Entertaining: A Park Avenue Trick for Filet Mignon
I have always preferred hosting family and friends at home to going out. At gatherings big and small, the recipe is simple: food and drink, easily accessible and lots of it, and good conversation. It's also an opportunity to put to some use the linens and funky glassware that have taken up so much room in so many suitcases.
We entertain casually, no matter where we are. Over the years, however, the food offerings have changed. Carefully planned and intricate menus were once the order of the day, with ingredient collection being a whole separate treasure hunt. (It became a family joke that, no matter how good the dish, I only cooked it once--and then moved on to the next experiment.) More recently, simpler meals, often cooked ahead, have become the norm in the winter (see, Julia Child's Coq au Vin and Beef Bourguignon) and communal cooking and grilling (outsourced happily to our more expert friends and family) are part of summer's pleasures.
I learned a trick from one of my Dad’s Park Avenue lady friends (who entertained regularly, cooking the meals herself but hiring others to serve it). It has become a standard, whatever the size of the party, occasion or season. It's a recipe for a whole filet mignon that NEVER fails. You can serve it hot and elegantly with roasted potatoes and asparagus and a really good red wine. Or you can serve it cold on sliced French bread with wine of whatever color you prefer together with another of the same woman's recipe for a cold bearnaise sauce. (Normal recipes for bearnaise sauce can’t be served cold because of the egg.)
The trick is a small bottle of something called Kitchen Bouquet. It's a browning and seasoning sauce that's apparently been around in one form or another since the late 1800's but was particularly popular in the 1950's. It's still sold in grocery stores, often near the spices though sometimes with gravy mixes. It seals in the juices and makes the meat absolutely wonderful. I had never heard of it before, but it makes the filet perfect. Easy, delicious, impressive. What more can you ask of a recipe?
Whole filet mignon, trimmed and tied (the size doesn’t matter)
Sprinkle filet with Lawry’s seasoned salt
Rub filet with salt/pepper and then with a whole peeled clove of garlic
Rub the whole filet generously (all sides and the ends) with Kitchen Bouquet.
Leave filet out 2-3 hours before cooking.
Line pan with foil, put filet on top.
Broil on 550 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
Test end (it will be more cooked than the rest)
Let sit 5-10 minutes.
Slice and serve (remember to take off strings)
Mix the following in a blender for 30 seconds. Then chill.
2 tsp. dried tarragon soaked in 2 tsp tarragon vinegar for 1/2 hour
2 cups mayo
8 peeled finely sliced scallions--white parts only
¼ tsp dried mustard.