A properly cooked fillet steak is a joy to enjoy. Cooking a fillet (tenderloin) is not difficult either. Simply sear it on either side and throw the pan into a hot oven for a few minutes and the job is practically done. You can complicate the process and clog your arteries by finishing it (and yourself too) with butter. I have never seen the need to do this. A good fillet is a good fillet. Right?
Wrong, I’m afraid. Very wrong. Particularly so if one cooks the steak sous vide and makes a lovely red wine sauce to enjoy with it. While the steak is pretty straightforward to prepare, the sauce requires one to play the long game. The combination of a highly concentrated beef stock (demi-glace) and some good quality red wine makes for an unforgettable sauce.
That’s a half bottle of wine, not a huge steak. In fact it is a huge steak, just beside a half bottle of wine. The ice-cube tray contains previously made beef demi-glace.Apart from the missing ingredients (butter, salt and pepper), that’s all one needs. Do bear in mind that the demi-glace takes three days to make. It is essential to this dish. So, unless you have already made the demi-glace, you can’t have this for your dinner any day soon.
Let’s start with the steak.
A lesser mortal might have got 8 servings out of the big fillet. I couldn’t help myself. We were five, so five it was.
Once sliced, season the steak on both sides with black pepper. Not too much. Add a sprig or three of thyme.
Place the steaks, along with a knob of butter, in bags and vacuum seal them.
Next, it’s into the sous vide bath with them for two hours at 55ºC. While the beef is slowly cooking, slice up four shallots and two cloves of good garlic. Slice them nice and small. Fry them, in a bit of butter, over a medium heat until the shallots are just about translucent.
Add a glass and a half of good wine.
Side note on cooking with wine: Don’t be an idiot when it comes to cooking with wine. Use the good stuff. If you intend drinking a half decent wine with your steak, use that wine in the sauce. This will harmonise the meal. It will act as a flavour bridge between the beef and the wine. You will have a far more balanced meal than if you play the tightwad and use cheap wine in the cooking. If you intend drinking cheap wine with a fine fillet steak, go read something else. You are not wanted here.
Bring this to a gentle boil, to ensure all the alcohol evaporates. It will be gone by the time the wine starts to bubble. Add the beef demi-glace. Mine was frozen in ice-cube trays.
Bring the sauce back to a gentle boil. When you feel that the shallots and garlic have got their flavour into the sauce, sieve them out. I had simmered mine for about ten minutes before I thought it was right. By making your own call on this, you will have created a sauce rather than followed a recipe by some Irish bloke. Then, it’s all yours! Reduce the sauce by about half. put it to one side.
Take the beef out of the bags and remove the thyme. Heat some oil (or butter if you must) in a frying pan and brown the beef on both sides (and the edges, if you have the time and inclination. Remember, the beef is cooked (medium rare) and only needs a quick browning.
Put the sauce back on the heat. Add a knob of butter to thicken the sauce. This will also give it a nice extra taste dimension and will make the sauce silky smooth and shiny. Serve the steak with whatever vegetables you feel appropriate. Pour as much of the sauce as decency allows over your steak.
The beef was probably better than any fillet I have ever tasted. It was perfectly medium-rare from edge to edge. The sauce was an amazing, deep flavoured delight of deliciousness. There is no argument on this one. Fillet steak sous vide is fantastic. The sauce raises it to truly wonderful. When one adds the Chateau Tour de Yon to the equation, it makes for a meal too tasty for superlatives.