IN THE KITCHEN: Intro to polenta inspires special dinner

An elegant dinner that is sure to please includes filet mignon, polenta and asparagus.

An elegant dinner that is sure to please includes filet mignon, polenta and asparagus.

(Editor’s Note: Blount Today food writer Robin McDaniel asked her niece Maria Greene to sit in for her while she took a week off.)

My aunt Robin asked if I would take care of the food column this week while she is on vacation. To be completely honest, cooking is not my forte. As a matter of fact, cooking is something I rarely do. However, there are those rare occasions when I become very inspired to cook a special meal.

My moments of inspiration always follow a dinner invitation from my good friend, Natasha Hillsman. Natasha is an amazing cook and creates dishes that not only taste delicious, but look like they belong in a five star restaurant.

I first began preparing this meal after a dinner at Natasha’s where she first introduced me to polenta. Polenta is a staple food in Italy made from coarse corn meal. Served with meats, vegetables or sauces, it is extremely easy to make. Instant polenta can be found in the Italian isle of the grocery store. In northern Italy, it is an everyday dish that can be topped with sauces, vegetables, meat, fish, and cheese, as common in Italy as bread or potatoes are to us.

The merlot sauce is also simple to prepare and has a very rich flavor that tastes wonderful with the filet mignon. The merlot sauce also makes a wonderful accompaniment to the polenta.

For a complete dinner, add asparagus tossed in lime and butter, and you have a delicious dinner that looks beautiful on the plate.

FILET MIGNON WITH MERLOT SAUCE

1 750 ml bottle of Merlot

2 14 1/2 ounce cans of low salt chicken broth

1 14 1/2 ounce can beef broth

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

Filet Mignon Steaks (up to 6)

Pepper

1/4 cup chopped shallots

1 Tablespoon chopped garlic

Boil the wine, chicken broth and beef broth in a heavy pot over high. Heat until the mixture is reduced to 2 cups. This takes about an hour.

Mix butter and flour in a small bowl. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper. Sauté steaks until medium-rare to medium (approximately 4 minutes per side). Transfer steaks to a plate.

Add shallots and garlic to the skillet, and stir for 30 seconds. Add 1 1/2 cups of the reduced wine mixture to the skillet. Bring it to a boil, scraping up any brown bits. Add the butter mixture and whisk until smooth. Boil the sauce until thick enough to coat spoon, about 2 minutes. Serve the steaks with sauce.

Serve over polenta, prepared according to package directions.

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