Filet Mignon with Red Wine Sauce

Have you ever noticed how crowded restaurants are on Valentine’s Day? Every table is a two-top, the menus are often fixed, and the staff frantically busy. After several misfires over the last few years, I’ve given up with going out that night, and instead focus on lovely dishes we can make at home. Here is a classic date night meal—filet mignon in a red wine reduction.

Filet mignon is a steak cut from the tenderloin, a missile shaped muscle which lays beneath the ribs, right along the backbone. The tenderloin muscle is called “tenderloin” because it is just that, tender. It doesn’t get the exercise that would make it tough, like a shank or shoulder. It is also relatively lean.

To prepare filet mignon, either you are going to buy the steaks already prepped, or you have a large beef tenderloin, from which you cut the steaks. If you are cutting steaks from a whole tenderloin, first decide if you are going to keep the chain muscle or not. The chain muscle is a smaller muscle that runs along the tenderloin. To make a classic filet mignon medallion shape, most people trim way this piece, but it is still part of the tenderloin cut and tastes great, although not quite as tender as the rest of the tenderloin, so keep it if you want. The steak we have prepared here includes the chain. (Here’s an excellent tutorial from Fine Cooking about trimming the chain and silver skin.)

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Here’s a whole beef tenderloin, and where the chain muscle is attached to it.

Trim away the ends of the tenderloin and any silver skin. The thicker end of the tenderloin is best for filet mignon medallions. As you get closer to the thin end, that part can be folded and tied for a roast.

Think about how well done you would like your steaks and how thick they are. If you have a thick steak and you like your steak rare, or medium rare, you’re in luck, this will be easy. If you have a thick steak (2 inches or more) and you want your steak medium or medium well, then you may want to butterfly it first. If the chain muscle is still attached, you can make a lovely heart shape with the steak.

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Here’s an example of butterflying a thick filet mignon into a heart shape. Romantic!

Either cut will work with the following recipe—medallions with or without the chain, or heart-shaped butterflied.

Filet Mignon with Red Wine Sauce Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2-4.

As with any recipe that calls for a substantial amount of wine, use a wine that you enjoy drinking. The sauce in this recipe is just a concentrated version of the wine with some butter and pan juices. So, if you don't like the wine to start, it will not make a good sauce. Pick a wine you like.

Ingredients

  • 2-4 filet mignon steaks, 1 to 2 inches thick*
  • Salt
  • Canola or grape seed oil
  • 3-4 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 cups full bodied red wine (we used a favorite Zinfandel)
  • Black pepper to taste

*If you have thicker steaks, you can butterfly them and cook on the stovetop as directed here, or you can sear them on the stovetop and finish them in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes or more, until the center of the steaks are done to your liking.

Method

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1 Your steaks should already be trimmed of the tough silverskin. If not, cut away any gristly bits. If your steak has the chain attached and you don't want to serve it, cut it away and save for another purpose.

2 Allow the steaks to come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 90 minutes, depending on the thickness of the steaks. Just before getting ready to cook, pat the meat dry with paper towels, then coat with the canola or grape seed oil. Salt well.

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3 Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a cast iron pan on high heat for 1 minute. Swirl to coat the pan. Put the steaks in the hot pan and immediately turn the heat down to medium to medium high (depending on your stovetop, medium on a high BTU gas range is about medium high on most electric ranges). Sear untouched for at least 3 minutes, up to 6 minutes for a 2-inch thick steak.

4 Flip the steaks and cook for another 2-5 minutes, depending on how thick the steak is and how rare or well done you like your meat. You can use the finger test to test the doneness of your steak. Or you can use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the steak (120°F to 125°F for rare, 130°F to 135°F for medium rare, 140°F to 145°F for medium). Remove from the pan, loosely tent with foil and allow to rest while you make the sauce.

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5 Pour the wine into the pan and turn the heat to high. Boil this furiously until it is reduced by 3/4, about 10 minutes. Add any juices the steaks have released while resting. Turn off the heat and wait until the wine has stopped bubbling. When it has, add the tablespoons of butter, one tablespoon at a time. Swirl each tablespoon into the sauce until it is completely incorporated before adding the next tablespoon of butter. Add salt to taste and serve the sauce with the steak. Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper over the meat when you serve it.

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Many thanks to Mike Carroll, meat department manager of Sacramento's Corti Brothers market, for showing us how he makes his "heart" shaped cuts of tenderloin.

Links:

Peppercorn crusted filet mignon with balsamic red wine sauce from Jaden Hair of SteamyKitchen.com

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21 Comments

  1. Renee

    Yummy! Thanks so much for the information and heart shape idea!

  2. Deanna

    I wish I like filet mignon more. I suspect this sauce will be just as good with a ribeye.

  3. Yoko

    wow, this recipe could not have come out at a more perfect timing. will be making this for friends tonight :) love the heart-shaped steak!

  4. Terese

    This is perfect for Valentine’s. The sauce sounds amazing and I bet this would be great with grass fed filets, too!

  5. Virginia

    We make a similar red wine sauce and serve it with salmon…delicious!

  6. Patricia

    wonderful idea for the husband – I don’t eat red meat and will be looking forward to a taste of the biitersweet chocolate cake I found on this site. Oh, and happy birthday!

    Thank you Patricia! ~Elise

  7. Jessica

    This looks fabulous! Can’t wait to try this!

  8. Olga

    I made this tonight with a prime NY strip and it was delicious. I froze the leftover sauce in an ice cube tray for future adventures in red wine reduction.

  9. Angie @ Angie Anew

    Wow. Yum! Must try!

  10. Chef Connie

    Wondeful post. This site is great for showing home cooks how to make great dishes from scratch. I love that you show how to break down a whole filet. I love to get those from Costco.

  11. Cindy Love

    This recipe is like the one I make but adding some high quality blue cheese crumbles really puts it over the top. Point Reyes Blue is wonderful. Go to Corti’s a buy a wedge. You won’t but pre crumbled ever again!

  12. kathy

    too bad franco is off red meat….i shall do it for myself and cook him some fish! Too bad he wont know what he’s missing since I can see, just looking at the recipe, that it must be delicious….only substitution being olive oil.

    didnt realize until i saw Patricia’s comments that it was your birthday so can i also add a
    Happy Birthday wish to a talented Acquarius!

  13. Holliday

    Yum! I wish my guy was going to be home for V-day! I will have to do a belated dinner for him :)

  14. Marie M.C.

    Boy, oh boy, does that ever look good. I didn’t know what I wanted for dinner but now I do! Elise — Happy Valentine’s and Happy Birthday, too!

    Thanks Marie! ~Elise

  15. Julie

    Making two filets tonight! I have them almost at room temp and the salt and meat mallet crushed peppercorns (I broke my grinder the other day) all set. I usually touch them to check the doneness but the finger test you linked to was really interesting.

  16. Kasley

    Thanks you so much. I don’t eat meat and I’d no idea how to cook steak. My husband said this is the best steak he had since many years ago.On side note, he doesn’t drink alcohol but he totally loved the red wine sauce and medium well steak. Thanks again.

  17. tomoko

    Made this for Valentines dinner, BIG hit!!! Hubby loved it and claimed it was the the best steak he’s had. Beautiful too. :)

  18. Michelle

    Thanks, Elise…I adore you recipes and many have made it into my regular rotation. I made this sauce the other night and it came out way too tart and acidic and ended up semi rescuing it only after adding a lot of honey. I used a very good Malbec (Altos Las Hormigas) and drank a glass of the wine while cooking (no problem with the wine). What might I have done wrong?

    Hi Michelle, that’s weird. The only thing that I’m thinking it could be is the wine. Perhaps that particular wine just doesn’t reduce well. There’s no acid in the recipe other than in the wine. ~Elise

  19. Eva-marie

    Just found this website. I love your style and you know what you’re talking about!!! Great filet mignon btw super

    easy and delicious!

  20. Eva-marie

    Just found this website. I love your style and you know what you’re talking about!!! Great filet mignon btw super

    easy and delicious!

  21. Megan

    This is the best steak I’ve had in a long time. Made it with Rebeyee steaks and it turned out great!

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