Sunday, March 10, 2013


Isn't it odd that, when it comes to food, the more rich and flavorful something is, the less we eat of it? For instance, I could drink Big-Gulp-sized diet sodas all the live long day, but if it's a gen-u-ine Dr. Pepper? Why, I'm happy as a clam with a little kid-sized cup! Flavor, huh? I guess that's the key to feeling sated, which could explain why I don't hardly remember ever feeling satisfied with what was on my plate growing up. I always felt I needed something more. I used to think it had to do with quantity and having too many siblings, but since I ended up putting ketchup on pretty much everything Mom set in front of me, I'm guessing that wasn't the real issue. When most everything you eat comes out of a box or a can, well, real flavor is hard to come by.

Now the French? They know about flavor! I'm not talking about the fancy schmancy Michelin-starred foods. I'm talking about simple meals, made with the freshest, most flavorful ingredients they can get their hands on. Don't know what I'm talking about? Then you really need to try Ina Garten's recipe for a classic bistro dish, Filet of Beef au Poivre. A few bites is all you need!

Filet of Beef au Poivre
from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris
serves 6

6 filets mignon (beef tenderloin) cut 1 1/4 inches thick (mine came from a local producer, via TBS)
Kosher salt
2 T. coarsely ground black pepper
3 1/2 T. unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 T. olive oil
3/4 cup chopped shallots (3-4 shallots)
1 c. beef broth
1/2 cup good Cognac or brandy

Place the filets on a board and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the filets with salt and then press the black pepper evenly on both sides. Allow to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Heat 1 1/2 T. of the butter and the oil in a large saute' pan over medium-high heat until the butter almost smokes. Place the steaks in the pan and lower the heat to medium. Saute' the steaks for 4 minutes on one side and then for 3 minutes on the other side, for medium rare. Remove the steaks to a serving platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Meanwhile, pour all but 1 T. of fat from the pan. Add the shallots and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the beef broth and cook over high heat for 4 to 6 minutes, until reduced by half, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the Cognac and cook for 2 more minutes. Off the heat, swirl in the remaining 2 T. of butter and 1/2 tsp. salt. Serve the steaks hot with the sauce poured on top.

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Mmmmm. Most definitely a little bit o' awwright, and my hubby's favorite meal. Or, it used to be, anyway. When he had that stroke a little over a year ago, the most lasting damage from it was that he lost a bit of his sense of taste and smell. We know we should be grateful that's all he lost, but it's kind of hard to remember sometimes, when it's affecting one of your primary pleasures in life.

Of course, when you start focusing on what you don't have, instead of what you do, life has a way of sending you wake-up calls, doesn't it? John's came in the form of this super-dooper antibiotic drip that he's wearing around the clock for weeks on end.  Now, instead of things "just not tasting as good as they used to", everything pretty much "tastes like shit!" The saddest thing I ever saw was the look on my poor baby's face when he took a bite of the steak au poivre I tried to tempt him with this week, and realized that even that sucked. No wonder he's lost so much weight! Well, we can only pray that, after he's been off the antibiotics for a while, things will return to semi-normal. I think he'd be quite tickled with semi-normal about now!

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