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Dry-Brined Peppered Filets Mignons

Dry-Brined Peppered Filets Mignons

Steven Raichlen is making a delicious meaty dish out of his book, "Project Fire."
Ingredients
  • 4 filet mignon steaks (each 6 to 8 ounces and at least 2 inches thick)
  • Coarse salt (sea or kosher)
  • Vegetable oil for oiling the grill grate
  • 1/2 cup cracked black peppercorns, spread out in a shallow bowl
  • Cutting Board Sauce (recipes follow)
Ingredients for Cutting Board Sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup stemmed flat-leaf parsley or other fresh herbs
  • 2 scallions, trimmed
  • 1 red jalapeño or serrano pepper
  • Coarse salt (sea or kosher) and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup best-quality extra virgin olive oil, in a small bowl
Ingredients for Bacon-Grilled Onion Rings
  • 2 large sweet onions such as Vidalias, Walla Wallas, or Texas Sweets
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite hot sauce, such as sriracha or Frank’s RedHot
  • 1 1/2 pounds thin-sliced bacon
  • Vegetable oil for oiling the grill grate

FIlets Mignons

YIELD: Serves 4
METHOD: Direct grilling
PREP TIME: 1 hour for dry-brining; plus 10 minutes for the sauce
GRILLING TIME: 8 to 10 minutes
GRILL/GEAR: Can be grilled over charcoal, wood, or gas. You also need 2 hardwood chunks or 1 cup unsoaked wood chips (optional); a small (6- to 8-inch) skillet; a wire rack set over a sheet pan; a cutting board with a well.
INSIDER TIP: This recipe uses a technique called dry-brining to give depth of flavor to a steak that’s normally mild. You season the steak generously with salt an hour ahead of time. The salt draws out and mixes with some of the meat juices, creating a brine (saline solution), which with time, is partially reabsorbed into meat. The result: added flavor and succulence.

I’ve always preferred richer, fattier cuts, like rib-eyes or strip steaks. But filet mignon has its partisans—people who prize its tenderness (you can virtually cut it with the side of a fork) and mild flavor—the mildest of all cuts of beef. Dry-brining gives you the best of both worlds: tenderness and flavor. With these filets, I give you two options for sauce: Anchovy Cream or Cutting Board Sauce. You assemble the latter right on the cutting board with the meat juices and aromatic herbs when you carve the steak.

Directions

1. Arrange the filets mignons in a baking dish. Generously salt each on both sides. (Tip: Sprinkle the salt from a height of 6 inches for even distribution.) Dry-brine the steaks in the refrigerator for 1 hour, uncovered, turning them once.
2. Set up your grill for direct grilling and heat to medium-high. Brush or scrape the grill grate clean and oil it well.
3. Dip each filet mignon in cracked black pepper to crust the top and bottom. Arrange the steaks on the grill grate. Grill for 1 1/2 minutes, then give each steak a quarter turn to lay on a crosshatch of grill marks. When the bottom is sizzling and browned (you may see beads of blood start to form on the top), turn the steaks and grill the other side the same way. Grill the steaks on the sides, too, to expose all surfaces to the heat.
4. You’ll need about 3 minutes per side for rare (120° to 125°F); 4 minutes per side for medium-rare (130° to 135°F); 5 minutes per side for medium (140° to 145°F). Use an instant-read thermometer inserted through the side of the steak to check for doneness. Alternatively, use the poke test (page 40).
5. Transfer the filets mignons to a wire rack set over a sheet pan to rest for a minute or so before serving. (The wire rack keeps the bottoms from getting soggy.)
6. Serve the steaks with Cutting Board Sauce as outlined below.

Directions for Cutting Board Sauce

1. Working on a large cutting board with a well (a juice-catching groove usually around the periphery), finely chop the garlic and parsley. Thinly slice the scallions (both white and green parts) and the pepper crosswise. Season generously with salt and pepper and pour half the olive oil on top. Mix with the blade of the knife.

2. Remove the hot filets mignons from the grill and lay them directly on top of the ingredients on the cutting board. Cut each steak with downward strokes of the knife into 1/4-inch-thick slices. (There is no need to let the meat rest.) Pour the remaining olive oil over the sliced steaks and toss on the board with a spoon and the blade of the knife: The idea is to coat the steak slices with herbs and oil and mix them with the meat juices. Add salt and pepper to taste. The whole process should take less than a minute. Transfer to a platter or plates and serve at once.

Onion RIngs

YIELD: Serves 4
METHOD: Indirect grilling
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
GRILLING TIME: 20 to 30 minutes
GRILL/GEAR: Can be grilled over charcoal or gas. You also need toothpicks.
SHOP: You need firm outer onion rings for this recipe, so look for large sweet onions.
Insider tip: I call for the onion rings to be dipped in hot sauce here, but for an interesting variation, brush them with your favorite barbecue sauce instead.

Bacon-grilled onion rings rocked the blogosphere a few years ago—it was love at first sight and first bite. They’re based on the simple premise that bacon makes everything taste better (it does), and, yes, the salty-smoky bacon really seems to make the onions taste sweeter. The bacon serves another purpose—giving you some of the crunch associated with batter-fried onion rings. The hot sauce brings it all into focus.

Directions

1. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium-high.
2. Trim the ends off the onions and peel off the thin papery skins. Slice each onion crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices. Carefully pop the centers out of each slice, keeping the two outermost layers together. (Two layers make a sturdier foundation for the bacon.) Set aside the largest onion rings. You should have 8. Save the remaining onion pieces for another use.
3. Pour the hot sauce into a mixing bowl or shallow dish. Brush each onion ring with the sauce.
4. Spiral each onion ring with bacon, slightly overlapping each strip, until the ring is covered. (You’ll need 2 to 3 bacon strips for each onion ring.) Use toothpicks to secure the ends of the bacon.
5. Brush or scrape the grill grate clean and oil it well.
6. Arrange the onion rings on the grill grate, away from the fire, and close the lid. Cook until the bacon is golden brown and sizzling, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain the onion rings on a wire rack spread with paper towels. Remove the toothpicks and dig in.

VARIATIONS
Instead of hot sauce or barbecue sauce, brush the onion rings with melted butter and season them with your favorite barbecue rub. Or brush them with warm maple syrup and dredge the onion rings in brown sugar before wrapping them with bacon.

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