This is a dish for a special occasion.
Neither fast, nor inexpensive, Tournedos a l’Occitane is worth every one of your precious moments and hard-earned dollars.
It is based on a Madeleine Kamman’s recipe from the excellent In Madeleine’s Kitchen
. Kamman is a terrific writer; she leaves nothing to chance either with basic information or the recipes themselves which can often run to a few pages.
You can prepare the various parts of the dish ahead of time. Make the butter first as that will keep well in the fridge. I lashed out and bought French Lescure butter, seasoned with sea salt. After sampling a little piece I could suddenly see why fresh garden radishes spread with best butter is a French classic. Kamman’s original recipe uses Roquefort in the savoury butter but my Saint Agur blue cheese substitution was so lovely that it will become a permanent adaptation. Saint Agur is a particularly creamy and quite mild blue cheese.
The steaks need to marinate overnight and this becomes the first building block of the sauce. Flavour is added, layer upon layer, resulting in a few precious tablespoons of the most divine chocolate coloured sauce. Kamman’s technique in making sauces is based on browning the trimmings of the meat in the dish and then simmering these trimmings with stock before straining and reducing to a glaze. The butcher having deftly trimmed my piece of fillet steak, I bought a slice of oyster blade extra and marinated that along with the fillet steaks.
Occitania, incidentally, culturally occupies the south of France, northern Spain and parts of northwest Italy.
Tournedos a l’Occitane (serves 4)
For the walnut and blue cheese butter:
150g finest quality salted butter – Lescure is excellent
80g Saint Agur blue cheese
3 tbsp walnuts, fried in olive oil until golden, drained
Mix together the softened butter and cheese. Taste and add more cheese if you like.
Reserve 4 of the best looking walnuts for garnish. Chop the rest and add to the butter. Mix well, shape into a log and refrigerate until needed.
Steaks and sauce:
4 pieces fillet steak cut 2.5cm thick and then flattened slightly
1 slice oyster blade steak
2 cups full-bodied red wine
8 juniper berries, crushed
4 cloves garlic, crushed
half onion, chopped roughly
parsley stems, chopped
1 bay leaf, fresh or dry, broken into a couple of pieces
1 tsp thyme leaves
1 tbsp butter
two-thirds cup beef or veal stock
Mix together the wine, juniper, garlic, onion, parsley, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, simmer for 2 minutes and then allow to cool completely before pouring over the steaks. Cover well and refrigerate overnight. The next day take the steaks from the marinade. Pat dry and remove any pieces of marinade clinging to the meat. Pop the fillet steaks back in the fridge. Strain the marinade, reserving both the liquid and vegetables. Pat the vegetables dry. Cut the oyster blade into small pieces.
Heat the butter in a fry pan. Brown the oyster blade. Add the marinade vegetables and continue to saute for a few minutes. Pour over the marinade liquid. Cook until it is reduced to about half a cup. Strain through a muslin-lined sieve. Discard meat and vegetables.
Place marinade reduction in a saucepan. Add the beef or veal stock and boil until the sauce is reduced by about half. If you think the sauce looks a little thin, thicken very slightly with cornflour/water mix. Just before serving, whisk in a couple of tablespoons of walnut and cheese butter. Check for seasoning.
Meanwhile, oil and season the fillet steaks and saute for a couple of minutes on each side until cooked to your preferred level of doneness – two minutes each side = medium rare. Rest in a warm place.
Place a fillet steak on each plate. Top with a disc of the butter. Grind over some pepper and pop a walnut half on top. Sprinkle with a little parsley. Pour the sauce around. Serve with a green salad or sautéed mix of green vegetables, red peppers and zucchini. Steamed kipfler or pink-eye potatoes would also go well.