By Jennifer Fisher, TheFitFork.com
Impress your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day with a stay-at-home dinner that gives the best steakhouse in town a run for its money . . . at a fraction of the cost! Eating in an upscale steakhouse can easily set you back a hundred bucks per person, or so I’m told by friends with expense accounts. Purchasing two servings of top-notch steak from your butcher counter along with all the ingredients for side dishes costs very little in comparison – saving you beacoup de funds for French wine, fancy chocolates and other treats for your sweet.
Making a memorable meal for a loved one is much more personal than a chef-prepared plate and isn’t nearly as difficult or time consuming as you’d imagine — although I speak from experience, I never let the beneficiary of my beef masterpieces know just how easy. I’m sharing a swoon-worthy recipe for Pan-Seared Tenderloin Filets with Roasted Balsamic Tomatoes that will have your heart beating and mouthwatering in all the best ways. I hope you get a chance to make it for someone special.
I’ve picked tenderloin steaks (filet mignon) for this recipe because it’s my hands-down favorite for special events and everyday celebrations – it’s a lean cut with just 6.7 grams total fat (2.5 saturated) per cooked 3 ounce serving, so tender a knife is nearly optional, and the meaty flavor and succulent texture shines in the spotlight without the need to marinate or over season. Sometimes the names of steak can get confusing, especially when certain cuts have multiple monikers. A filet mignon is a steak from the center of the large tenderloin cut that runs down the back of a cow. Cattle don’t use this muscle much and, as a result, roasts and steaks from this hunk of meat deliver a consistently tender experience.
To get this Valentine’s Day dinner recipe started, these steaks are seared on the stove top in a grill pan (if you want the faux grate marks) or a heavy cast iron skillet. Next, the filets are finished in the oven at a high heat – this two-step process not only saves you from grilling outdoors on a cold winter’s night, but (most importantly) locks in juiciness by creating a caramelized crust that is evenly distributed. Researchers of such meaty studies even say that pan-seared steaks are 4-percent juicier than their flame-kissed cousins.
Now, the crowning touch on each steak is a roasted tomato dripping in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Let’s be honest, tomatoes this time of year usually flunk out when it comes to flavor – but slow roasting tomatoes in the oven concentrates the sweetness and magnifies the magic that happens when paired with beef – or anything! You can oven roast any type of tomato, even grape tomatoes, but I choose simple Roma tomatoes because they seemed the right shape for the top of a tenderloin filet! The recipe below makes more tomatoes than you need for atop the steak, but the leftovers (if there are any) can be kept in the refrigerator for up to six weeks.
- 2 (4 to 6 ounce) tenderloin steaks, approximately 1 ½ inch thick
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
- 1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 Roma or plum tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- 2 tablespoons prepared balsamic syrup (find on vinegar aisle)
- Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
- Slices tomatoes in half lengthwise and gently scoop or squeeze out seeds without disturbing pulp.
- Place tomatoes cut side up on rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar; sprinkle with thyme.
- Roast tomatoes for 40 minutes and then raise heat to 400 F degrees.
- Continue roasting tomatoes at 400 F degrees for an additional 20 minutes.
- While tomatoes are roasting, remove steaks from refrigerator and season generously coat top, bottom and sides with coarse sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper.
- When heating oven up to 400 for second stage of tomatoes, start steaks by heating a cast-iron skillet or oven-safe grill pan to medium-high heat. Place steak steaks in pan and let sear for 2 minutes without moving. Using tongs, flip steaks and sear other side for 1 minute.
- Place pan containing seared steaks into the center rack of oven (near tomatoes). Cook for approximately 9 – 12 minutes, or until instant-read thermometer reads 135 F degrees. Thinner steaks will cook more quickly.
- Using oven mitt, take pan out of oven and promptly remove steaks from hot pan to rest for 10 minutes. Also, remove tomatoes if they are done. During this time, the steaks will continue to cook until reaching about 145 F degrees (medium-rare) and then the temperature will fall back down. Do not cut into steaks until temperature has dropped to 120 F degrees or below.
- To serve, top steak with a roasted tomato and drizzle with balsamic syrup.