Course 6 - 'Aged' filet, red miso, chard

This course is really the apex of the meal - the richest of the savory courses, just a few bites of filet mignon with an umami-rich beef sauce flavored with red miso. The previous courses have been working up to this point in richness, and following courses will be palate cleansers and generally winding down, up to dessert. Real dry-aged beef involves a drying process taking a month or more that concentrates flavors and gives the beef a signature deep taste. Most people don't have the humidity control and space to properly age their own meat, but thankfully the team at Modernist Cuisine has come up with a clever alternative: if you vacuum seal steak brushed with fish sauce several days ahead of time, you can get a passable imitation of the real thing! The filet mignon is the star and focus of this dish; the sauce and and some simply-cooked chard are supporting elements.

My presentation of this dish is heavily influenced by Daniel Patterson of Coi restaurant in San Francisco. I agonized over fancy garnishes for this dish for a long time: potato puree piped onto the plate through a siphon, a green vegetable like asparagus, shaved mushrooms, and so on. Then I saw a dish in the Coi cookbook: a perfectly-cooked lamb chop, next to some chard with some meat jus. And that was it. It takes a lot of skill and confidence to plate a dish that's (seemingly) so simple. Every component has to be meticulously and flawlessly prepared, of course. For the artsy, there's some kind of zen statement to be found in there; a dish is complete when it's as simple as possible but no simpler.

The sauce for this dish is a simple thickened reduction of beef stock and red miso, which is slightly funkier and saltier than white miso. I like to make my own stocks - it's very peaceful, and importantly you get to control the salt content. I don't add any salt at all to my stocks so I can properly control when making reductions. If you don't want to make your own stock, try and find one with as little added sodium as possible and taste carefully; you may need to add less miso to avoid overpowering the dish.

Prepare the beef stock (optional):

Stock making is incredible flexible. The traditional ratio is 2:1:1 onions to carrots and celery, but you can use just about any quantity and ratio that you like. Feel free to add any aromatics and herbs you have on hand: parsley, garlic, black peppercorns, and so on. I've been using leeks instead of celery for some time, largely because Thomas Keller swears by it and he's probably made stock roughly ten thousand times more than I have.

Ingredients

Makes 2 1/2 qts

3 qts water

1.3lb beef knuckle bones

Tomato paste

2 yellow onions

4-5 small leeks

4-5 medium carrots

1 bunch parsley

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F.
  2. Slice the onions. Peel and large dice the carrots. Trim the leeks to just the whites, cut in half lengthwise and rinse thoroughly, and slice.
  3. Brush the beef knuckle bones with tomato paste on both sides and roast on a baking tray until well browned, about 45 minutes.
  4. Remove the bones to a stockpot. Add the vegetables to the baking tray and roast for 20 - 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the vegetables to the stockpot, deglaze the tray with a bit of water, scrape the fond, and add to the stockpot.
  6. Add the water, parsley, and any aromatics to the pot and simmer very gently for 4 - 8 hours. Top off with additional water as needed. Don't bother obsessively skimming, I find it easier to let the fat solidify into a cap and remove it afterwards.
  7. Strain the stock through a chinois and gently press excess liquid from the solids through the strainer. You should have about 2 1/2 qts. Discard the solids (they've given all they have) and chill the stock overnight.
  8. Remove the fat cap from the chilled stock. Save the fat: render it in a pan and strain through cheesecloth to get clean beef fat for general purpose use (it's used for a course later in this menu). Store in the fridge.

For the dish:

After meat is cooked sous vide, it typically needs finishing to give it the appealing crust so dearly sought after. This can be done in a ripping-hot cast iron pan, with a blowtorch, or surprisingly, briefly deep-fried (another tip from Modernist Cuisine!). To be clear, there's no breading or anything like that - hot oil is simply an efficient way to get a nice crust without overcooking the inside too much; properly done sous vide is all about pink edge to edge! If you don't want to deep fry, the steak will be more than good done traditionally in a pan or on a grill.

Ingredients

For 4 servings.

2 filet mignons

Fish sauce

Finishing salt such as Maldon

3 leaves chard

Champagne vinegar

Mustard flowers for garnish, or other flowers

For the beef red miso sauce:

1 1/2 cup beef stock

1 1/2 Tbsp red miso

Xanthan gum

Equipment:

Vacuum sealer

Sous vide setup

Directions

  1. Three days in advance, prepare the filet mignon: weigh the beef and measure out 2.5% in fish sauce. Brush the fish sauce over all sides of the meat, and vacuum seal in separate bags. Chill in refrigerator for three days.
  2. Prepare the sauce (this can be done ahead of time and reheated): reduce the beef stock over medium heat down to about 1 cup. Add a few spoonfuls of the warmed stock to the miso and mix well into a slurry; this makes dispersing easier. Add the miso slurry and mix well, making sure the mixture doesn't boil. Strain, weigh, and blend in 0.4% xanthan gum with an immersion blender. Set aside.
  3. When ready to cook, heat your sous vide unit to 129F. Remove the filets from their bags and pat dry with paper towels. Season generously with salt and pepper, vacuum seal in new bags, and cook in the bath for an hour and a half.
  4. Heat your oven to 200F and warm your serving plates. Remember they're hot when you go to plate.
  5. Warm the sauce in a small pot on the stove.
  6. Prepare about three quarters of an inch of rice bran oil in a pot on the stove for frying to 400F.
  7. Remove the steak from the water bath, remove from the bags and rest on paper towels. You generally don't need to rest after cooking sous vide, but in this case it's okay to cool the outside of the steak down a little bit to prevent overcooking while frying. I have yet to experiment with rapid cooling methods such as ice baths or dunking in liquid nitrogen ("cryofrying", in Modernist Cuisine)
  8. Prepare the chard: separate the stems from the leaves, trim the stems and slice about a half-inch in width, and slice the leaves into pieces about 2 inches to a side
  9. Saute the stems, covered, with a little bit of rice bran oil and salt and pepper. Add the leaves after about 2 minutes, and season with more salt and pepper. Once the leaves have wilted, season with the champagne vinegar to taste and set aside.
  10. While the chard is finishing, deep fry the steaks in the oil for about 1 minute per side, or until a good crust develops. Remove to paper towels and portion into cubes to serve.
  11. To serve: Add a cube of the filet to a warmed plate and add a pinch of the Maldon on top. Add a handful of of chard leaves and stems to the side, and arrange in a line down the plate. Spoon a few spoonfuls of the warmed red miso sauce between the beef and the chard. Garnish the chard with the mustard flowers and serve immediately.

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