Thursday Night Smackdown: Holy cheese-filled beef, Batman!

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It’s Thursday, I’m in love.

Tonight, from Susan Spicer’s Crescent City Cooking: herb cheese-stuffed beef filets with bordelaise sauce, simple roast potatoes and carrots, and green salad with cider dressing, apple, comte and hazelnut. This is the ultimate over the top need-to-impress-someone meal, and though it takes a little time to pull it all together each step is pretty simple. The cider dressing is something you’ll want to keep on hand at all times (in the fridge, in your backpack, in the glove compartment…), and the bordelaise takes the “tense” out of “intense” and replaces it with a puddle of drool.

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If you want my body and you think I’m sexy, come on sugar let me know.

Both the bordelaise and the cider dressing start with reductions, one with red wine, thyme and shallots, the other with apple juice and cider vinegar. Both are reduced to within a cubic centimeter of their lives; in each, a cup of liquid reduces to just a few tablespoons of intensely-flavored, syrupy love. The bordelaise-cider dressing ticket could handily defeat anyone the Republicans put up for president in ’08. (Unfortunately, cider vinegar is known for being highly apolitical.)

The apple reduction meets up with some finely minced shallot and dijon mustard before oil (in our case, a combination of olive, canola and hazelnut) is whisked in. The mustard acts as an emulsifier, and the finished dressing looks remarkably like caramel sauce with flecks of shallot. Aside from being a wonderful dressing, its thick consistency makes it a good candidate for a dip for crudites as well.

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Come on honey, let’s spend the night together.

The reduced wine stays on the heat as veal stock or demi-glace is added. We found some demi-glace made of a combo of veal and stock reductions at a local market, which we correctly deduced could not possibly be bad.

As this is a French sauce, several tablespoons of butter are whisked in before the sauce surrenders to the Germans (rim shot!). A scant two tablespoons – the Barefoot Contessa spreads more than that on a single piece of toast, God love her – thickens the sauce beautifully and adds body and a high gloss. A pinch of salt brings all the flavors together and heightens them to the perfect pitch.

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Ceci ne sont pas des pommes e des carrotes.

While the sauces were reducing, I tossed some baby yukon golds and carrots with olive oil, salt and pepper and threw them in a hot oven to roast. The carrots also got a dose of thyme to pick up the thyme in the bordelaise and cheese stuffing. They roasted at high heat and then laid low in the warming drawer so we could use the oven for the filet. And that’s that. In light of the other parts of this meal, these carrots and potatoes are getting the narrative shaft, mas c’est la vie.

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If you really need me, just reach out and touch me.

Fig. 1, above: a half-pound slab of center-cut beef tenderloin stuffed with cream cheese spiked with fresh herbs and garlic.

Take a moment to digest that. If you would like to take a few moments or need to breathe into a paper bag, feel free to do so at this time. The rest of us will wait.

Softened cream cheese – one ounce per steak – is mixed with minced garlic, rosemary, thyme, chives, salt and pepper. An “X” cut into the middle of each chubby filet makes a cozy nest for the cheese. The stuffed steaks spend 15 or 20 minutes resting in the fridge so that the cheese can firm up in preparation for pan-searing and an oven finish. The high heat of the pan creates a crust over the cheese that (1) keeps it from oozing out and (2) results in delicious caramelized cheesy bits.
I was a little surprised that the cheese in this recipe was simply cream cheese; I would have expected something with a little more punch (like a goat or blue) to cut through the buttery filet and rich sauce. If we ever make this dish again – its not often that we feel like dropping $25 on steak for a single night’s dinner – I might try that. Then again, maybe not. Who am I to doubt Susan Spicer? A stronger cheese might totally overwhelm the subtle taste of the filet.

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His heart’s beating like a drum ’cause at last he’s got his girl home.

While the steaks finished roasting in the oven and rested before eating, we prepped the salad fixins’: matchsticks of apple, celery and comte. Comte is a mild swiss-style cheese with a nutty sweetness that picks up on the hazelnut oil in the cider dressing.

We tossed the fixins’ with some gorgeously colored red-leaf lettuce and the dressing and sprinkled on some chopped toasted hazelnuts.

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Don’t you just know exactly what they’re thinking?

Come on, admit it: that’s one fricking good looking salad. When was the last time you got excited about a salad? If it was any more recently than 2 years ago, you are a better person than me.

The cheese-stuffed beef was really, really good. This salad was better. The dressing had an outstanding texture and viscosity; a small amount perfectly coated each leaf without overwhelming the greens. The apple reduction was sweet, but the cider vinegar and raw shallots added complexity and kept things from getting cloying. The cheese added a touch of richness and the slightest pungency, and the hazelnuts contributed their nuttiness (duh.) and crunch.

Have I mentioned that this was a really, really good salad? I mean, a Really F’ing Good Salad. It would make a great light supper, maybe with some roasted winter squash or a hearty autumnal soup, and lends itself to lots of other cheese if comte isn’t your thing – easy-to-find cheddar and blue cheeses would both be tasty with the sweet apple dressing.

I really loved this salad.

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The boss is *totally* giving you that big promotion.

Filet stuffed with cheese.
How you make my heart sing out!
No really, it hurts.

This dish was incredible – flavorful, tender, rich – and also somewhat overwhelming. Of course, I’m assuming Susan Spicer didn’t intend for me to pour half a cup of bordelaise over my beef (I plated up and took the picture, and then promptly drenched my whole plate in sauce; you know I can’t keep secrets from you.)(Brian even poured the sauce over his potatoes and carrots.)

When I saw the filets come out of the oven I had a brief moment of concern that the cheese would be too much, but it wasn’t. Each bite of filet had just a kiss of herb-flecked cheese; in some cases, it almost seemed like the tender meat had absorbed some of the cheese. The bordelaise was incredibly richly flavored, with an amazing silken texture that clung delicately to the meat. The potatoes and carrots were present.

The salad – or at least the dressing – will most certainly go into regular rotation; I plan to reduce several gallons of apple juice this weekend and make myself a year’s supply. The beef, I’m not so sure. It was delicious, but the expense and richness don’t make it a viable candidate for go-to supper. But if I ever find myself in a sit-com wherein Brian’s up for a promotion and his persnickety boss announced that he’s coming over for dinner and I only have 10 minutes to throw something together, you can bet I’m pulling this one out of my hat.

Final Score: Us 1, Food 0

8 thoughts on “Thursday Night Smackdown: Holy cheese-filled beef, Batman!

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  2. I’m a big fan of anything stuffed, and woowee does cream cheese in beef sound tasty. I agree with you, though, about trying a *little* bit stronger cheese. Maybe you can find someone to donate the beef or something–I think this is a good cause.

    I came here, btw, via your comment on La Tartine Gourmande…can’t wait to see those crepes or whatever you come up with for World Nutella Day!

    You have a very fun place here; I’m subscribing now :)

  3. Thanks for your comment – I get so excited when someone other than my family finds the site!

    When my readership gets a little bigger , maybe I’ll put up a beef-related tip jar.

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