17 November 2008

a lot more bling

Surely you all know the feeling. Some evenings, you just need some luxury.

Oddly enough, as common as that sentiment is, each person seems to have a different definition of what 'luxury' actually entails. For some it might be taking the time they do not really have, for others it might be spending money on things they do not really need. If I were to generalize, I'd say luxury is when we indulge in something that makes us feel good, despite better knowledge.

Which brings me to Sunday night's dinner - something I make for us when I think we have deserved some treat, but do not want to spend hours in the kitchen.

I love this dish, but my relationship towards it is somewhat conflicted.

It is relatively expensive, at least for my tastes, so that is a minus. Beef filet, Parma ham, liver pate - just the finest. And before you cringe - yes, all this in the same dish, and no, it's not a waste, it definitely is a treat. I hardly believed it myself the first time.

It is almost primitive in preparation, which is good because I like simple recipes, yet at the same time makes me feel like a snob for making no better use of the ingredients. Which in turn makes me feel like a snob for wanting a more challenging preparation instead of being happy that cooking in this case has more of an assembly job. I never claimed to be free of contradictions, did I?

And I am not even sure it constitutes a proper dish - there are no sides I could think of to go with it, no starters or sweets - it is a very happy, posh stand-alone.
The more I come to think of it, it seems like the ultimate snack. Cousin to a slice of pizza, or a nice döner pide - just with a fine red instead of coke and a lot more bling.

Filet Millefeuille
(or puff-pastry beef, which has nowhere near the ring of it)
(serves two, generously, though that might still be not enough)

400g beef filet
100g Parma ham
100g liver pate
4 sheets frozen puff pastry

Clean the filet, if necessary, and cut into two portion-sized medallions. In a pan, heat a small knob of butter and sear the filets at a high temperature, until all sides have taken colour.
It is not necessary to actually fry the meat to the point you prefer - just given a hot trip through the fire, and they'll be fine.

Add freshly ground pepper to your liking and set aside.

Thaw the pastry, stack two each and roll out to form a rough square a little more than 20 by 20 centimeters.
Of course you could make your own, and it probably would be better. But on the other hand, then it would lose a lot of convenience, wouldn't it?

Onto each of the squares, put a layer of parma ham, making sure that the individual slices overlap.
I am not too sure here about the amount of ham I mentioned above, as it depends mostly on the thickness of the individual slices. I usually make sure I have enough to cover about the size of an A4 sheet of paper, then I am sure I'll have enough. Oh, and Serrano ham will do just as nicely.

Cover the ham with a generous layer of liver pate.
This is where I usually get stingy - so far I have found no reason why to stick with anything more espensive than a good, smooth German 'Leberwurst' - I am pretty sure any decent liver spread will do quite fine actually.

Wrap the medallions with the ham. Wrap the meat in the puff pastry, positioning the bundles in a way that the seams all face down.
As much of this dishes appeal comes from having a little bit of meat with both liver pate and ham on each fork, I think it is important to make sure they are well covered all around, not only folded in. Also, as the only salt comes from the ham, I tend to prefer an extra slice if in doubt.
For added colour, you can glaze the pastry with the remaining butter from the pan you fried the filets in.

Bake in the oven at about 180°C, until the pastry turns golden (about 15 to 20 minutes).
As soon as the pastry case turns golden, the meat inside will be rare to medium rare, depending on size and shape of the medallions. Every minute more will get them more done - and this is a perfect way to produce tasty but incredibly tough meat. As we love our meat almost raw, we just take them out as soon as they start bronzing - I am afraid you'll have to figure out your own point of no return. As a rule of thumb - if the case rips open the some juices spill out and bubble, it's ready.

Leave to rest for one or two minutes before serving.
This is to give the meat inside a moment to gather up the juices, and to let the steam inside lose some pressure. These little bundles don't smell like much in the oven, but once opened, their smell is hypnotic. I start drooling as I write this, I really need to get some dinner. Enjoy with a good red wine and better company.

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