Friday, May 14, 2010

Next ~~ 1853 ~~ Filet Mignon & Port Wine Sauce

Grant Achatz’ blazingly original “Next Restaurant” (watch their great video HERE) will be creating its menus around a single year and place starting with 1912, Paris. Brilliant. You know how I love history. All the food and drink will be based on meticulously researched food and beverages (hello Escoffier!). They will move backward and forward (yes, Hong Kong, 2036) in time as well as from place to place. I can’t wait to see what they come up with when they open Fall 2010. Next Restaurant has inspired me and it just happens that I have a reason to want to go back to---- 1853!!!

In 1853, Men wore plaid
1853 Fashion Plate

Women wore…bedspreads?

The first fire engine was used (horse drawn, of course)
La Traviata premiered
Vincent Van Gogh was born
The 1st patent for a machine to make envelopes was granted
Harriet Tubman began the Underground Railroad
Stephen Foster wrote “My Old Kentucky Home”
Elisha Kane’s Artic Expedition left NY
Admiral Perry arrived in Japan
Cornelius Vanderbilt owned the first yacht to make a trip around the world. 

Also -- a pre-phylloxera port was casked in 1853 from grapes from the Cima Corgo.
148 years later it was rediscovered and bottled. 9 years after that I used some of it to make filet mignon with port wine sauce.

I have been a port lover most of my adult life. Once a year, I splurge on an old bottle of vintage port around birthday time. It takes me a few weeks to drink it and I enjoy every last sip from my favorite port glass. Another personal tradition that has developed is the making of filet mignon with port sauce and Stilton.

I buy the best beef on the planet ( grass-fed from the wonderful Grazin Angus Acres in Union Square NYC), and use some of that birthday port to make the sauce. This time, instead of a 37-year old port I have a sample of 157-year old port. The sauce was incomparable with layers of flavors that amplified the greatness in the beef and the Stilton custard, the beef was richer, the custard more unctuous and luxurious.

The Reserve King Pedro V (you can read its amazing history HERE although prices have gone up! ) named after the Portuguese King whose reign began in 1853, came along with my 1850 D’Oliveira Verdelho Madeira. Mannie Berk of the Rare Wine Company let me compare the flavors of these two different fortified wines of great age.

Their personalities are so vibrant and powerful that even after a century and a half they are both magnificent with taste patinas that are complex and rich like the finish on 18th c furniture.

"Exquisitely deep, luminescent mahogany color. The nose is deep and full, with ambrosial scents of walnuts, figs, crème brulée and tar." The port smells like history. Close your eyes and listen to Heifitz play La Fille Aux Cheveux de Lin HERE … there, that’s the feeling… a luminous sweetness tempered with supreme virtuosity.

Yes, history… in 1853 Alexis Soyer of London’s famous Reform Club was Victorian England’s hot chef, but he was so much more... a real food hero of his day (like Jamie Oliver in our time!).

He made major innovations in the way the troops were fed during the Crimean war, inventing a camp stove that was still in use till the late 20th century and he helped to end rampant food poisoning and malnutrition in the army (probably saving as many lives as the more famous Florence Nightingale was doing in the field hospitals). He had just published his cookbook, “The Gastronomic Regenerator”in 1852 and this would have been a popular treatment for beef filets or escalopes in 1853:

(*A la Bohemienne marinade is a brine with mace and bay, thyme, marjoram and brown sugar!)

Also hot off the presses would be “The Ladies' New Book of Cookery”
By Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (1788-1879) in 1852. After penning “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, Hale was the editor of Godey’s Ladies Book (the most widely read magazine in America) for 40 years. She helped make Thanksgiving a national holiday conducting a 16-year campaign through 5 Presidents (Abraham Lincoln finally agreed to the holiday 1863, believing it would be a healing gesture after the Civil War). She had these great recipes in her book:
In what would have been an old favorite by 1853, “The Housekeeper's Guide” by the prolific English children’s author and pamphleteer Esther Copley from 1838, I found this:
Alessandro Filippini, Delmonicos chef from 1849-62, used this sauce:

My recipe is inspired by these 19th c. classics.
Filet Mignon with Port Wine Sauce for 2

2 filet mignons
Salt (ideally smoked salt) and freshly ground pepper
1 T oil
3 T butter
1 T shallots, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 t dry mustard
pinch of cayenne
2 T port ( Rare Wine Co. lovely 1983 Warre Vintage Port* would be best, but you can use Ruby Port or Madeira)
1/3 c demi-glace (or 2 c stock reduced to a thick glaze)
¼ c mushroom liquor** reduced to 1 T (optional)
1 sprig marjoram or thyme

Bring the filets to room temperature and season them all over with salt and pepper then sear with oil at medium high.
Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and marjoram or thyme and reduce the heat to medium-low. Baste the steaks with butter while they cook. Cook for 5-8 minutes for rare. Transfer them to a plate and tent.

Sauté the shallots and garlic then add the demi glace, mushroom reduction, mustard and cayenne and the port and warm (or—add the stock and raise the heat to high, and cook until reduced by three-fourths and then add the port).

Strain the sauce and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 piece at a time (honestly, the sauce is so delicious, you could skip the extra butter and lose the calories!)

Plate flan and place filet on top, spoon sauce over all.

*1983 Warre Vintage Port is available from The Rare Wine Company for $69.95. Contact them at:

**mushroom liquor can be made by adding water used to re-hydrate mushrooms and the stems and peelings of mushrooms cooked together for ½ an hour and strained. This freezes beautifully in ice cube trays.

Stilton Flan for 6

2 lg Eggs, 2 yolks blended
2 c ½ & ½
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 c Stilton Cheese – crumbled (around ½ lb.)

Whisk eggs together. Warm cream, add Stilton, remove from heat and cool to warm and add the eggs. 

Taste for salt,  Stilton is salty and you probably won’t need it Gradually whisk in the yolks into the mixture . Pour into buttered ramekins and put into pan with boiling water going about 2/3rd’s the way up the dishes. Bake 350º for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.


Stella said...

Good Morning Deana, your'e right-the lighting in your photos is beautiful. I especially like the full plate photo and the second drink photo that is either port or madeira. They are both very romantic looking.
1853 sounds like a very eventful year too-funny how some years do seem to be so memorable.
I looked over this recipe carefully too by the way, as I love rich sauces-sounds really wonderful, Deana!

tasteofbeirut said...


Every time I come to visit you I am astounded at the experience! Love that filet and port and the fact that it comes from the time when my great grandmother was around; love the historical trivia that you peppered your post with and most of all love the amazing meal! WOW

Deana Sidney said...

Stella> Most kind, the light was being very naughty and I thought I wouldn't get it before the sauce turned to glue!!! The sauce tastes rich but really isn't! These days you can buy 1/2 bottles of nice port for $10 and if you have demi glace, the whole meal is done in under 45 minutes! Of course the better the ingredients the more sublime the dish. And this was sublime!!!

Deana Sidney said...

Taste of Beirut> My great grams were around then too... but I'm thinking probably not eating this... well maybe one of them was. I loved the info about Soyer.. even then Chefs were making a real difference in people's lives... like a 19th c Jamie Oliver!

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Mmmmm... I can taste it now!


Barbara said...

Another brilliant post, Deana. So chock full of information that I have spent the last 10 minutes Googling things! And I have so much to say. (As usual)

Do you think 1853 was a particularly productive year for talent or could you do this with nearly every year?

I am loving the Stilton flan. I do love Stilton!

Love Nobu...and leave it to them to have duck gyoza!! I can just taste it. I am going to post a warm lentil/duck salad in a bit (recipe from Kate at Serendipity-who I love) and perhaps some form of that could be used in a gyoza. What combo did Nobu use?

Just read that Michael's in Miami won the James Beard award for best chef south. It is a delight to go there; very laid back casual and the food is DIVINE. Have you had a chance to go there?

Next Restaurant was new to me. (Am I living under a rock?) Just sent your info to my daughter to ask if she had heard about it.

Love visiting you.

Mary Bergfeld said...

What time is dinner? This is just a gorgeous assortment of food. The background information always makes your posts fascinating and is a treat for the mind as well as the eyes and stomach. I really appreciate the work you do. I hope you are having a fabulous day. Blessings...Mary

Deana Sidney said...

Butter yum> yes mam... it is to die for!
Barbara> 1835 is a normal year... so many more have wars and some have lots of births of famous people. I find milieu fascinating... it gives the flavor of the time and gives sense to events and the evolution of art, artists, philosophers and revolutions. It helps to know where you've been to know where you are going.
The custard is awesome and I have done it many times... takes no time at all. Left you a note on your site about the duck gyoza... maybe orange miso??? I tried looking it up but only found wagyu and foie gras... could be long ago.
Never been to Miami... bad Deana!
Next Restaurant will be in Chicago and hasn't opened yet, not till fall. I am a Chicagoland native so I am really looking forward to visiting... it sounds amazing and Achatz is a visionary so it will be genius!
About the visits... feeling is so mutual!

Lazaro Cooks said...

That is one gorgeous looking piece of meat. I think I am in love. Superb.

Great information and well-written.

Love the post.


Unknown said...

You produce the most amazing meals. That meat looks positively divine.
I always learn something new when I come here.
Note to self: must buy Missoni sheets for bed, could be a good look as daywear attire!
Have a great weekend.
*kisses* HH

Linda said...

Deana....this is a magnficent post. I would love to stick my fork right into the screen and have a lovely bite! The filet is perfectly cooked and the flan looks amazing...
Have a great weekend!

Mimi said...

Such fabulous food and so much information! You do make learning fun.

Diane said...

Great blog and wonderful recipes here. I need to save up to get some fillet but the flan is a must. Diane

Deana Sidney said...

Lazaro> After reading your article... you know about grassfed beef and this stuff is the best... flavor and texture are over the top good and they are raised humanely! When eaten rare.. oh my!
Heavenly> Missoni sheets would look good anywhere... not sure about the ladies of 1853 though... whoa that's a lot of trim!
Linda> I wish I could share... the textures were divine.... and it was easy!!!
Mimi> Glad you learned something... history is fun!
Food, Fun> The filet is pricey but the custard is sooo good and easy!
I just finished the extra one last night. 1 minute in the microwave and it was great!

Sarah said...

I wish I knew even one more person in my little town that would eat a Stilton flan. This sounds so perfect. You do have a taste for the finer things! I was so surprised when I was in Tennessee that everyone loved the blue veined cheeses. Doesn't happen up here! They'll eat the beef though!

Deanna said...

Deana, what a fantastic post. But more importantly, I have to make that flan. I just found a "menu" from the first meal I cooked for my parents and it had a blue cheese souffle. I think that the flan might make an appearance when I psuedo recreate it.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

How absolutely amazing to try such a port! Your posts are always entertaining and educational-so much happened in that year! And you're a grass fed beef lover too! :D

Joanne said...

This is one glorious dish. I love that you used grass-fed beef. Only the best!

Becky said...

That looks like such an utterly perfect meal.

Faith said...

As always, this post is really beautiful. Reading the wonderful description of the port I almost feel like I could smell and taste it. I bet it was absolutely perfect with the beef!

Fresh Local and Best said...

This looks like quite an exquisite and extravagant steak dinner. I also enjoy Grazin' Angus, and this reminds me I should revisit their farm stand. Also, I'm intrigued with the savory flan recipe. It looks delicious!

Tasty Trix said...

I love that you splurge on port and make it last for weeks ... would I have the self control??? I doubt it!! Also - I really really want to go to Next!!! Such a cool idea. (Why didn't we think of that??)

Deana Sidney said...

All OUr fingers> I would have thought with Wisconsin an Michigan not so far away that you would be full of blue cheese!
Deanna> It is creamier than a souffle... really good!
Lorraine> I love grass-fed. Good for me and the planet and the beasties~!!
Joanne> as a NY girl... you should try Grazin Angus... it is gamechanging good!
Becky> and soooo easy, honest
Faith> It was perfect... I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to try this stuff..
Fresh Local>... do stop by... I love those guys ( and there is no product placement.. unsolicited!
Trix> Yes indeed, why didn't we think of it. Honestly, let's make a date to visit there, shall we???

citronetvanille said...

I feel I am in history class, thanks for refreshing my memory! That century did bring many wonderful things, including that recipe of yours! I love port too, now you make me want to get a tiny glass of it. The combination of stilton Flan and port sauce must be amazing. Love your posts!

Sue said...

Wonderful recipe and - as usual - a wonderful post! I know the Rare Wine Co - it's a great venture and has some super offerings. Thanks Deana!

La Bella Cooks said...

This has to be the most interesting post I have read in a long time. You really spent a lot of time and effort making this one flow so smoothly. I will have to show this to my husband, with him being a history buff and all. He will now suggest I start doing my posts this way!
Your filet looks heavenly with the sauce. Wow.

Deana Sidney said...

citronetvanille>port and stilton flan are fab together... with or without steak! History is fun, isn't it?
Sue> that's cool you know about Rare WIne... you must find this american history weird, maybe i'll try a little world history sometimes?
Bridgett> hope hubby likes it... you have a great site, so glad I found it!

Anonymous said...

This looks delicious! And i love the time travel / food combo -- i'd really like to see what future food looks like, i'm a bit of a sci fi junkie and i'm hoping it won't all be soylent greene.
btw: i dreamed of organic green grapes last night, i have not found any in several trips to wholefoods (only 'conventional grapes, ugh) so i've resorted to fantasies about finding them at the farmers market!

Carolyn Jung said...

Women wore bedspreads? Oh my! I wonder if the fashion police existed back then? heehee

MaryMoh said...

This looks very delicious. I have 2 bottles of port given by friends and I don't know what to do as I don't drink. Now I can try this. Thanks for sharing.

Trissa said...

Hi Deana! Can I ask - where did you get the plate? It so so beautiful!

LaDivaCucina said...

Oh Man oh Man, does this look good. And it's only 8:30am and I bet I'd have no trouble eating that steak! The stilton flan looks divine too! I MUST try, love blue cheese with steak! Thanks dear!

Deana Sidney said...

InnBrooklyn> I am hoping no soylent green either... but I am seeing skyscraper gardens so there is less travel for the food! If you're in Brooklyn, try that nice healthfood store on 7th around garfield for those grapes?
Carolyn> I think there have always been fashion police... you should read Roman gossip!
MaryMoh>time to break out that port.. so good.. I sometimes stick a Tb. in the flan!
Trissa> the plates are old Minton for the NYC market, around 1890-1910.. they are very pretty with sooo much gold!
La Divina> Happy you like them... i love blue cheese and steak too!

Christo Gonzales said...

the steak is perfect - absolutely perfect!

El said...

I can't get over the video of the Paris 1912 resto. Incredible. You have a beautiful, fascinating blog!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What a fabulous post! I also love Port. That dish is wonderful. I'm drooling...



Mary Bergfeld said...

Just jumping back in to say hello and let you know how glad I am that you enjoyed the eggplant. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

2 Stews said...

Port wine sauce is soooo perfect for filet mignon. Using top quality ingredients makes all of the difference. I wish I liked Stilton, perhaps I could do the unthinkable and substitute another cheese in the flan.

Thanks Deana!!