A Romantic Dinner: Chateaubriand with A Bernaise Sauce I Can Actually Do and Pasta with Truffle Alfredo

Friday, June 25, 2010

While at Whole Foods the other day, I came across a cut of steak I'd never had before: chateaubriand (pictured above). It looks like a boneless rib-eye in terms of thickness, but in fact is a super-thick cut of the tenderloin. The very center of the chateaubriand cut is the more commonly known filet mignon, so this gives you an indication of where it is and how tender the meat can be. Chateaubriand is not technically the accurate term for the cut, but has sort of developed into such because butchers today cut the tenderloin larger and thicker for the purpose of making Chateaubriand, the recipe.
Chateaubriand also refers to the preparation. Historically, it is held that the dish was created by personal chef, Montmireil, for Vicomte Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand, an author and diplomat who served as an ambassador for Napolean and as SEcretary of State for Louis XVIII. It involved the large steak (prepared and served for two people), roasted until medium-rare, and served with a sauce of white wine, shallot, demi-glace, butter, tarragon, and lemon. The classic Bernaise sauce has come to replace it as a classic sauce pairing for the Chateaubriand. Also, Chateau Potatoes were served, which involved peeling and shaping the potatoes into the shape of large olives or footballs, par-boiling them and then finishing them off in butter.
Decadent? Yes.
French? You betcha!
But let's face it, all of us don't have the time nor the money to deal with all of this. Instead, I decided to update this classic dish but adding a decidedly comforting flare with the substitution of pasta with a rich alfredo sauce for the potatoes. The addition of truffle oil made the pasta rich and "expensive." I also took the steak and prepared it in the traditional style of Steak au Poivre, and configured a super easy Bernaise-type sauce without the demi-glace but that still had the flavor, texture, and fortitude to stand up to this rich meat.
Andrew was very impressed with the outcome, and when I told him it all took me 30 minutes he barely believed me. Although you can make demi-glace at home (it takes 2 days) or buy it made at Williams-Sonoma (for $20), you can achieve a pretty damn close effect with the reduction of beef broth and pan drippings.
Given the cut of the meat, this recipe is perfect for a date night at home. Add a roaring fireplace and good bottle of wine and the rest is up to you!

Chateaubriand with Quick-Bernaise Sauce and Pasta with Truffled Alfredo
1 chateaubriand steak
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp whole black pepper corns
1/4 tsp Creole seasoning or cayenne pepper
olive oil
unsalted butter
all-purpose flour
1/2 cup - 3/4 cup beef stock
1/2 cup half n half or cream (heated or at room temperature)
1 cup pasta (recommend: pasta shells or fettucine)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp truffle oil (optional)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Take the steak and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Season the steak very liberally with kosher salt and black pepper on the top and bottom sides (don't worry about seasoning the sides of the steak). Gently press in the salt and pepper with the flat part of the palm of your hand. Set aside.
In a large oven-proof pan or skillet*, heat about a tablespoon and half of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter together. The butter will provide flavor while the oil will enable you to cook at high heat and not burn the butter. Once the pan is very hot (but not smoking yet), add the steak carefully right into the butter-oil. Let stand for 3 minutes. A gorgeous golden crust will form on the bottom. Flip the steak over and sear on the other side, 3 minutes to achieve the same result.
Searing both sides for a steak is extremely important. What's happening is you're creating a crust on both sides. This crust acts as a shield against the heat, so the steak inside can get done but remain juicy. The crust is also going to provide you with the base for your Bernaise sauce later. So make sure you invest proper attention in your seasoning and searing process as it's the crux of this whole recipe!
After the steak has been seared on both sides, place it in the oven (still in the pan, hence the oven-proofness) and roast uncovered for 15 minutes for medium-rare; 20 minutes for medium; 25 minutes for medium-well. If you prefer your steak well done, do not make this recipe and waste your time on this cut. Buy flank steak instead.
While the steak is roasting, prepare your pasta.
Bring some water to a boil. Salt the water with kosher salt and add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, make your quick alfredo sauce. In a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter until just melted. Add 1 tablespoon of flour and whisk, creating a roux. Cook the roux for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minutes. Then add the cream a little at a time, whisking out the lumps as you add. The liquid will make the roux clump up every time you add it, so don't panic; just keep stirring and it will smooth out. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Switch to a wooden spoon and remove from heat. Add the parmesan cheese and incorporate until it melts. Add the truffle oil if desired and set aside.
Toss the pasta right in the saucepan you made the alfredo sauce in (if they're room; if not then combine it all in another large bowl) and mix, evenly coating the pasta with the sauce. Cover to keep warm or transfer to oven-safe dish to keep warm in oven.
At this point the steak will be done. Take out from the oven and very carefully remove the steak onto a plate to rest. Take the pan it roasted in back to the stove top and place on medium heat. The pan should leave some oil and butter and lots of "brown bits"; these are the caramelization from the steak and will serve as the base of your sauce! If you need more fat then add a tablespoon of butter, but you really should have enough in the pan.
To make the sauce, add a tablespoon of flour to the butter-oil mixture and begin whisking. Make sure to take off the brown bits from the bottom and sides as best you can and just incorporate it all. You'll get another roux formed. Add the beef broth a little at a time again, whisking to smooth it out again. Add the peppercorns and thyme, and let simmer on medium-low heat to reduce. By reducing the liquid, you're concentrating the flavors. The liquid will reduce until you're left with a thick sauce. Remove the thyme sprigs and now it's ready to serve.
To assemble.
Cut the steak into two portions and place on plates. Spoon the sauce all over the steaks and a little on the sides. Add the pasta to the side and serve hot.

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