Fashionable Food

Recently, I made Steak Diane. I haven't had it since 1978; I remember the evening well. It was Parents' Weekend of my junior year in college and, as a treat, my folks took me out to a fancy restaurant. It was the first time I ever had Steak Diane, or anything prepared and flambéed table-side. For a young college kid, it seemed really sophisticated and elegant. I haven't seen it on a menu since.

I searched for a recipe online - and found several which I adapted to make today's recipe. As I was perusing the recipes, I also read the Wikipedia entry, which explained that it went out of fashion in 1980.

Really? Someone actually dated the moment it went out of fashion? Who does that? Who has that power? Who has the nerve to take such a good dish out of the repertoire?

And, pray tell, why didn't they make these things unfashionable?: Jell-O®. Kool-Aid®. Cheese Whiz®. Cool Whip®. Canned Chicken Chow Mein. Kraft Mac n Cheese®. Rice-a-Roni®. Okay, anything with a spice packet. Spam Hawaiian. Baked ham with pineapple and maraschino cherries. Sweet potatoes baked with orange juice and marshmallows. With all the possibilities out there, why did they pick on Diane?

I am planning her comeback. If Cher can do it (repeatedly), so can Diane.

When I first made this at home, I didn't do it table-side for Mark. He was sitting at the table watching, though, and we both gasped when I put the match to the brandy! My only experience with flambéeing thus far had been our Christmas pudding, an annual gift from our friend Laura. When you pour the brandy over the pudding, enough is absorbed that the flames don't fly up and singe your eyebrows.

One of the nicest side benefits of making Steak Diane is that it cooks in mere minutes. The down side is that, aside from measuring your ingredients, it cannot be done ahead.

So, for this reason, I can't imagine serving it for a formal dinner party, especially as our kitchen is open to view from the dining and living rooms. No, for me, this calls for an informal, casual gathering of a few friends who won't mind watching from the sidelines.

Cooking as spectator sport. Now that the Olympics are over, this is something we could watch on ESPN. (Yes, I know about the food channel!)

~ David

Steak Diane

4 (3-ounce) filet mignon medallions, between 1/2 and 3/4 inches thick
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
6 cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup crème fraîche
1/4 cup reduced veal stock **
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (click for recipe)
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
minced fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

NOTE: Have all your ingredients chopped, sliced and measured before you start cooking. 

Pat the beef dry with paper towels then season medallions on both sides with the salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook for 45 seconds on the first side. Turn and cook for 45 seconds on the second side. Remove the meat and place on a plate tented with foil to keep warm. Add the shallots to the pan and cook, stirring, for 20 seconds. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until soft, 2 minutes.

Add the brandy and ignite off the heat. When the flame has burned out, add the mustard and crème fraîche, mix thoroughly and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the veal stock and simmer for 1 minute. Add the Worcestershire and stir to combine. Stir in the chives and parsley and return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pan; turn the meat to coat with the sauce.

Remove from the heat and divide medallions and sauce between 2 large warmed plates and serve immediately.

Serves 2

     ** I used 2 tablespoons demi-glace concentrate thinned with 2 tablespoons water.

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