Jamie Oliver wants to make me a Better Cook. And you know what? I want to let him. Not just because I want to reach up and tousle his slightly windblown yet actually styled and product-filled hair, which I do, but because he helped me make white beans better than I’ve ever had before. I love me some white beans, so that’s saying a lot. I want him to come to my house and take over my neighbors’ backyards so I can grow my own chard and potatoes and heirloom purple carrots and raise chickens sustainably although I will kill and eat some of them but not do the killing part on live television because the reaction that generated was maybe not so great.
Also there was filet mignon. And creme fraiche. And in retrospect some part of this was supposed to include a “knob of butter,” which I totally forgot but it was delicious all the same.
These look like tentacles that have to be subdued before you can eat the leek itself, which is the only reason for this picture.
These leeks came from Whole Foods and not from the greenhouse I’ve erected on my roof. I could tell because they were way, way too clean. If they’d come from Jamie’s yard, they’d be filled with wholesome English dirt that would have to be cleaned off in a homey English farmhouse kitchen.
The leeks did not sweat to the oldies, they sweated to Adele’s 19. Have you heard this album? You should buy it immediately and then listen to it until your iPod burns out.
The leeks, garlic and some thyme sweated it out in a pot for 20 minutes or so with “a good glug” of olive oil. You don’t really have to pay much attention to them other than making sure the heat is low enough so the leeks actually sweat and don’t brown. Slightly scary: I have no idea what I did during those 20 minutes, and this whole thing only happened 2 hours ago. So even though this recipe was really good, you might want to film yourself making it if you don’t like blackouts. I don’t mind the occasional fugue state – they can be a welcome respite – so I just went on with things.
Neither the thyme nor the garlic came from my backyard garden, partly because I’ve never grown garlic and partly because it’s the middle of winter and it was actually 12 degrees below absolute zero here yesterday, so I can’t feel too guilty about that. Jamie seems forgiving. And during the summer I get my garlic from a CSA and grow my own herbs, not that I am overcompensating in any way because I want Jamie to like me.
Some white wine went into the beans. I like to keep some mini bottles around so I don’t have to open a whole normal bottle every time I need a little. Jamie helpfully told me I needed “a glass” of wine. He’s exacting, that Oliver.
Really, is he not the cutest thing?*
A can and a half of cannellini beans went into the leeks and wine to simmer and soften. They were supposed to be lima beans but (1) my handwriting is chicken scratch, leaving my husband confused in the bean aisle of Whole Foods and (2) once he figured it out, there were no cans of lima beans ( Jamie told me to use canned). I was secretly a little happy, because I don’t think I like lima beans (Yes, I said “I don’t think I like” them. I don’t like succotash, so I assume I don’t like lima beans and I haven’t felt the need to test that assumption with lima beans in a non-succotash situation. This recipe could change my mind, though.)
I left them to simmer while I dealt with the filet mignon.
*He is. He’s like everything Rocco DiSpirito is not, and for that we love him. If he turns into a DiSpirito, my betrayal will know no bounds. It would be like finding out that the Barefoot Contessa is actually wearing shoes, or that Paula Deen is actually a normal person putting on a hideous, hideous act.
Salt and pepper: Don’t go easy on it. Salt and pepper = delicious crusty sear.
I know a lot of people think filet mignon is just buttery and tasteless. I think those people are stupid. I’m sorry if you’re one of them, and you shouldn’t stop reading my blog, but filet mignon is fucking good. Not that a good aged New York strip won’t turn my head – I can be fickle with my meats – but just admit that filet is good in the right circumstances. Like these circumstances.
I oiled the meat (don’t be gross), gave it a good dose of salt and pepper, and laid it into a smoking hot pan. I did not allow the pan to get “white hot” as Jamie instructed, because Brian gets really upset when I smelt indoors. I’m only allowed to do my part for the great leap forward in the backyard.
Yes, I used a meat thermometer (the digital probe kind) (seriously, DON’T BE GROSS) to make sure I got it right. One day I will learn the palm-feeling method (you’re on thin ice), but I didn’t want to fuck up what was essentially one-half of the meal.
I only needed a few spoons of creme fraiche to finish the beans, so that means I have most of a tub left to make the best scrambled eggs ever this weekend.
The beans were finished with some finely chopped parsley, creme fraiche and another “glug” of olive oil. I asked Brian how much he thought a glug was, and he responded with a surprisingly specific “one and a half tablespoons,” although I’m pretty sure this was just to appease me.
British people: does a “glug” have a precise meaning? Similarly, how large is a “knob”* of butter? I’m assuming it’s not actually what I think of when I think of the word knob.
Technically, the beans were done at this point but there was a little more liquid than I wanted, probably because my definition of a glass of wine is not the same as Jamie’s. I left it to sit on the simmer burner, hoping to drive some of the liquid off while the beef finished cooking.
*Heh, I said “knob.” Okay, fine, I’m as guilty as the rest of you.
I mean, COME ON. You know this is good.
Yes, fine, I used the thermometer, but I still did an awesome job. Took the steak off the heat at about 125, made it a little tinfoil tent and waited as long as I could before slicing. I know the tenting and waiting is important but it’s [whiny voice] so haaard.* I’ve learned to be patient though, because Brian gives me the death-ray eyes if I try to eat the crispy skin off the roast chicken before it’s ready to be carved. It’s all very “wax on, wax off.”
I spooned a generous helping of beans into a large, shallow bowl along with a few slices of steak and squeezed some lemon over the top. Not normally how I would treat filet, but Jamie told me to.
*That’s what she said!**
**Damn it. I just can’t help myself.
I fucking rule.
Here’s the thing: I took a picture of the pages in the book containing the recipe so I could put them up and show you how exactly like Jamie’s version this looks. But I didn’t, because I am HUMBLE. Fucking humble.
I knew this was going to be yummy, but I did not anticipate how wonderful it would be, or how perfectly the tender beef would pair with the hearty beans and barely sweet leeks. If I had the book in front of me, I’d give you the actual name of the dish, which is something like “filet mignon with the most perfectly creamy white beans,” because Jamie is also humble. I call it “there’s going to be some unfortunate farting in bed tonight but man is this good.”*
The cut of meat was buttery and tender, as it should be, with a nice salty crust. The beans were beyond the pale for beans. They were so good, they’re not in the same league as other beans. They’re like the diaspora of beans. Creamy, a little sweet, the thyme adding just the right herbal note, the creme fraiche not making its flavor presence known but mixing with the olive oil and beaniness to create a silky sauce that just coated the beans. The hit of lemon was perfect and exactly what the dish needed to keep it from veering too far off the tracks of beans and beef and toward butterville.
You’d think everything would be just kind of my soft and mushy, but there was actually an interesting mix of texture – but the opposite of what you’d think. The rare filet was soft and pliable, while the beans had a lovely chew. The whole dish was like a study in contrasts: One of the fancy-pantsiest foods over one of the most humble.
Final Score: Us, 1; Food, 0; Jamie Oliver, fricking adorable.
*In actuality, the farting started long before bedtime.