As you all must have guessed by now, I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, where forty years ago still existed the myth that everyone was an Eskimo, ate whale blubber, owned a team of sled dogs and lived in an igloo.
Seriously, it was the number one question other children asked of me when my family and I vacationed in Hawaii or California.
“Do you live in an igloo?”
I was a little annoyed at their ignorance, but should probably have been more appalled at what they weren’t being taught in school.
There was not much of a downtown, not many noteworthy restaurants and if you wanted the latest in clothing or music you had to get it from the “Lower 48”.
We were always a few months behind the top 40’s on the radio and unless you considered plaid flannel or down parka’s a fashion statement, Alaska was certainly not the instigator of new trends. Yet amazing how flannel and puffy jackets have made their way into our fashion “sense”?
Even so, there were a few restaurants that I came to love as a child and still cherish in memory as an adult. The Lucky Wishbone, of course (that goes without say)! Clinkendaggers, Mauzi’s, Sorrento’s, and the elusive Double Musky Inn (which I never ate at as a kid but imagined it to be the fancy place with a dark, moody interior, soft candle light and super good food; my imagination couldn’t have been more inaccurate, as I learned as an adult when I finally went).
Ahhhh, and then there was Paris! Club Paris, that is.
Club Paris is a hole in the wall in the best sense, a 1950’s wood-paneled little place that introduced me to my first filet mignon, prime cut.
I remember my first visit; I went with my best friend’s family and was blown away by the flavor and texture of that steak.
That three inch high, perfectly cut, cooked and prepared piece of beef that tenderly slid into my mouth and melted like butter against my tongue.
The outside was brown-crusted but inside was bloody, juicy and rare.
Up until then I don’t think I had ever bitten into anything so incredible.
Although I remember the atmosphere being dark and smokey (and certainly smoke-filled it was at the time), feeling almost foreign to the types of places I frequented with my own family; I really can’t picture anything in my mind other than the actual piece of beef sitting on my plate and the flavor that lingers on my palette, even to this day.
I am not sure why I never went back, over so many visits, over so many years.
I wanted to. I meant to. I didn’t…
Until last year. December 20, 2017 to be exact.
Mom took Tom and I to lunch after she and I received a much appreciated massage from a place located across the street. It was still dark, but no longer smokey.
It had not ever been remodeled, I suspect.
Our waitress was likely the same one I had the first time I ate there 35 years prior! She was not one to sugar-coat anything and was impatient with extraneous words. Needless to say, I went from being called, “Hon” to not, in a hurry.
I got the steak sandwich.
It was basically a filet mignon with a slice of toast cut into a triangle set on the side, per our server’s recommendation, and was she right!
Yum! This was the steak I remembered. Three inches high, seared to perfection, dark crust and blood-rare inside.
I have never been to France, but, I will always have Club Paris!
FILET MIGNON WITH PICKLED ONION AND ROASTED TOMATO
I like a rare steak. Very rare. You can cook yours a little longer if you like, but I am going to keep mine rare.
My sister-in-law, Irma, has an impressive cellar closet filled with homemade pickled veg in her Alaskan kitchen. She is also in the process of making her own wine. I added her pickled onions to the steaks as an after thought, but one that worked out really well. It was a nice accompaniment to the lushness of the steak. Soon you will be able to buy them from Irma Inc (we hope) but until then, she offered to write up the recipe for you to try at home…stay tuned…I will be posting it soon.
(2) 6-8oz center-cut prime filets of beef tenderloin, 2-3″ thick
1/2 tsp kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Grape seed oil for cooking the steak
2 TB unsalted butter
1 tsp chopped garlic
2 Kurabata tomatoes (or other smallish variety)
2 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole
Olive oil to drizzle on tomatoes, plus salt and pepper to taste
2 medium pickled onions (recipe to follow…soon)
1. Season the steak with salt and pepper at least an hour before cooking or earlier in the day. They will want to rest outside of the fridge an hour before they are cooked.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 F
3. Cut a small circle of the core stem away from the top of each tomato and stuff in a garlic clove. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of oil.
4. Roast the tomatoes for approximately 30 minutes, until tender and wrinkled but still plump with juices. Set aside in a warming drawer until ready to serve.
5. Melt the butter with the garlic.
6. Heat a cast iron skillet until it is very hot. Add a little grape seed oil and as soon as it is hot enough to rolling smoothly across the pan, add the filets. Don’t move them for 2-5 minutes, keeping at a medium-high heat.
7. Once the bottom is nicely browned (which you can see by looking at the side), turn the filets over and let cook until another lovely crust forms. This might be a total of 7-10 minutes. Test by inserting a meat thermometer into the side horizontally. Look for a temperature of 120-130F for rare and 135-140F for medium-rare. Don’t forget that once you remove it from the heat, it will continue to cook while it rests.
8. Immediately pour over the melted butter and garlic, let it sizzle, then transfer it to a plate, along with the juices, to rest for a few minutes while getting the rest of the dinner plated.
On warm plates, place one roasted tomato and one filet. Put one pickled onion on top of each filet, holding it in with a decorative pick (if desired).
Pour the steak juices over and if you like, drizzle each plate with some aged balsamic, or just the pan juices work too.
It would also be nice to roast some asparagus alongside during the second half of cooking the steak (after it is turned) and perhaps a few halved, roasted potatoes would serve well alongside too.
If you prefer, just toast some white bread, spread it with garlic butter and reserve your greens for a salad with blue cheese dressing instead.
There are no poor choices here. As long as you cook a good steak!