Since US politics are pervasively leeching into literally every part of my life, starting with my news, my social media, my daily conversations and more recently my very identity, it’s hard to keep this blog just about food anymore, especially since there won’t be any left after Donald Trump nukes the next country whose leader calls his hands tiny. Trust me when I say that I have tried to utilize all my computer-smarts to filter Donald Trump’s name from my version of the internet, but it’s both impossible and futile, especially when I have to drive by his hotel on my way to school every morning. I’m at a loss of words when I see the far-reaching effects his tweet-based diplomacy has and I’m quite frankly sick of his [expletive of choice].
As an Iranian living abroad, you get used to being called a lot of things by the media, and you start to grow thicker skin: during the Bush-era we became honorary members of a three-member acapella band called “The Axis of Evil”, along with our friends in North Korea and Iraq, among others; under Obama, our scientific achievements radiated so bright that we were referred to as nuclear threats, hell bent on exerting our atomic muscle on the international stage; and, most recently, we were thrown into the same pot as the terrorists who have surprisingly never been Iranian (or members of any of the seven countries named in the idiotic Muslim-ban). So, as of January 27, 2017, I guess I should be answering to the title of terrorist. Fat chance.
If name-calling was ever a way to conduct international relations, the USA’s slogan should be “The Utterly Indecisive”, as opposed to “the great Satan”, which is what the Iranian government (to be differentiated from the people) has been calling it over the last three decades. It doesn’t take a genius or a scholar to realize that the US has been playing an elaborate game of bait-and-switch in the Middle East. Just in the last 20 years, when the twin towers fell at the hands of terrorists (mostly from Saudi Arabia), the US attacked Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s like being cut-off on the highway and then going home to punch your dog in face. I can’t believe that I have to remind myself that this is a food blog and not an opinion piece on global affairs…so I digress.
Anyways, every day I’m reading hundreds of pages of news, on top of another hundred of pages that I need to read for school. Quite frankly it’s exhausting trying to keep up with the news, to inquire whether my loved ones are being arbitrarily detained at US airports, or if my family in Iran are going to be victims of the next major war to scar this planet, which we all so conveniently have to share.
So, instead of creating the elusive “other”, assigning labels to groups of people and bringing out the worst in each other, I want to write about something that speaks to the shared humanity in all of us: food.
Today’s meal is different from other dishes I’ve prepared thus far, because today I’m going to try to recreate a French dish that I’ve only ever had in Tehran – the Chateaubriand. The first time I ever tried Chateaubriand was at Café Naderi, one of the oldest restaurant in Tehran established over 90 years ago. You know a restaurant is good if it’s able to survive a monarchy, a revolution, AND a semi-dictatorship!
I remember hearing stories of my grandfather taking foreign dignitaries from the United States and France to eat at this iconic eatery in Tehran, and how the quality of the food has always been uncompromising. This was when Iran and the US were friends with benefits, about 50 year ago. Anyways, I’ve only ever been to Café Naderi twice, but the memories it evokes are timeless.
In the interest of friendship, human dignity, freedom, peace, and love, I hope that you enjoy the recipe that I am about to share with you today. Most of all I invite you to one-day visit Tehran yourself to tell me just how shitty my iteration of the dish was, compared to the real thing. I promise that the only way us Iranians will terrorize you upon arrival is with love and kindness.
Assuming Wikipedia is right and does not rely on alternative facts, the dish was created by the namesake’s personal chef, Montmireil, for the Vicomte François-René de Chateaubriand and for Sir Russell Retallick, diplomats who respectively served as an ambassador for Napoleon Bonaparte, and as Secretary of State for King Louis XVIII of France. If you didn’t want to politicize food, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong recipe!
The essence of the dish is a thick cut tenderloin filet doused in a white-wine, shallot, tarragon and lemon juice sauce, served with mushrooms. It’s an assault on the senses, but not at all in a bad way.
To start, as you may have guessed, we need the following ingredients:
Not shown: 1 tbsp of garlic, finely chopped. I forgot it, ‘kay? Also, if you have sharp eyes you’ll notice that that sirloin and not tenderloin. Let’s just say I’m between butchers right now.
For the steak:
- Grade A tenderloin cut of beef
For the Sauce:
- Shallots (2 tablespoons, minced)
- Mushroom, either cremini, shiitake or chanterelle (1.5 cups, quartered mushrooms)
- Thyme (4 stems)
- Bay Leaf (1 leaf)
- Garlic (1 tablespoon, chopped)
- White Wine (1/2 cup)
- Brown Veal Stock (2 cups)
- Beurre Maître d’Hotel (I know what you’re thinking: what the fuck is that? See below. Also, 4 tablespoons)
- Heavy cream (1/4 cup)
For the Beurre Maître d’Hôtel:
- Unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)
- Flat Leaf Parsley (2 tablespoons, finely chopped)
- Lemon Juice (1 teaspoon)
- Sea salt (can be substituted with the tears of bigots, misogynists, and other equally despicable characters – just don’t use that cheap shit)
- Freshly cracked black pepper
I don’t care what kind of person you are, but there are rules to making steak and they are important if you want to have a shot at making your dish even somewhat palatable.
Rule 0 (because this needs to be said, apparently): Don’t get a cheap cut, you’ll ruin the whole thing before you even start.
Rule 1: Let your steak reach room temperature before it goes anywhere near heat.
Rule 2: Generously salt your steak and let the salt draw out some of the moisture for at least 40 minutes. There’s a science behind it, I’m just not very well versed in it. Wikipedia that shit if you have doubts. Make sure you pat your steak dry before salting it.
Rule 3: Once you’ve seared your steak, let it rest to reabsorb the juices.
The pictures don’t do the steak justice, but these were salted the previous night and left to cure, without cover, in the fridge over night. Don’t let the crustiness fool you, because it isn’t actually crusty at all! This steak is ready to roll!Steak.
I want to emphasize that this is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE WHOLE GODDAMN DISH. Steak is the star of the show, it’s the concrete foundation on which we are building our skyscraper on, it’s the the values we instill in our children so they can become decent human beings when they grow up. Don’t. Mess. This. Part. Up.
I recommend that once your steak is resting with the salt, you get started on the other two parts of the dish. Also preheat your oven to 450F!
Beurre Maître d’Hôtel:
The French I learned in high school tells me the meaning of this phrase is “the hotel master’s butter”. Google translate tells me that it’s the butter of the hotel supervisor. Quite frankly I don’t care who’s fucking butter it is, because it’s going to be the best butter in the world, once I’m done with it.
This is probably going to be the easiest part of the dish, because all you need to do is to mash everything together thoroughly and let it refrigerate for 1 hour. If you’re incapable of that (because you have tiny hands or whatever), then at the very least you’re qualified to run for president in the USA!
Make sure your butter is at room-temperature, else you’ll bend your forks. Obviously I learned that the hard way. The lemon-juice will not want to cooperate, but that’s alright, because it’ll be curing and absorbing into the mix while being refrigerated!And here she is, an hour after preparation.
Here’s where things get a little tricky, because to make the sauce, we must have some of the steak drippings to accompany it. So if you haven’t done so already, heat 3 tablespoons of oil in your cast-iron or other oven-safe pan and let it heat up (on high) for 2 minutes, or until the bottom of the pan shimmers.
If you skip preheating your cast-iron, you might as well throw whatever you’re making directly into the trash. You’d be doing yourself a favour.
Add your steak to the pan and let it sear for 8 minutes in total, so 4 minutes on each side (depending on its thickness).
I finally understand what the phrase “I can’t even” means, because I can’t even…This is it turned over after 4 minutes. It looks charred, and so it should!
Then put the heat to low and add your mushrooms, tarragon, garlic, and Beurre Maître d’Hôtel. Reduce your oven temperature to 350F and transfer the pan to the oven to cook for another 6-8 minutes (for medium-rare). Personally, I left it in there for 5, because I like my meat rarer and because steak has a tendency to cook even after being removed from heat.
This is before I put it in the oven. And this is it after. You want to infuse the steak with all the other elements while continuing to cook it in the oven.
Next, take the steak and put it on a cutting board for about 10 minutes to allow it to rest. Loosely tent it with foil so it doesn’t go cold. Also remove the tarragon and garlic from the pot, if you can!
Here’s the finished steak, about to be laid to rest in a aluminum teepee until the sauce is finished.And here’s the remainder of the ingredients.
Transfer the mushrooms from the skillet to a bowl, leaving 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan. Set the heat to medium-high and add the shallots and the white-wine, stirring to scrape up any brown bits. We want to stir until the pan is almost dry.
In this step, make sure your oil heats up again before adding the shallots. Once the shallots become translucent, it’s time to nuke it with the wine. It takes about 4 minutes for the wine to dry up, keep stirring with a wooden spoon to avoid the shallots sticking to the bottom of the pan. With all the wine evaporated, it’s time to add the broth and cream.This picture is just to show that by dry, I really mean dry.
Once we’re at that stage, it’s time to add the broth, bay leaf, and cream to our pan, bringing it to a boil and letting it simmer, until the sauce thickens. That should take about 3-5 minutes.
Here’s the mix before it simmers. If your sauce doesn’t thicken the way you like, there’s no shame in adding a bit of flour to help the process. I added 2 tablespoons to mine because I hate weak-sauce. And voila! Here it is, ready to be strained!Straining removes all the shallots and stuff and leaves you with a nice, even sauce.
Lastly, it’s time to put all the pieces together. On a plate, first arrange your steak on the bottom, followed by mushrooms on top. Next, slowly pour your sauce over the steak and season it with some fresh cracked pepper. And voila! Chateaubriand!
If you want to be fancy, you can use your left-over shallots and parsley to garnish oven-baked potatoes. I forgot to take a picture of the (drained) mushrooms on the steak, so just picture some mushroom on the steak, without any sauce on it.True to form, Chateaubriand, ready to eat.
There’s no doubt that the Chateaubriand tasted incredible – the steak was cooked to perfection and the sauce was spot-on, considering I’m not as big a sauce-boss as I like to think I am. Even the mushrooms tasted great, considering that I HATE mushrooms.
Did it taste like the steak that I used to have at Cafe Naderi? Unfortunately not, but that’s not a bad thing. Going to Cafe Naderi was an experience every single time, and it’s not about the food there – which is always great. It’s about the people you go with and the memories you make. I can’t compare making two steaks at home and eating them both to going to a restaurant to enjoy a meal with family. Those things are fundamentally different.
The picture doesn’t do it justice. Maybe if someone else took the pictures I wouldn’t have to eat two steak meals by myself.
Would I make this dish again? You bet I would, because it was easy to make and a blast to eat. I have no regrets chowing down two people worth of food in one go, and then writing about it.
If you liked what you saw, make sure to subscribe through Facebook or twitter or that neat little mailing list I have below to get the latest updates on Bread, Butter, and Bacon. I don’t post much these days anymore, but when I do, I make it count! So stay tuned for more recipes (soonish!)
*Side-note: Unlike other recipe’s that I somehow pull out of my rear-end, I did a surprising amount of research, looking through countless French cookbooks (written in actual French!) to get the recipe just right!