Filet mignon was my maternal grandmother’s preferred cut of beef. She was forever dieting and firmly believed in the power of lean protein to help her keep her figure (she was decidedly ahead of her time when it came to slimming techniques). She would serve small rounds of filet, each briefly broiled (no extra oil) with little bowls of salad and a steamed green vegetable. My grandfather would satisfy his need for something starchy with several slices of buttered bread.
When we visited, I marveled at the smooth, tender steak, so different from what we ate at home. Always watching the grocery budget, my mom typically opted for hamburger or a chuck roast when she was shopping for beef.
Like my mom, I often find that filet is really too pricey to serve regularly. When I want a sturdy piece of beef, I go for flank steak or those little cuts that are sometimes marketed as ranch steaks. When I can stretch a small amount of filet to serve a number of people, however, I don’t mind spending a few dollars to get it.
One way to make a piece of filet go far is to slice it and serve it on top of salads or toast rounds. Jeff Mauro’s version, called Filet Mignon Crostini With Rosemary Pesto, is a particularly good rendition of this style of filet stretching. I used his recipe recently to serve to friends at an informal weekend cocktail party we were hosting and it was one of the first things to disappear from the table. Its combination of indulgence, flavor and ease makes it entirely perfect for The Weekender.
Before you start assembling your crostini, here are a few things you should know:
– Much of the prep work for these toasts can be done ahead. The pesto can be made up to 24 hours out, the bread can be sliced and bagged hours ahead and the meat can be seared half an hour before party time.
– Make sure to use a Gorgonzola that tastes good to you. Because filet mignon is so mildly flavored, the cheese really stands out in each bite.
– The pesto is a nice addition, but if you’re pressed for time, consider topping each crostini with a few capers or pickled red onion.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook,Food in Jars: Canning in Small Batches Year Round, is now available.