Tag Archives: Mushrooms

A Night Out at the Steakhouse

I’ve never liked the idea of going out to dinner for a good steak.  When I go out for a nice dinner, I like to get things that are more difficult to prepare at home, or I may not have access to easily at home –  which in my mind is definitely not steak.  Quality meat already has amazing flavor.  You just have to make sure you season and cook it right.  If you have access to a good butcher shop with quality meats  (In Springfield we are lucky to have Country Market), you have all you need to make a “steakhouse quality” meal at home.  And if you really want to go for it and impress guests, throw in some roasted mushrooms and a red wine sauce.  Just remember: the meat is the star of the show, everything else on the plate is just there to support it in all its meat glory.

Fillet Mignon with Fingerling Potatoes and Asparagus with Red Wine Sauce and Roasted Wild Mushrooms

Serves 2


  • 1 Bunch Asparagus
  • ½ Tablespoon Olive Oil

Blanch asparagus in salted, boiling water.  Cook just a couple minutes, until the asparagus is a bright, fresh green and has lost its raw crunch.  Drain quickly and plunge into an ice bath to shock it and stop the cooking process.

Once cooled, drain asparagus.  Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Heat quickly in a sauté pan right before you want to serve.

Fingerling Potatoes

  • 1/2Pound Fingerling Potatoes
  • 5-8 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Halve potatoes long-wise.  Toss in a bowl with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Heat a cast iron pan on the stove over medium high heat.  Add potatoes, cut side down, in a single layer in the pan.  Add thyme on top of potatoes.  Let cook about 3-5 minutes.

Giving the fingerlings a nice brown crust before they go into the oven

Transfer pan to oven and let cook about 5 minutes.  Pull out pan and give pan a good stirring.  The bottoms of the potatoes should be a deep, rich brown.  It’s ok if they look almost burned.  They’re not, just nice and browned and full of good flavor.  Let cook another 5 minutes or so, depending on the size of your potatoes, until they are cooked through.  Pull out the springs of thyme and discard.

(At this point, I transfer my potatoes to another pan to keep warm in because I want to cook my steaks in the cast iron pan, and I only have one cast iron.)

Roasted Wild Mushrooms

  • 1 pound assorted mushrooms (I used some from Ozark Forest – see my last post), cut/torn into various sizes
  • ½ Tablespoon Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Heat a pan (I just used a regular sauté pan, not cast iron, but either would work) over medium high to high heat.  Add butter and oil to pan and heat until butter melts and starts to bubble/froth.

Add mushrooms to pan.  Do NOT overcrowd pan!  This is important.  If your pan is overcrowded, it’s going to bring down the temperature of the pan, causing your mushrooms to steam rather than roast.  And we want roasty mushrooms – nicely seared and becoming deep brown, not pale and soggy from being packed into a pan.  Also, don’t mess with them much. The more you mess with it (move it around), the less of a sear it will have a chance to develop.  If it feels like it is sticking, that just means the searing process is not done yet.  Let it keep going.  Once it has completely seared, it will release itself from the pan.  If you force it before it is ready, you will just tear up whatever it is your are cooking.

Let the mushrooms sear on one side, season with some salt and pepper, turn over, and let sear on their other side.  Remove from heat, transfer mushrooms to paper towel lined plate, and tent with foil to keep warm.

Fillet Mignon with Red Wine Sauce

  • 2, 8 oz Petite Fillet Mignon Steaks (we used bacon wrapped fillets)
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped shallots (or white onion if you don’t have any shallots)
  • ¾ Cup Red Wine
  • ½ Cup Beef stock (Chicken stock or Chicken broth is fine if you don’t have beef stock)
  • 1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, chilled, cut into 4 pieces

Rub steaks with olive oil.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

Heat cast iron pan over medium high to high heat.  Add steaks.  Let sear on one side about 3-4 minutes. (This again goes back to this whole “searing” idea – don’t overcrowd, don’t turn over before food is ready, let the brown colors/flavor of the sear develop).  Turn steaks over and continue searing for about 3 minutes.  Transfer pan to oven.  Let cook about 6 minutes (depending on thickness of steaks) for medium rare.  To test for doneness, either use a knife and cut just a bit into the middle of the steak to peek or just use your finger to poke the middle of the steak.  The firmer it feels, the more it is cooked.  Set steaks on a plate or cutting board to let rest 5-10 minutes.

Place pan back on stove top over medium to medium high heat.  Add shallots and cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Add red wine to deglaze pan, and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up any bits that have accumulated on the pan.  These bits are all part of the drippings from the steaks that will add flavor to your sauce.  Let reduce by a little over a half.  Add broth and vinegar and again reduce by a little over half.  Season with salt and pepper.  You won’t have to season a lot as the pan is going to have salty pan drippings in it from your steaks.

At this point, you need to mount the butter into the sauce.  To do this, turn the heat down to under medium.  You may even pull the pan off the heat for a moment to bring its temperature down.  Start to add in the butter, one little cube at first.  Stir in the piece of butter quickly.  As soon as it is melted in, add the next piece of butter and stir quickly until it is fully incorporated, and so on until you have used all four little nubs of butter.   If you feel the sauce needs a little warmth to help get the butter to melt, put it back over direct heat or turn the heat up, but be cautious.

The trick is to have the sauce hot enough so the butter easily incorporates itself and makes a smooth, shiny, balanced sauce, but not overly hot so that the butter breaks and does not incorporate into the sauce and instead leaves you with greasy red wine broth.  You also want to make sure your butter is fairly cold.  If the sauce looks like it is about to break (gets a greasy, grainy, un-incorporated look), remove from heat and stir very quickly. Adding one or two drops of water can also help bring it back. (For me, cussing usually helps, too.)   Be sure to taste your sauce to make sure you are happy with the seasoning.  Serve right away.

My notes:

  • Seasoning is critical!!  Not just for cooking a steak, but for everything.  I use Kosher Salt and freshly ground pepper.  The only thing I use iodized table salt for is baking and seasoning  flour for frying.  I almost always use Morten’s Kosher salt in the blue box. I love it.  For pepper, I use a mix of black and white peppercorns.  I usually keep my grinder on a fairly fine grind, but for steaks, I loosen up the grinder so it gives the pepper more of a “cracked” look versus ground.  Red meat requires pretty liberal seasoning so that it really penetrates the protein.
  • Bring red meat out of the fridge in advance of cooking.  Try to get it as close to room temperature as possible before cooking it as this will provide more even cooking.
  • Don’t feel required to use fingerling potatoes.  Use whatever you prefer.  I just happen to prefer fingerlings.
  • The more you cook steaks, the more confident you will become with judging temperatures.  When in doubt, cook less rather than more as you can always put it back on for a few minutes.  The key is allowing the meat to properly rest after its cooked but before it is served.  This gives it time for its proteins to relax and its juices to flow and redistribute throughout the meat, giving you maximum meaty flavor.  I provided a link above in the recipe that provides an entire science lesson regarding resting meat.


Ragout vs Ragu

I have had multiple people ask me the difference between Ragout and Ragu, and I have more or less always provided this answer: Ragout, pronounced the same as Ragu (even though in my head I say it how it looks – “rag – out”) is French and is more of a stew of sorts, often times bulked up with veggies or beans.  Ragu is more of a sauce, is Italian, and usually tomato based.

But, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to look it up to see if I was actually directing people correctly or just talking out of my ass.  Per the food dictionary on Epicurious, definitions are:

Ragout [ra-GOO] – A derivative of the French verb ragoûter , meaning “to stimulate the appetite,” ragoût is a thick, rich, well-seasoned stew of meat, poultry or fish that can be made with or without vegetables.

Ragu [ra-GOO, rah-GOO] – A staple of northern Italy’s Bologna, ragu is a meat sauce that is typically served with pasta. Though different than the French RAGOUT, both are derived from the verb ragoûter , which means “to stimulate the appetite.” Ragu usually contains ground beef, tomatoes, onions, celery, carrots, white wine and seasonings.

Ummm….I’ll call my answer close enough!  But, reading about the merits and differences of Ragu/Ragout made me realize I should make one or the other as soon as possible.  Thus, Sunday’s dinner was Pork Chops with Polenta finished with  a Mushroom Ragout.  Now, one area where I waver on how I feel is whether Ragouts should have cream or no.  My answer inevitably comes down to how I happen to feel as I’m cooking the dish and what ingredients I have on hand.  Turn’s out, we just happened to have cream in the fridge!

Pork Chops with Polenta and Mushroom Ragout

Serves 4


  • 1  pound assorted Mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small Onion, diced
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh Thyme, chopped
  • ½ Cup Madeira
  • 2/3 cup Chicken Broth
  • ½ cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh Parsley, chopped

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat.  Once butter has melted, add onions.  Saute for about 3-4 minutes, or until onions start to soften.  Salt onions as they cook

Add mushrooms to skillet.  If necessary, add mushrooms to pot in several additions.  As mushrooms cook down, season with salt and pepper.  Cook about 4-5 minutes.

Once mushrooms are cooked down, add garlic and thyme to pan and cook a minute or two.

Add Madeira and cook down until only about a tablespoon of liquid remains.

Add broth and cook down until liquid is reduced by half.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary.

Add cream and reduce until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.  Add parsley and taste for a final seasoning.  Set aside until ready to serve.  The ragout can be heated up again before serving if necessary


  • 1 cup Cornmeal
  • 3 cups Water
  • 1 cup Whole Milk
  • 1/2 cup Corn (fresh or frozen) – optional
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter

Bring water and milk to a boil in a  sauce pot and season with some salt.  SLOWLY whisk in cornmeal and whisk CONSTANTLY to avoid lumps. Once cornmeal is incorporated, you can relax on the stirring, and switch to a wooden spoon if you prefer

If I’m feeling fancy, or if corn is in season and tastes wonderful, I’ll take the corn and do just a quick chop of it in a food processor and then throw it into the polenta as it’s cooking.  The corn “juice” provides good flavor, and the kernels that did not end up pureed add great texture.

Add butter to polenta and stir in until meted.  Taste to see if seasoning needs adjusted

pork chops

  • 4 bone-in Pork Chops, 6-8 ounces each
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter

Season pork chops on both sides generously with salt and pepper.  Heat skillet medium high heat.  Once skillet is hot, add olive oil.  Once olive oil is hot, add chops.  Sear on one side about 3-4 minutes, or until nicely browned and turn over.

Cut butter into 4 pieces and place one nub of butter on each chop.  Place skillet with chops in oven and cook about 6-8 minutes for medium.  Let chops rest 3-5 minutes once removed from oven.

To serve, place some polenta on center of plate.  Rest pork chop against polenta, and finish with a couple spoonfuls of Ragout.


Pork Chop with Polenta and Mushroom Ragout


For the assorted mushrooms, I used Portabello, Shitake, and Button.  Use what you have/can find – there is no hard and fast rule

As you are cooking the mushrooms, if your pan becomes very dry and you feel like everything is sticking, throw in another tablespoon of butter.

If you don’t have Madeira on hand, feel free to substitute white wine.

For the polenta, you can sub broth for the water if you prefer.  Also, you can use all water or stock and no milk if you prefer.

I cook my pork chops in a cast iron pan because I think it helps to give them a beautiful sear.

We had our dinner with the 2006 Epiphany Gypsy. We had a high-end Petite Syrah from this winery a few years ago and went crazy over it, but had not been able to find it since.  Just recently, we found this more “budget-friendly” offering from them, and we were not disappointed when we opened it with out meal.