This recipe results from my memory of a wonderful and unique meal in Brussels, Belgium. The experience dates back to the late 1980’s, during a business trip, and the restaurant was Spanish in a large plaza area called La Place, which was quite a fine public area a few acres in size surrounded with large buildings and superb statuary dating back 500 years. Ahh … to think that great artisans were creating these masterpieces 300 years before the USA was formed … it kind of makes us look like "Johnny come lately" … but that is a separate topic for a different venue.
What makes this dish special is the use of foie gras (duck or goose liver), which in combination with the filet mignon was an unforgettable experience. Do note that in general I despise liver, but this was/is a truly exceptional experience.
Okay … the general idea is that a 1 1/4" to 1 ½" thick filet is trimmed of fat and/or membrane and wrapped around the perimeter with bacon (attached with toothpicks). The filets are grilled on a hot charcoal grill to a medium rare degree of doneness, which means four to five minutes of grilling time per side based on the thickness of the filet and the heat of the grill. Remove the filets from the grill to a warm meat platter when done.
The top of each filet is coated with a ¼" thick layer of foie gras paste and put under a broiler for at most one minute to cook the foie gras, as the underside is cooking because of the high temperature of the grilled filet. Then a small amount of a hot clear brown beef glaze is poured over the filet and it is then served on a bed of sautéed mushrooms and shallots.
The taste is to die for … and the general description I just gave above was the exact way the dish was served to me in Brussels.
Alas, I had to search the Internet to find something close to the recipe in Brussels. I was successful except the recipe called for searing pieces of foie gras and placing them on the filet instead of making a paste and using broiling to cook it. Ah well … I decided that just this one time I would suffer with the recipe recommendations instead of experimenting to make a foie gras paste.
Oh, do make your side dishes for this meal prior to grilling the filets. And serve a high quality merlot or pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon wine with dinner.
Ingredients: (Two servings)
2, 8 oz. pieces of filet, trimmed, about 1 1/4" to 1 ½" thick
¾ lb. Fresh mushrooms (use any type you want except pungent varieties like porcini)
¼ lb. Frozen foie gras (try to buy a horizontal cross section of the liver ½" thick)
1, medium shallot
2, strips thick sliced bacon
½ stick Butter
1, 14 oz. can of beef broth
1, tbsp. Cornstarch
¼ tsp. Sea salt
¼ tsp. Pepper
2 tbsp. Crushed peppercorns
1, tbsp. Herbs de Provence (see recipe for this simple herb combination below)
Heat the beef broth on a very low simmer to reduce the volume by one half, thus concentrating the beef flavor. Let the pan of reduced beef broth cool to room temperature. The tablespoon of cornstarch will be added to the broth late in the meal preparation and the mixture mixed and heated with constant stirring to slightly thicken the beef broth into a glaze consistency.
Herbs de Provence is simply a fancy name for a mixture of the following dry herbs. Use ½ teaspoon each of thyme, savory, rosemary, basil and bay leaf. Moisten the mixture with ¼ cup of water and set it aside. It will be used later during sautéing of the mushrooms and shallot. As an aside, French chefs put fresh herbs in a small cloth bag when cooking certain clear soups and call it a bouquet garni, and it is typically removed and discarded after use. Thus, in those recipes the herb flavors are captured but the herbs do not affect the visual clarity of the final soup. But in this foie gras recipe we want the herbs to be part of the final presentation.
Chop the mushrooms into pieces that will be bite sized after sautéing. That means the uncooked pieces should be about ¾" square cubes or anything close to that.
Dice the shallot into small pieces about ½" by ¾".
Sauté the mushrooms and shallot lightly (on low heat) in the ½ stick of butter with the herbs de provence and water mixture added at the beginning of the sauté process. Add small amounts of sea salt and pepper, perhaps ¼ teaspoon each. You should cover the sauté pan with a lid to have the steam help at the start of the sauté process. The goal is not to overcook the mushrooms … they should still retain their original shape and not be shrunken or completely soft. You will know when to stop the sauté process as the mushrooms will have changed color, as in from white to light tan. Stir and check frequently. Remove the lid for the last few minutes. Remove the sautéed mixture to a bowl and keep it warm in a 180ºF oven. Reserve the skillet that contains the butter residue for searing of the foie gras.
Chop the pieces of foie gras into ½" cubes. Sear them on all sides in the skillet that was used earlier for sautéing the mushrooms. Searing should turn the color from tan to light brown. Do not overcook. About three minutes on medium heat (after the skillet is heated) with frequent mixing is about right. Put the seared foie gras pieces in a bowl and keep them warm in a 180ºF oven.
Wrap the filet pieces around the perimeter in raw bacon. Fasten the bacon multiple places with toothpicks. Sprinkle both sides of the filet lightly with the crushed peppercorns and a small amount of sea salt. Rub the pepper and salt into the meat. Grill the filets on a hot charcoal grill (4" from the hot coals) for anywhere from four to five minutes per side depending on the thickness of the filets. Put the grilled filets onto individual serving plates, remove the toothpicks (if you can) and put the plates into the warm 180ºF oven.
Now is the time to heat the mixture of reduced beef broth and cornstarch. Heat on medium high stirring constantly until thickened and remove from the heat.
Okay … it is time to assemble the final product. I do hope you made all of the side dishes you want to serve with the filets before this point in time.
Remove the warmed serving plates with the filets from the oven. Encircle the filets with the sautéed mushroom/shallot mixture. Place the pieces of foie gras on the top of the filets. Pour just enough of the thickened beef broth glaze over the top to lightly coat the foie gras and the top of the filet and just a tiny bit on the mushrooms. Serve at once. Oh, my, is it good …
A word about cost:
I must tell you that the cost for foie gras is about $90 per pound, so you will spend around $22 just for the foie gras … and another $10 to $12 for the two, 8 ounce beef filets. You will have to find the foie gras in a specialty store or a supermarket that caters to the wealthy, like Janssens Market® in Wilmington, DE. It can also be ordered through the Internet. I know it sounds expensive, but how often do you celebrate with something this good? How much do you spend for pedestrian food in restaurants vs. this haute’ cuisine experience?
About Foie Gras:
A bit of Internet research revealed a lot about foie gras. When purchased as we did there was no cleaning necessary as we purchased what turned out to be a cross section of one lobe of the liver, about ½ inch thick. We had no cleaning to do because it evidently had been cleaned for us.
Had we purchased an entire lobe or the entire liver there would have been a considerable amount of work soaking it in salt water and then cutting it to remove the complex network of blood filled veins, etc., just to get it ready for cooking.
Foie Gras Pate
I found the following recipe for Foie Gras pate on the Internet. Now I can make the proper pate to use on top of the bacon wrapped filet mignon as well as in canapés.
4 oz. Foie Gras
1 strip of bacon
¼ cup diced sweet onion
1 oz. Ruby Port wine
1 oz. Mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Fry the bacon on low heat until it is crisp. Remove the bacon and set it aside, reserving the bacon grease in a small cup.
Sauté the diced onion in half of the reserved bacon grease.
When the onion pieces are golden add the port wine and cook on low heat for 3 minutes. Set the mixture aside.
Sauté the Foie Gras in the remaining reserved bacon grease to medium doneness (slightly pink inside). Set it aside.
Puree the Foie Gras, bacon and onions while still warm in a small food processor.
Add mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste, and chill immediately. Spread the pate into a shallow glass dish for quick chilling.
Refrigerate covered until the pate is used.