Double-Header, pt. 2! Grass-Fed Filet
Spent some time at Central Market this week (anyone surprised?) to snag some proteins and produce for the week's sustenance. I haven't had nearly the time I usually like for proper home-cooked meals, mostly because of multiple happy hours I cannot resist and have been visiting ($5 martinis, anyone?)
I located some lovely organic asparagus (which appealed to me because it was nice and thin, and hence good for roasting), some Hawaiian sweet potatoes, and a grass-fed filet on special. I guess my January self, inspired to be "healthy" again, saw "grass-fed" and reacted, and wound up with a pretty, if imperfect, little filet for one. The traditional "meat and potatoes" meal immediately came to mind, and I wound up deciding to go for a traditional steak, potato, and asparagus dinner.
I started with the wine (of course!) and nailed down a red on my shelf from the Scholium Project (an insanely cool, experimental California winemaker) that I had bought as part of a grab-bag case from their "garage sale" several years back, which garnered a few VERY lucky draws, including the 2004 vintage of their "Babylon" red. These wines are immensely interesting, if sometimes heavy handed, and are generally very special. This one is a Syrah and Grenache blend from 2010, called "The Courier" and from Shake Ridge vineyard in Amador County, a wine region with increasing renown to the east of Sacramento in the Sierra Foothills. I'd poured a glass out of this with the Coravin, so the remaining wine was perfect after having a (big) glass of Rhône white earlier in the afternoon!
This wine was BIG, with a ton of jammy dark fruit, currants, a bit of licorice, a limited oak profile, high alcohol, and a healthy tannic mouthfeel. I definitely think that this or last year was the earliest this wine was ready to drink, since the brooding tannins definitely need time to mellow in the bottle, and even today, 8ish years later, the wine was a little aggressive, albeit lovely. The tannins, incidentally, can be attributed to the interesting way the wine is fermented, where the whole clusters are pressed only lightly and then aged for 45 days. Only after this process is the wine pressed and aged in neutral oak for 3 years. This vintage, 2010, was the last for Scholium's "The Courier," and retailing at $60, they produced only 72 cases!
For the dinner, I started (while drinking wine!) by heating the over to 400 and poking holes in the sweet potatoes, and placing them on aluminum foil when the oven was heated. In the future, I'll probably turn up the heat a bit or cook the potatoes for a bit longer, since (despite their size!) they weren't totally ready when I took them out to be served. The asparagus, after cutting the bottom of the stalks, was placed in a baking pan and drizzled with olive oil, then seasoned with sea salt, ground black pepper, and some subtly spicy and slightly smoky Aleppo pepper flakes.
By the way, I am embarrassed to say that I LOVE to season my steaks with this ridiculous combination of garlic, onion, salt, sugar, pepper, and spice called "Steak Dust" which is made here in Austin and comes in a really cheesy looking bottle. Salt and pepper is the standard, but this seasoning is just killer. Cool thing, too, is that they donate a portion of their profits to UT's children's medical funding.
As soon as I placed the asparagus in the oven, I also put BAE (my cast iron skillet) in the oven to make it smoking hot for the steak. I added olive oil, chopped garlic, and shallot to the pan on the stove and placed the seasoned filet on the smoking hot iron. A bit of butter melted and allowed to seep through the garlic and shallot was the perfect basting fluid, and I basted healthily for about 2 minutes before flipping the filet, basting again, and placing it in the oven until the internal temp registered 115 (at which point I basted again!) for a perfect mid-rare.
While letting the steak rest, I sliced the sweet potatoes in half and placed a healthy slice of butter on each half. Watching the butter melt was drool-worthy, but it was time to prepare a red wine pan sauce for the filet! Now, ladies and gents, you can get fancy with sauces for meat, but a red wine pan sauce, and variations thereupon, in my opinion, remains the simplest and level best. I cooled the skillet after removing the steak, and added it again to medium heat to warm before pouring a bit of the Scholium wine to deglaze the pan and get all the lovely and buttery steak, garlic, and shallot bits in the wine. Pro tip: use a bit of the same wine you'll be drinking with the steak in the pan sauce for an ideal pairing! Once the wine had reduced a bit and become thicker, I reduced the heat and added a couple of slices of butter to mount the sauce, and poured a healthy spoonful over the sliced filet.
The food was outstanding, even though the potatoes were a bit undercooked, but the wine was on the heavy side as a pairing––it's a biiiiiig, brooding red! As I write, I am still finishing the bottle!
This is an easy meal that can be made on any old night or a special occasion. I recommend variations on the veggies or the pan sauce (for example, I added saffron to my last pan sauce) to make it special!