Tenderloin Tips.
     A French Filet Mignon section is perfectly round after it is properly trimmed and one end is only slightly narrower than the thick end.  The uniformity of this high quality cut of Beef Tenderloin is why the famous Chateaubriand recipe is made with only the Filet Mignon section.
     With the French Chateaubriand Section of a Beef Tenderloin in mind, this is the highest level of quality to look for when shopping for a Filet Mignon Steak.  A thick, perfectly round Filet Mignon Steak that weighs 6 to 8 ounces is the best choice.  If the steak tapers and is narrower on one end, then it was cut well into the Medaillon Section.  If the steak looks like it is split in two or it is an odd shape, then it was cut well into the Tornados Section.  Steaks that are cut well into the Medaillon or Tornados Sections actually are just Tenderloin Steaks.  Tenderloin Steaks should sell for a slightly lower price, because a true Filet Mignon Steak is the cream of the crop.      
     Purchasing a Whole Tenderloin Section is the best way increase dining value in a restaurant or home kitchen.  To prepare a Tenderloin Section, the chain, all fat and silver floss (sinew) must be removed.  The Trimmed Whole Beef Tenderloin can then be cut into sections.  Each section can be cut into pairs of Tornados, thick Filet Mignon Steaks, thin Medaillons and small Beef Tips.  All meat scraps should be saved for Beef Tips or Chopped Beef recipes.
     The fat scraps can be rendered for making roux, but this practice is rarely done in this modern age.  However, the fat can be roasted till it is crisp suet and fed to birds in the winter time.  The fatty grease can be sent to a spent frying oil recycler, so it can be turned into bio-diesel or soap.  As one can see, nothing is wasted in restaurants or a home kitchen when sustainability is kept in mind!  
     I have butchered and fabricated hundreds of pounds of Beef Tenderloin per day in fine dining restaurants and yacht clubs during my career.  The best advice that I can give to a home cook that wants to butcher any kind of meat is to be sure that your Boning Knife  is razor sharp before you start.  For professionals that are butchering one tenderloin after another for several hours straight, be sure to have several razor sharp boning knives ready, so you do not have to stop working to sharpen a knife.  As soon as one knife begins to drag, switch to a sharp knife that is in reserve.  Efficiency is the means for getting the meat fabrication job done when time is limited in a restaurant.
     There are several Beef Tenderloin grades.  The cheapest is Cow Tenderloin, which tends to be smaller than male cattle tenderloin.  Low budget chain restaurants that offer a relatively cheap Filet Mignon Steaks are usually purchasing Cow Tenderloins.  The quality of Cow Tenderloins is okay, but the amount of fat waste can be higher than average.
     USDA Choice Grade Cattle Tenderloins are what most grocery stores and restaurants sell.  The quality of USDA Choice Grade Cattle Tenderloin is consistently good.  USDA Choice Grade Beef Tenderloin is sometimes packed in a papaya enzyme solution to increase tenderness.  It is better to select dry packed whole USDA Choice Grade Whole Tenderloins, then dry age the beef to increase flavor and tenderness.
     The best choice is USDA Prime Grade Cattle Tenderloins.  USDA Prime Grade Beef is usually only sold at quality butcher shops and it commands nearly twice the price of USDA Choice Beef.  There can be some fat marbling in the Tenderloin Section with this high grade of beef.  USDA Prime Grade Beef Tenderloin is usually dry packed and some butcher shops dry age this product to increase value even more.  A cooked USDA Prime Grade Filet Mignon Steak is tender enough to cut like butter and the beef flavor is rich, especially after dry aging!            
     A Filet Mignon Steak has almost no fat content.  This is why fat is added to a Filet Mignon Steak during the cooking process.  Basting the Filet Mignon with butter, rendered fat or oil is a good method.  Wrapping a Filet Mignon Steak with bacon is another good method.  When smoked bacon is used to wrap a Filet Mignon Steak, it adds a nice rustic flavor.  In casual fine dining restaurants, the finished Filet Mignon Steak is served bacon wrapped, while in classic fine dining restaurants, the bacon is removed before the steak is served. 
     Vanilla Bean Gastrique tastes good with a Filet Mignon Steak and it tastes even better with a Hickory Smoked Bacon wrapped Filet Mignon Steak!  A good classic Gastrique for steak really needs no extra additives like Demi Glace.  If a beef flavor is to be added, then a reduced Glace Viande is a better choice and it should be applied separately.  For today's recipe, The Vanilla Bean Gastrique is served on its own.  
     I must admit that vanilla beans are very overpriced these days.  Four vanilla beans cost almost as much as a Filet Mignon Steak!  Pure unsweetened vanilla bean extract is a good substitute for vanilla beans at a fraction of the price and the flavor is the same.

     Vanilla Bean Gastrique: 
     This recipe yields about 2/3 cup.  (About 6 petite portions)
     Because Vanilla is a natural digestif, less traditional European digestif herbs are needed.
     *Use caution and wear protective gloves, because molten sugar can cause very severe burns!
     *Be sure to have the ingredients ready ahead of time.
     *Do not stir the gastrique, because the molten amber sugar will stick to a spoon like hard candy.
     Step 1:  *If Pure Vanilla Extract is used, then skip this step.  Just measure 2 teaspoons of Pure Vanilla Extract and set it aside.
     Split 2 Vanilla Beans and scrape the pulp.
     Place the Vanilla Bean scrapings and pods in a container.  Set the container aside.
     Step 2:  Place 1/2 cup of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of sugar.  
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Boil till the water evaporates and the molten sugar starts to bubble. 
     Step 3:  *Watch the sugar as it cooks, because is will start to caramelize in a short time.
     Cook the molten sugar till it is a light amber brown color.
     Step 4:  Immediately add the reserved Vanilla Bean scrapings and pods.  (Or add the reserved Vanilla Bean Extract.)
     Let the molten amber brown sugar seize the vanilla for 5 to 10 seconds.
     Step 5:  *Use caution, because steam will be produced in this step!
     Add 1 1/2 ounces of rice vinegar.
     Add 1/3 cup of acidic dry white wine (Pinot Grigio).
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Wait till the hardened amber sugar starts to melt.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of fine grated lemon zest.
     Add 1 small laurel leaf.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of thyme leaves.
     Add 1 teaspoon of chopped shallot.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of white peppercorns.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Step 7:  Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin syrup consistency that can glaze the back of a spoon.
     Step 8:  Pour the Vanilla Bean Gastrique through a fine mesh strainer into a ceramic cup or a plastic squirt bottle.
     Keep the Vanilla Bean Gastrique warm on a stove top or chill it for later use.
     *A gastrique can be kept chilled for up to 6 months in a refrigerator.

     This recipe yields 1 crouton for Filet Mignon Steak.
     Trim the crust off of a thin slice of French baguette bread.
     Brush the bread slice with melted unsalted butter.
     Place the crouton on a small baking pan.
     Bake in a 325ºF oven, till the crouton is crispy golden brown.
     Set the crouton aside.

     Hickory Smoked Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon Steak:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée portion.  (A 6 ounce Filet Mignon Steak is a Queen Cut and an 8 ounce Filet Mignon is a King Cut.)
     Hickory smoked bacon adds a nice hearty rustic flavor!  Bacon wrapped Filet Mignon Steaks are only seared in the bare top and bottom sides, then the steak is roasted in an oven till it is roasted to the preferred finish temperature.
     Step 1:  Season a trimmed 6 to 8 ounce Filet Mignon Steak with sea salt and black pepper.
     Wrap 1 slice of Hickory Smoked Bacon around the circumference of the steak.
     Use 1 or 2 toothpicks to hold the bacon in place or truss the bacon in place with butcher's twine.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add the bacon wrapped filet mignon steak.
     Sear the top and bottom of the filet steak, till the meat is a light brown color.
     Step 3:  Remove the Filet Mignon Steak from the sauté pan.
     Pour the excess grease out of the pan into a container and discard it later.
     Step 4:  Return the Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon Steak to the hot sauté pan.
     Place the sauté pan in a 400ºF oven.
     Roast till the steak is cooked to the desired finish temperature.  (Medium Rare to Medium Well is best for a Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon.)  Flip the filet a few times as it roasts, so it cooks evenly.
     *Remember that you are cooking a steak and you are not cooking bacon!  Many cooks make this mistake.  The bacon is only there to protect, moisten and flavor the Filet Mignon Steak as it roasts.  The Hickory Smoked Bacon does not have to be cooked crisp, because it is cured and smoked.  A guest request for a crispy bacon wrapped steak should be politely denied, unless the requested finish temperature is Medium Well or Well Done!
     Step 5:  When the Filet Mignon Steak is finished cooking, remove the pan from the oven.
     Place the steak on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Let the steak rest for 1 1/2 (6 ounce portion) to 2 minutes (8 ounce portion).

     Hickory Smoked Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon with Vanilla Bean Gastrique:  
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     For a casual presentation, leave the Hickory Smoked Bacon attached to the Filet Mignon Steak.  For a classic presentation, remove and discard the bacon.
     Step 1:  Place the crouton on the front half of a plate.
     Step 2:  Carefully remove the toothpicks or butcher's string from the Filet Mignon Steak, so the Hickory Smoked Bacon remains attached.  (Or just remove and discard the bacon, especially if the bacon unravels.)
     Step 3:  Place the bacon wrapped filet mignon steak on top of the crouton.
     Spoon a small portion of the Vanilla Bean Gastrique on the plate around the steak.  (About 1 tablespoon to 1 1/2 tablespoons.)
     Serve with a vegetable and potato of your choice.
     *The steak in the photos was served with a Roasted Large Fondant Tourné Potato, Roasted Small Portobello Mushroom Caps, Sautéed Yellow Squash and a Roasted Brussel Sprout.  Roasted vegetables are a nice choice when an entrée features a rustic savory flavor!

     Viola!  A great tasting Hickory Smoked Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon with Vanilla Bean Gastrique! 

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