We saw this recipe in the November issue of Bon Appétit and just had to give it a try. Several months ago I bought a whole beef tenderloin and prepared several filet mignons from it along with a nice little roast and a chine that I have yet to figure out what to do with. I vacuum packed several of the cuts with my Food Saver and they’ve been waiting patiently in my freezer. If you’ve ever seen a tenderloin you know that it is bigger on one end and tapers off to a very flat piece toward the end. I had used up all the choice steaks that work well for searing and looking proud on a plate. But I did have three much smaller cuts left in my freezer and decided their day had finally come and what a wonderful way for them to go.
The recipe calls for rib-eye steaks and I’m sure that would have worked well. I love rib-eye and if I hadn’t had the filet mignon in the freezer I would have gone to it in a heartbeat. I think a lot of us never really have filet mignon as often as we would like primarily because when prepared it can turn into a very expensive meal. The little cuts that I had leftover, in my local market, would have cost nearly $40 to buy from the meat case. If you pick up a tenderloin from a warehouse store like Costco, you can get an entire tenderloin that will make 7-9 cuts for perhaps $5 per cut. When cooked properly (read not over-cooked) you barely need a knife.
Here’s the official recipe from the magazine:
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
• 4 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
• 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
• 1/2 teaspoon Asian chili-garlic sauce
• 1/8 teaspoon plus 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil, divided
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
• 2 12-ounce rib-eye steaks
• 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
• 8 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, quartered
• 8 cups mixed greens
Pre-heat your oven now to 190 degrees. We’re going to use this low heat to pre-warm the steaks. One of the keys to getting a nice rare steak, but not have it be raw or to not have the outside overcooked while trying to get the inside done, is to warm the meat slowly and gently before you sear it. We’ll put these steaks in the oven for about 15-20 minutes and this will make it so that you don’t have to cook the outside of the steak so long to get the center temperature up. A steak whose internal temperature is 90-100 degrees before it ever hits the pan will be much easier to cook correctly. Go ahead and lay out the steaks in a baking dish, blot them dry with a paper towel on both sides, and place them on the center rack of the oven *after* it has preheated. Some methods I’ve seen will have you put the steaks in a 250 degree oven. I’ve found that this can be too warm and the steak will start cooking on the bottom before it has come up to an internal temperature of 95-100 degrees F. You would like to get the steak up to temperature and still have it be red on both sides.
Now it’s time to toast the sesame seeds. I was a little reticent about putting any heat on them knowing that they would be the crust for the steak that would be hitting an extremely hot cast iron pan. I didn’t want them to be scorched. So I brought up the heat slowly and toasted them slightly. Remember that the pan will retain heat and continue to toast the seeds unless you remove them from the pan. Use your judgment as to whether you need to remove them or just leave them in the pan to cool down. I took them off the cook top early enough that I just let them cool in the pan.
If I were you this is where I would seriously depart from the recipe. Baby bellas, otherwise known as crimini mushrooms, are a wonderful addition to any steak and salad. The recipe calls for 8 oz. If you saute down 8 oz of mushrooms you will be left with enough for one good helping on one plate. I bought 16 oz and wished I had doubled that. If you are cooking as much steak as the recipe calls for, 2 x 12 oz rib-eyes, and slicing it up to split amongst several salad plates, you will have much more steak than mushrooms and will come up very short. So don’t follow the recipe. Get a bunch of mushrooms and hope that you have some left over.
Gently clean the mushrooms and then slice them vertically into 1/8″-1/4″ slices.
Bring your saute pan up to medium heat. Add just enough oil to the pan to be able to coat the mushrooms and add them to the pan and toss to get them coated. You don’t want the pan too hot because the mushrooms cook by giving up steam from the moisture inside. That moisture needs to escape and if the pan is too hot you will burn the mushrooms before they’re cooked. There’s no precision to when it’s done. It will smell wonderful as it gets going. The more you cook them the smaller they will get. You want them to have some tooth, but not to be cooked so much as to be leathery. Go ahead and snitch one out of the pan to test it. While it’s finishing up give it a few turns of fresh ground black pepper and a pinch of salt and stir it around.
Next, turn your attention to making the ginger dressing. I have to admit I made a mistake at this point. The recipe calls for 8 cups of mixed greens that this dressing will go with. I was making dinner for two and we weren’t about to need 8 cups of salad. I went ahead and made the dressing according to the recipe, sampled it and thought it so good that I just added it to a smaller amount of salad. It turned out much too salty with the soy sauce. But at the same time I wanted all of the flavor of the ginger and the garlic chili sauce. I think next time I would cut back some on the soy and replace what I pull out with a bit of water and some more canola oil. There’s no doubt you would still taste the soy, but it would also allow some of these other flavors to emerge.
Chop the cilantro. In a mixing bowl mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar, vegetable oil, minced ginger, chili garlic sauce, and sesame oil. Add the chopped cilantro and mix and set the dressing aside to marinate.
You’ll have to monitor your timing with the steaks. If you’re slow with a knife then you may want to wait to preheat the steaks until you have more of the prep for the salad and mushrooms done. If you have been warming up your steaks you should periodically check their temperature and pull them out when they are between 90-100 degrees. This should be a temperature that will give the steak a head start when it hits the pan, but it will not have started cooking or turning brown.
Blot the steaks dry again with a paper towel. We do this so that the steaks will sear better in the pan. If they are wet then you won’t get the nice color or texture of a nicely seared steak. The moisture will simply steam the steak with less satisfying results. Salt and pepper them on one side and then sprinkle them with the toasted sesame seeds and press the seeds into the steaks with your hands or the back of a spoon. Carefully flip them all over and salt and pepper and coat the next side with sesame seeds.
If you have a cast iron pan then there is no better time to use it. In fact, the best thing to do, if you have a double oven, is to preheat this pan to 500 degrees before putting it on the cook top. I keep a high heat safflower oil on hand for searing like this. When the pan is super hot then hitting it with a lower temperature oil that will seriously smoke and break down is not good. Safflower oil is one of the best oils to use for high temperature cooking. Add a tablespoon or two to the pan and let it heat. Then nestle each steak on top of some oil in the pan.
From the side you will begin to see the steak cook from the bottom. When that brown layer is about a quarter of the way up then it’s a good time to flip the steak. Of course, if you want it done more then just keep cooking it at your own peril. I would expect to cook these for no more than about 3-4 minutes per side. Remember that at super high pan temperatures the steak will continue to cook after you pull it from the pan. Once you’ve cooked them on both sides, remove from the pan to a plate or cutting board and cover with aluminum foil to allow them to “rest”.
Resting the steak after it is cooked is very important. For starters, you really don’t want to put piping hot steak slices onto a salad unless you want wilted salad. So you have some time to let it cool down. But more importantly it gives the juices that have been driven toward the surface of the steak time to reabsorb into the steak making it juicier. The same concept applies to cooking a chicken or turkey. If you cut into meat too soon after it has come off the heat, all the good juices will come out and the meat will be drier.
While the meat is resting, go ahead and toss the salad along with the ginger dressing and place a pile of salad onto a plate. Spoon some of the mushrooms alongside. With a sharp knife, cut the steak into slices that are not too thin, but not so thick as to make a tough cut with a knife. If you’ve cooked the steak right it will be very tender and easy to cut. Let the knife do the work without pressing too hard. Extra pressure simply forces more juice out of the steak and is not desirable. Lay slices of the steak over the salad greens. If you have any leftover chopped cilantro or toasted sesame, feel free to garnish the dish by sprinkling both over the top of everything.
I’m happy to say I’ll make this again. I would even make the dressing separately just for a nice twist on salad when you need it. But next time I think I will cut back on the soy so that the ginger and chili garlic sauce can have more of the stage. Also, make sure you cook plenty of mushrooms. They are so good that you’ll be snitching them while you’re cooking and dreaming about them the next day if you don’t have any leftover.