Filet Mignon with Cherry Sauce

Eric and I love this dish. We have it once or twice a month, usually on a Friday or Saturday night with a bottle of red wine. It goes well with baked potatoes or creamed spinach.
  • Two 6 oz. or 8 oz. filets of beef tenderloin (Buying good meat is key. I usually get those perfectly round, bacon-wrapped, factory-sealed filets made by Paty. They're about $3.50 apiece, or $9 a pound, at Tom Thumb, and they keep in the fridge for quite a while. When I want to splurge, I'll go to the meat counter at Kroger and have them slice the $15-per-pound grain-fed tenderloin for me. Both meats are good, but you do get what you pay for. The bacon affects the flavor of the sauce, so you'll have to decide which way you like it better. If you try to remove the bacon from those prepackaged cuts of meat, they tend to fall apart.)
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter (or salted if the filets aren't wrapped in bacon, or if you just don't feel like investing in a full container of unsalted butter for one recipe)
  • 1/2 teaspoon concentrated beef broth (you could also use the powdered version, but I find the bottles of concentrated broth a lot easier to work with)
  • half a cup of cooking sherry
  • 1 cup of dry red wine (I use cheap wine for this -- from one of those boxes with the little spigot. But there's nothing wrong with using nicer wine if that's more convenient.)
  • 1 handful (about a third of a cup) of dried cherries (You can buy these in bulk at Whole Foods or HEB Central Market. They keep forever, so I usually buy a couple cups at a time.)
  • half a cup of sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)

Melt the butter over high heat in a pot that's wide enough to hold both filets. Try to use something with high sides to minimize splattering. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the filets, then place them in the melted butter with a long pair of tongs (you might want to skip the salt if you're using bacon-wrapped filets). Brown them on each side for 1 to 2 minutes, and then stand them on their sides for a little bit to render some bacon fat into the sauce. Remove the filets and set them aside.

Pour the sherry, wine, concentrated broth, cherries, and mushrooms (if using) into the same pot and stir up all the bits that are stuck to the bottom. Turn the heat down to medium. When the sauce is simmering, put the filets back in the pot and cover. Turn the filets regularly and keep simmering until cooked to your liking. I've never been able to figure the exact time it takes to cook them medium rare, so after about five minutes I'll start cutting in to them periodically to see if they're done. If the liquid dries up too quickly, add water.

When the filets are done, remove them to the serving plates. Turn the heat up to high. If you want a thicker sauce, mix the cornstarch with some cold water and stir it into the sauce (it will thicken as it boils). Spoon the cherries (and mushrooms) around the filets, then pour some of the sauce over the top. Serve the remaining sauce in a small bowl.

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Copyright 2002 by Dianne Reis.