This past Friday night, Natalie and I wanted to do something special, but wanted to stay home. It had been a crazy week, and we just didn't want to navigate the whole "last minute reservations" scenario. SO, what to do? Cook at home!
Seems simple, except that we wanted something that was every bit as good as what we could find at a fine restaurant--just without the fine restaurant. Enter Central Market--our local neighborhood grocery store (like our version of Cheers--where everyone knows our name). Without much direction walking in, we were quickly offered our pick of their recent shipment of Perigord black truffles from France, and that shaped our dinner plans.
We quickly settled on Tornedos Rossini--a French dish featuring filet mignon served rare, topped with seared foie gras, shaved black truffle, and a red-wine demi-glace sauce. Created by renowned French Chef Marie-Antoine Careme for the composer Gioachino Rossini when he lived in Paris in the early 1800s, it may have been the inspiration for operas such as The Barber of Seville, William Tell, or, my favorite La Cenerentola (Cinderella).
Now, the dish may seem or even look complicated, but in reality it isn't. Follow these simple instructions, and you can make the same at home whenever you want. To assemble, just place the steak on the plate (or on the crustini--see below), layer the foie gras on top, spoon sauce over both, and shave your black truffle over everything at the very end. We hope you enjoy this as much as we did.
Pick a nice 6-8oz filet mignon for each person you plan on serving. We went for prime, but you can choose any filet you want. Season with salt and pepper, or with whatever seasoning mix you regularly use for steak (we often use Good Night Grill Seasoning) and cook to rare. The original recipe calls for pan-searing with butter until rare. We generally sous-vide our steaks at 130 degrees for a couple of hours, with a good pan-sear to caramelize the outside after the steak is done cooking. Do whatever works best for you. If you want to go wild, you can even use the grill--just make sure things don't get overdone.
Making foie-gras seems daunting, but really isn't. Simply buy a lobe of foie-gras (de-veigned) or buy pre-cut pieces sold at finer grocery stores under the D'Artagnan brand. Central Market sells the pre-sliced variety in the frozen section right off the meat counter. You'll need one slice per serving. Lightly score each side in a cross-hatch pattern, salt and pepper to taste, and sear each side in a very hot non-stick skillet for 20-30 seconds. Remove from the skillet with a spatula, and reserve the rendered fat for the sauce.
Red Wine Demi-Glace
You'll need a half-cup of madeira, port, or some other full-bodied red wine, 2 cups of rich veal or beef stock, roughly 6 ounces of veal demi-glace, and a stick of butter, cut into 1oz pieces. First, heat the wine on medium-high or high heat until the alcohol has burned off and the wine has begun to reduce. Then add the stock and demi-glace and boil until the mixture is reduced by approx. 3/4, and the sauce has started to thicken. Add butter, 1oz at a time, while stirring vigorously with a whisk until the sauce is velvety smooth. Add in the reserved fat from the seared foie-gras. If you're having a difficult time getting the sauce to thicken, you can add a bit of cornstarch if you wish.
Now, the question you have may be "where do I find a black truffle?" The answer to that question is not always so easy. During truffle season, which is going on right now, you can find fresh black truffles at Central Market or other specialty grocers. Or, you can order them online and have them shipped. If you're like us, we vacuum-seal extras during the season and freeze for use later (they don't lose much aroma if sealed). But we don't generally use the jarred kind you find at some grocery stores. While they were once truffles, we don't find they have much flavor.
Something to note when choosing a black truffle: inspect before you buy. A fresh black truffle should be firm to the touch, and not slimy or spongy. Preferably purchase a whole truffle, rather than one that is pre-cut. And smell before you settle on one--if it smells faintly like Windex, that means it has started to rot. A fresh truffle should have a heady, earthy aroma that is almost intoxicating. I know this may seem like overkill, but for what these little guys cost, it's worth it to do your homework.
Now, some may ask, "how am I supposed to shave a truffle?" Well, most truffles I know prefer a hot towel, warm shaving cream and a straight razor. Ok, sorry for that. In actuality, the best way to shave a truffle over your steak is by using a chocolate shaver. Just watch out for your thumb--these things hurt. Shave a fair amount on top of each warm filet, and save the rest for later. The heat from the steak will bring out the aromatics of the fresh truffle--no cooking required. As a measure, we used roughly 1/2 of a larger truffle for the two of us.
Leftover truffles can be used for fantastic pasta or egg dishes the next day, or for up to 5 days after. Just lightly wrap in a paper towel and store in a plastic bag with a bit of rice in your refrigerator.
This is a really rich dish on its own, but has subtle, complex flavors that you don't want to mute with a huge wine. We find that this pairs well with a medium-body cabernet sauvignon or cab-centric blend (think Bordeaux or Napa/Sonoma Valleys), or a nicely-aged red from the Southern Rhone region of France. This would also pair well with an old-world style Rioja. We chose Overture, the second wine from Napa producer Opus One. It was a delicious choice.
We elected to keep the sides pretty simple here. Green beans and mushrooms, sauteed with butter, salt, and pepper. You could add a hint of garlic or green onion if you wish, but don't overdue it--you don't want to overpower the main dish. You could also make a potato puree, which would work really well here.
The original recipe for Tournedos Rossini calls for the steak to be served over a freshly-toasted crustini of French bread. We generally skip this (we feel the bread just gets soggy), but if you want to be super-authentic, crisp up a thin slice of French bread in the oven or in a skillet for each person being served, and use that as a base for your filet.