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Recipe of the week: The king of steaks, crowned with pepper

Filet mignon is the

Filet mignon is the “superstar of steaks,” says Sean Lawler in Cook’s Illustrated. But it requires plenty of serious help in the kitchen to live up to its reputation. One popular way of enhancing the relatively mild flavor of this lean, ultra-tender meat is to dress it up with a crust of black peppercorns.

Recipe of the week
Pepper-Crusted Filet Mignon

While heating peppercorns in oil tempers their pungent heat, this recipe is still fairly spicy. If you prefer a very mild pepper flavor, drain cooled peppercorns in a finemesh strainer in step 1, toss with 5 tbsp of fresh oil, add salt, and proceed. Serve with Port-Cherry Reduction or Blue Cheese–
Chive Butter.

5 tbsp black peppercorns, cracked
5 tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp kosher salt
4 center-cut filets mignons, 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick, 7 to 8 oz each, trimmed of fat and silver skin

Heat peppercorns and 5 tbsp oil in small saucepan over low heat until faint bubbles appear. Continue to cook at bare simmer, swirling pan occasionally, until pepper is fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from
heat and set aside to cool. When mixture is room temperature, add salt and stir to combine. Rub steaks with pepper mixture, thoroughly coating top and bottom of each steak with peppercorns. Cover steaks with
plastic wrap and press gently to make sure peppercorns adhere; let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat remaining 2 tsp oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until faint smoke appears. Place steaks in skillet and cook, without moving steaks,
until dark brown crust has formed, 3 to 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn steaks and cook until well browned on second side, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and transfer steaks to hot baking sheet. Roast 3 to 5 minutes for rare, 5 to 7 minutes for medium-rare to medium. Transfer steaks to wire cooling rack and let rest, loosely tented with foil, for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4.

Port-Cherry Reduction
1-1/2 cups port
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1 large shallot, minced (about 3 tbsp)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Table salt

Combine first five ingredients in medium saucepan; simmer over medium-low heat until reduced to 1/3 cup, about 30 minutes. Set aside, covered. While steaks are resting, reheat sauce. Off heat, remove thyme, then whisk in butter until melted. Season with salt to taste. Makes about 1 cup.

Blue Cheese–Chive butter
3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 oz mild blue cheese, room temperature
1/8 tsp table salt
2 tbsp minced chives

Combine butter, cheese, and salt in medium bowl and mix with stiff rubber spatula until smooth. Fold in chives. While steaks are resting, spoon 1 to 2 tbsp butter on each one. Makes about 1/2 cup.

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