Back to life: a plated dish

This dish is a nod to Mystery Skulls, specifically their new album and song, Back to Life. When I was conceptualizing a dish around that focuses on one of my biggest banes to existence, being the filet mignon, and focusing on taking that and making it vibrant, exciting, and beautiful. Honestly, filet is a giant lump of soft protein, so with any protein like that, getting a nice hard sear on it is really all you need. Truthfully, I never owned or even knew how to cook with a cast iron prior to coming into MasterChef. What I have learned about them now owning one is how great of a heat source they are. You can literally place them in a burning oven, without oil, for like hours, and the metal would not get damaged. And on top of that, the pan stores the heat and makes it the perfect surface to get a nice hard sear on. The only catch is that cast irons do take longer to heat up than a normal pan, but that’s probably one of several reasons people do not own one – other reasons include them being expensive and tricky to maintain. That being said, I highly recommend using one to sear the filet in this case.

When I was thinking of what else to pair the filet with, I went with a roasted cauliflower puree, just to have something smoky and nutty to play off of the beef. I didn’t want to waste the cauliflower, however, so I wanted to use both the stalks and stems. For the stalks/leaves, I went with the route of pickling them. With the stems, I chose to tourne them, just to introduce a new shape of cauliflower that people might not be expecting. I also wanted to use watermelon radish, for their crunch and color, so I went with pickling them, as well as cooking them in butter. For a sauce component, I went with black garlic-beef jus, because a red wine sauce would be kind of boring and unoriginal, and I wanted to keep the dish unique and vibrant with a focus on the ingredients we were already using, in this case, the beef and garlic.

Makes enough garnish for two servings:
For the cauliflower puree:
1 cauliflower’s worth of florets
2 cloves of garlic
1 shallot, peeled and diced
a pinch of salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup water

In a pan, sweat out the cauliflower, shallot, garlic, and bay leaf with salt and oil until the garlic is toasty and the shallots are translucent. Transfer to a pot and add in your heavy cream and water. Simmer down until the cauliflower is completely soft and tender, then transfer to a blender. Remove the bay leaf. Puree and pass through a sieve.

For the tourne of cauliflower and buttered radishes:
1 stick unsalted butter
1 stem of cauliflower
1/2 a watermelon radish
1 tablespoon chopped chervil
a pinch of dried thyme
a pinch of dried dill
a pinch of dried marjoram

Melt down the butter with chervil, thyme, salt and pepper. Keep on really low heat so that the butter doesn’t scorch.

Cut cauliflower stem into 3 segments lengthwise, then quarter each segment width-wise. Using a paring knife, tourne the edges(slicing them into round, football shapes). Tourne can be a tricky technique, and it is typically done by holding the vegetable in your hand and slicing it with a paring knife that way, but if you are not comfortable with that technique, feel free to just cube the cauliflower, or tourne it on the cutting board instead(the first time I tried to tourne a turnip years ago, I managed to stab my fingers multiple times). Blanch these in salted water for 3 minutes, then transfer into the melted herb butter to allow them to continue cooking in there to tenderize further.

Shave the watermelon radishes on a mandolin set to the 2nd thickness setting and cut into 1/2 inch rounds using a ring mold. Blanch in the salted water for 10 seconds then transfer to the herb butter to finish as well, cooking that down until translucent and soft. Reserve some of the butter for basting and finishing your sauce with.

For the pickled cauliflower stalks and watermelon radishes:
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
Cauliflower stalks, leaves removed
1/2 a watermelon radish

Shave the stalks and watermelon radish on a mandolin set to the thinnest setting. To make the pickling liquid, bring vinegar, salt, sugar, dill, and pepper to a simmer. Blanch the stalks of cauliflower in the salted water from the buttered vegetables then transfer to the pickling liquid. Add in your radishes to the liquid as well.

For the filet mignon:
1 filet mignon (cut to be 1 inch thick)
butter from the radish and tourne of cauliflower
canola or grapeseed oil

Heat up a cast iron for about 4-5 minutes, just to get it screaming hot. Heavily season the filet with the salt and pepper. Add in your oil and pour out any excess. Sear on the first side for about 3 minutes, then flip the filet and sear for 1 minute on the other side. Add in some of your butter and quickly start basting the filet for 1 minute. Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing. Keep in mind the cook on the steak might vary based on the thickness of the steak itself. Reserve the pan you cooked the steak with for the jus.

For the black garlic pan jus:
2 cloves black garlic
1 shallot
1 bay leaf
pan from the filet mignon

In a pot, sweat out the garlic, shallot, and bay leaf until the shallot is translucent then deglaze with water. Whisk until the black garlic is broken down. Warm up the pan you seared the filet with and deglaze with the black garlic liquid, stirring it until all of the solids on the bottom of the pan have incorporated into the liquid. Reduce on low heat, stirring, until the sauce is glossy and thickened. Pass through a sieve to remove the solids from the sauce.


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