The Filet Mignon

Filet mignon, char-grilled to medium rare

The Filet Mignon, meaning cute or dainty filet, is essentially a tube of “tenderloin” meat that runs along the spine of a steer. There isn’t much of it per animal, so it is coveted by meat enthusiasts, and therefore often expensive. It is possibly the most lean, tender part of the animal, so it makes for a great steak. This is the meat of aristocrats. Carnivore connoisseurs will argue tirelessly over which is the most flavorful cut – the ribeye or the filet. My personal opinion is that the ribeye offers the most flavor, but the filet consistently offers the best quality cut of beef. Cooking a filet at home can present a challenge in avoiding uneven distribution of color, since, to get a large enough portion size, the meat often has to be cut thick. The outside can be overdone and the inside underdone. Masterful meat mongers and manipulators know how to get the job done, however, so have no fear. Sizes range from 6-8oz petit filets (sometimes served alongside lobster for a “surf & turf” meal) to 10oz-12oz standard filets. The term filet actually means boneless, but there is a trend lately to leave a portion of a nearby bone attached to the filet to impart a more rich flavor to the meat. Hence the self-defeating, paradoxical “Bone-in Filet” verbiage you may see on a menu. Common modes of preparation are roasted with a sauce (sometimes whole, banquet style after the tough “silver skin” is removed, as done with chateau briand), grilled, or broiled. More recently masterful chefs have surmounted the problem of uneven cooking and temperature distribution by using the sous vide cooking method. Raw preparations include tartar (finely chopped) and carpaccio (thinly sliced and pounded/tenderized), usually served chilled and drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with fresh herbs and garnished with micro greens and shaved hard cheese (such as parmigiano). The raw preparations are my favorite, and often times show up as an appetizer on steakhouse menus. Nothing better than getting ready to eat a grilled steak by… eating some raw steak!