This Father's Day, why not treat Dad to a filet mignon dinner—that you've cooked yourself? This luxury cut of beef, accompanied by simple side dishes and a bottle of great red wine (we recommend some recently-rated Cabernets and Zinfandels below), is sure to please your father, providing you know what to look for in the store, and, in the case of the steak, how to deal with it once you've got it home.
"Filet mignon is the chameleon cut of beef," says Wine Spectator contributing editor Sam Gugino. He explains that this mildly flavored steak, sometimes called a tenderloin steak because it comes from the tenderloin, takes on whatever flavors you give it, from a wine reduction to a vinegar-based pan sauce to a compound butter topping. And you can cook filets in a variety of ways.
When shopping for filet mignon, says Gugino, you should know that the size can vary dramatically, from 6 to 18 ounces in weight and from 2 to 3 1/2 inches thick. A 10-ounce, 2-inch-thick steak is large enough to get a nice char on the outside while remaining rare inside.
Since you've already decided to splurge on filet mignon, are you wondering whether Wagyu beef (meat from a Japanese Wagyu cow or a cross-bred American cousin, prized for its intensely fat-marbled flesh) is worth the extra cost? It could be, if Dad truly prizes buttery-tasting flesh, but be warned: filet mignon from the venerable Allen Bros. in Chicago, shipped frozen, will cost you $152 per pound. In general, choosing a cut labeled "prime" should give you enough marbling for that great steak flavor without breaking the bank.
Gugino says that broiling is the most common method of cooking filet mignon in the kitchen. Depending on the intensity of your broiler, a 2-inch-thick, 10-ounce filet mignon will take 14 to 15 minutes (turning once halfway through) to achieve medium rare, or an internal temperature of about 130° F (which can be determined with an inexpensive instant-read thermometer, widely available in kitchen-supply stores and supermarkets).
If you prefer to cook outdoors on a grill, use medium-high heat—there should be a light ash on the glowing coals—to cook the meat for seven-and-a-half minutes on each side. If the steak starts to char too much before it's done, move it to a cooler part of the grill to finish.(For more grilling tips, check out our feature, "How to Cook: The Grill.")
Gugino warns, "Regardless of the cooking method, don't cook filet mignon past medium; the lack of fat makes the meat less forgiving. Allow the steaks to rest for five minutes, loosely covered with foil, before serving them."
Béarnaise sauce is a classic accompaniment to filet mignon; be sure to check out our recipe. You may also choose to garnish the steak more simply, with a bit of fleur de sel and maybe a drizzle of high-quality aged balsamic vinegar. And be sure to check out our recipe archive for some great vegetable dishes and desserts.
However you cook or garnish your steak and whatever you choose to accompany it, we hope you and your family have a great day, with lots of great wines—see the list below to get you started. Happy Father's Day!
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