Our household is back to normal. My wife has returned, and that justifies celebration. More reasons to celebrate include her upcoming birthday and Mothers’ Day even though she told me many years ago in a somewhat icy tone, “I am not your mother.” Hence we both rely on telephone calls from our children to commemorate that event.
A quiet home-cooked dinner seemed like a good first event in the protracted celebration cycle. No casseroles. No health foods. Small filets with some fresh asparagus seemed like a good choice. Somehow, though, a grilled filet seemed a bit plain. That’s when I thought of the classic sauce for filet, marchand de vin – wine merchant sauce. The first time I had marchand de vin was in Louisiana many years ago. A colleague and good friend hosted us. He was anxious to introduce us as newcomers to Louisiana cuisine. He had lived in New Orleans for many years and thought that the quintessential Louisiana company dish was filet marchand de vin. It was certainly delicious.
From the name, you know the sauce has to contain wine. Beyond that, there are countless recipes with countless ingredients. Most French recipes call for the addition of demi-glace and/or other classic sauces. Their allium of choice is shallot, and for richness they often include marrow. New Orleans does everything with bold flavor, so the shallot became onion along with a lot of garlic. The recipe from Commander’s Palace substitutes ham for the marrow. This version represents a tweaking of the recipe found in Roy F. Guste, Jr.’s The 100 Greatest Dishes of Louisiana Cookery. Guste is a member of the family that owns the famous Antoine’s in the French Quarter. At one time he was the CEO of the restaurant, so he knows a thing or two about traditional New Orleans cooking. As you will see from the following recipe, there is a lot of garlic and wine, but the final brew definitely dresses up a plain old filet. I wound up using a shallot even though I knew it would be overpowered by the garlic. The reason for my transgression was that I had a shallot that needed to be used. You should use an onion if you like. We served the filets with fresh asparagus topped with hollandaise. Even though that’s a lot of sauces, it turned out to be a tasty combination. There were coconut cakes from a local artisanal bakery for dessert. A comfortable bottle of Badia a Coltibuono Chianti classico completed the feast.
Filet Marchand de Vin
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 medium onion, chopped finely
- 6 cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 Roma tomato, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ rib celery, chopped finely
- 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup beef stock
- salt and pepper
- 2 – 4 filets, one for each diner
- In a small saucepan, combine the butter and flour over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth and lightly browned.
- Add the onion and mushrooms, stirring occasionally until the onions and mushrooms are lightly browned.
- Add the tomato, garlic, celery, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, wine, and stock. Simmer for an hour until the sauce is thickened enough to coat a wooden spoon. If the sauce doesn’t thicken to your satisfaction, you can help it along by stirring in a few sprinkles of Wondra flour. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper You may keep warm until ready to serve or, if you plan to use it later, chill in the refrigerator and reheat when ready to serve.
- Cook the filets by your favorite method and to your desired doneness. Rest for 5 minutes and then transfer to individual plates. Top with the warm sauce and serve.