VALENTINE’S DAY DINNER – FILET MIGNON IN CHAMPAGNE SAUCE

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Filet mignon in champagne sauce is a dish my mother used to make on special occasions. I’d watched her make it many times, and after I got married, I made it also. I never used a recipe. Observing Mom was enough for me, and the method was easy to remember without resorting to a recipe. But for some reason, I hadn’t made it in several years. Maybe because it’s on the rich side and calorie laden, or it could be simply that other favorites replaced this one.

One of my daughters pointed out that I hadn’t made it in a while and she would like to have it again, so I decided to make it for Valentine’s Day. Each year, I make a special dinner for the four of us, including a decadent dessert. I set a pretty table and we exchange token gifts. This year, my girls are off to sunny California, so we celebrated our Valentine’s Day a day early. Lucky for them, they get out of the zero degree New York weather and fly into a heat wave in L.A.

When my mom passed away, my dad gave me a box with my mother’s handwritten recipes and her “cooking bible” – The Tselementes. This food-splattered, masking taped repaired cookbook is a treasure. This was my mom’s go-to book for anything she needed to refer to. She brought this cookbook with her when she came to this country in 1953, and I think it was the ONLY cookbook I ever saw her open.

Mom never cooked with recipes. She instinctively knew what to add to her food and when, and how long to cook it for. This is how I learned to cook. She would hover over the stove, turn to me, breathing in the aroma and say, “You never rush your food. You must love it. Hug it and kiss it.” That is the secret ingredient to deliciousness!

So when I looked in the box with the handwritten recipes, I was not surprised to find lists of ingredients with no measurements! I remembered what was in the champagne sauce, but I wanted to refresh my memory on the amount of each ingredient. There was nothing to refresh. It was all done by feel. Recipe after recipe was written the same way—a list of ingredients, the method, but no measurements.

To share this dish with you, I made an effort to be aware of how much of each ingredient I was adding. It might be too late for Valentine’s Day, but try this for the next special occasion.

Filet Mignon in Champagne Sauce

 4 1-inch thick filet mignon steaks

8 large stuffing mushrooms, whole. Stems off

3 shallots, sliced

5 tablespoons butter

½ cup champagne

1 cup heavy cream

Salt & pepper to taste

Sprinkle meat with salt & pepper. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet and pan fry the steaks on both sides until cooked to your preference. When you flip the meat, add the shallots and mushrooms. When the steaks are done, remove to a platter and cover to keep warm. Place the mushrooms on the same platter with the steaks.

Add the champagne. When it starts to boil, add the heavy cream. Lower heat and simmer for a minute or two. Shut off heat and add the last tablespoon of butter. Add the steaks and mushrooms back into the pan. To serve, pour sauce over steaks and garnish with two mushrooms.