~ Oh My Goddess of the Hunt: Divine Steak Diane ~
One upon a time, Joe and I used to go up to the top of Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh (the point overlooking the city and the location where the three rivers meet (the Monongahela, the Allegheny and the Ohio), to eat in an upscale French restaurant named Christopher's (currently The Monterey Bay Fish Grotto). During that period of time, Joe did enough of business in Pittsburgh that we got to eat there a few times a year. He in a suit and tie, I in a dress and heels, through the doors we walked. Their food was divine, the view was breathtaking, and, when I didn't order steak au poivre, I ordered steak Diane and a nice merlot.
The only thing I love more than eating a perfectly-cooked filet mignon in an elegant restaurant with a fantastic view day or night, with a handsome guy sitting across the table from me, is: a filet prepared for me, complete with the flambéed fanfare, at my table.
What's the difference between Steak Diane and Steak au Poivre?
Steak Diane and steak au poivre are similar in that filet mignon is used in the preparation of both. In both cases, the same skillet used to prepare the meat is used to prepare a sauce made from the "fond" (the "drippings") left in the pan. Here are the notable differences:
< Steak au poivre (pictured here) is a French creation which historians date back to the 19th century. The most important thing to remember about steak au poivre is: "au poivre" is French for "with pepper", and, for this dish, the steak must be crusted in a copious amount of cracked or coarsely-ground peppercorns prior to being pan-seared on the stovetop (and sometimes finished off in the oven). To get my recipe:
Click on the Related Article below, ~ Steak au Poivre (Peppercorn Crusted Filet Mignon) ~.
< Steak Diane (pictured here) is a mid-20th century American creation invented and popularized in one of NYC's posh, Francophile restaurants -- back in the latter 1940's, '50's and '60's, preparing all sorts of flambéed dishes (like penne with vodka sauce and bananas foster) tableside was very trendy. Steak Diane epitomized black-tie-luxury for post WWII diners who had experienced first-hand America's wartime rationing of dairy products and meat. Meat and butter was on everyone's mind during this time. By the 1970's and early '80's, everyone who ate in a posh French restaurant anywhere in the USA had eaten either steak Diane or steak au poivre.
The dish itself: The filet for steak Diane, while seasoned in some manner, is not crusted in peppercorns. The most important thing to remember about steak Diane is: the meat, usually a 1"-1 1/2" thick filet, is sliced in half lengthwise, to a thickness of 1/2"-3/4", then lightly-pounded prior to quickly sautéing it in butter, at tableside. Once the cooked steak is removed from the pan, a quick sauce containing minced shallot or onion, sometimes a few mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, demi-glace or beef stock, cognac and black pepper is prepared in the "fond" ("the drippings"). Top with a few minced chives or parsley (for some much needed color), serve with a well-presented potato and/or carrot, and, voila: dinner is served.
A bit about Diane, a la Diane, and, sauce Diane: In French, "a la" means "in the style of", and in Roman mythology Diane was the Roman goddess of the hunt, the moon, and nature, and she had the ability to talk to and control animals. Her name is attached to game dishes, most noteably: venison. It's not much of a leap to see how it came to include beef, hence the words "a la Diane" or: steak in the style of Diane, or, steak prepared in the style of venison. As for sauce Diane, its earliest mention comes in 1907 from Escoffier, and, it implies that truffles are added to the sauce, which, makes perfect sense as their earthy, musky flavor is a fine compliment to the bold taste of venison or beef. So, if you see Steak Diane w/Sauce Diane on the menu, expect truffles in the sauce.
Filet for steak Diane = 1/2"-thick & lightly-pounded
2 1"-thick, 8-ounce beef tenderloin steaks (filet mignon)
freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend
~ Step 1. Place both steaks on a small plate in the freezer for about 45-60 minutes. Freezing them just long enough to firm them up will make them easy to slice evenly.
~ Step 4. Using a flat-sided meat mallet, lightly pound them, just enough to increase their surface area by about a third, or, to a thickness of slightly more than 1/4". Do not smash them to smithereens.
~ Step 5. Lightly season the tops of the four pounded filets with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend. Proceed with recipe.
Sauce for steak Diane = bold, beefy & earthy
4 4-ounce lightly-pounded filet mignon, lightly-seasoned with sea salt and peppercorn blend as directed above
2 cloves garlic, run through a press
2-4 ounces minced shallot or sweet onion (1/2-1 cup)
2-4 ounces baby bella mushroom caps, small diced (1-2 cups)
1/2 cup minced, fresh parsley
4 ounces demi-glace (1/2 cup), a rich, brown, strongly-flavored combination of duck and veal stock prepared with roasted bones, homemade or store-bought (beef stock may be substituted but demi-glace is much better)
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons of your favorite slightly-thick, "A-1"-type steak sauce (Worcestershire sauce may be substituted but thicker-type steak sauce is much better)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons salted butter (1/2 stick)
3 tablespoons good-quality Cognac (1 1/2 ounces)
2 additional tablespoons minced, fresh parsley, for garnish
~ Step 2. In a 12" skillet, melt butter over low heat. Increase the heat to medium-high. Place seasoned filets in skillet, seasoned tops down. Season second sides lightly with sea salt and peppercorn blend and sauté 2 1/2-3 minutes per side, turning only once. Filets will be golden around the edges. At 2 1/2 minutes per side, the filets will be rare, at 3 minutes per side they will be medium-rare, and, past that, overcooked.
~ Step 3. Turn the heat off. Transfer the filets to a warm serving platter, leaving all of the juices in the pan. Cover the filets with aluminum foil and allow to rest while preparing the sauce. Do not cut into your steaks to test for doneness because I can tell you they are going to look underdone. Just remember: carry over heat during the rest period is going to continue to cook them a bit more, so just trust me and be patient.
~Step 4. Add the pressed garlic, diced shallots or onions and mushrooms to the "fond" (the "pan drippings"). Lightly season with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, adjust heat to saute, stirring almost constantly until onions are translucent and mushrooms have lost most of their moisture, about 5-6 minutes. Add the cognac to the skillet, and, using a spatula, deglaze by gently loosening all of the flavorful browned bits from the bottom of pan, about 30 seconds.
Note: As much fun as it is to watch chefs "flambe" things ("ignite" things) in restaurants and on TV, it is almost always unnecessary, especially in the home kitchen and I try to avoid it.
~ Step 5. Add the demi-glace mixture and stir in 1/2 cup of the minced, fresh parsley. Bring to a boil, adjust heat to a rapid simmer and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced a bit and slightly-thickened, about 5-6 minutes.
Oh My Goddess of the Hunt...
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; flat-sided meat mallet; 2-cup measuring container; 10"-12" nonstick skillet; nonstick spatula; aluminum foil
Cook's Note: From hamburger to skirt steak, I adore every cut of beef prepared in almost any way imaginable. That said, my ultimate favorite is ~ My Love Affair with: Individual Beef Wellingtons ~. You can find my recipe for this very special indulgence in Categories 3, 11, 21 or 26.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)