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pan-seared steaks with herb sauce

March 24, 2011
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Ready for some BEEF? Chris’s family gets tenderloins every once in a while, but they usually grill them, so we haven’t had them in a few months. (That’s not to say they’re not still grilling in the cold—it’s just much harder to regulate the temperature when the weather is roughly similar to Alaska’s, so they’ve mostly been sticking to burgers.)

But when I saw this recipe in the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated, I knew it was time to hit up the meat counter again. A relatively-simple sauce that still manages to take about an hour to make? Count me in!

I will say this: the time was worth it. While I don’t think I quite hit the right consistency—the sauce was pretty watery, so maybe I didn’t cook it long enough?—the taste was pretty awesome. I can’t really put my finger on it, except that it made the beef taste beefier. Always a good choice.

However, while the tenderloins ended up being cooked pretty perfectly due to my sautéing skillz, there was a moment (or two, or five) there where I panicked and thought they would never cook through because they were so thick. I wound up covering the pan for a few minutes at a time to create a sauna, which ended up making the outside grey and not exactly fully appetizing, but it tasted just the same (and with a tasty crust, eventually, thanks to the cast-iron pan I gave Chris for Christmas). If you are similarly neurosis-prone and don’t want to deal with the drama, though, you might want to either use a thinner cut or just slice your filets in half or something.

Pan-Seared Steaks with Herb Sauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 boneless strip or rib-eye or tenderloin steaks, 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick [uhhh maybe I should’ve paid attention to that suggestion] (about 8 oz. each)
table salt and ground black pepper
1/2 small onion, peeled and cut into rough 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 small carrot, peeled and cut into rough 1/2-inch pieces
4 oz. cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed and caps wiped clean and halved
1 medium garlic clove, peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 oz. 85% lean ground beef
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 package (2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored powdered gelatin
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh chives
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. For the sauce base, process onion, carrot, mushrooms, and garlic in food processor into 1/8-inch pieces, 10 to 12 one-second pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
2. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering; add beef and tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until beef is well browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add vegetable mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until any exuded moisture has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Add wine and bring to simmer, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Add beef broth, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns; bring to boil. Reduce heat and gently boil, occasionally scraping bottom and sides of pot and skimming fat from surface, until reduced to 2 cups, 20 to 25 minutes.
3. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over small saucepan, pressing on solids with rubber spatula to extract as much liquid as possible (you should have about 1/2 cup stock). Sprinkle gelatin over stock and stir to dissolve. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and bring stock to boil. Gently boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/4 cup, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
4. For the steaks, heat oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Meanwhile, pat steaks dry with paper towels and season both sides with salt and pepper. Lay steaks in pan, leaving 1/4 inch between them. Cook, not moving steaks, until well browned, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, flip steaks and continue to cook until instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 120 degrees for rare to medium-rare, 3 to 7 minutes [orrr much longer]. Remove steaks to platter and tent loosely with foil while preparing herb sauce.
5. For the sauce, return now-empty skillet to medium-low heat; add shallot and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to simmer, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Add sauce base, vinegar, and any accumulated juices from steak; return to simmer and cook until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in chives, parsley, tarragon, and butter; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce over steaks and serve immediately.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated

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