Warm Beef and Shaved Fennel Salad

To save money this year, L and I decided to stay in on Valentines Day rather that brave the crowds and prices to have someone else cook for us. It felt a little weird not being on 2 phones at exactly 10am on December 14th, to get a table at the most coveted restaurants, but I soon got over it and eventually forgot about the idea of cooking at home. About a week ago, it occurred to me that we were reservation-less and that I’d better start thinking about how I was going to make good on the promises of a fantastic meal at home.

Since the point was to have a special meal while saving money, I wanted to push the envelope on extravagance without blowing the budget. I gave myself $150 to work with to create a “restaurant style” meal. If you’ve been around for a while, you know that I’m not big on planning. I prefer to cook in the moment with what’s available, but seeing as I do the spontaneous thing nearly every night, I felt like I needed to plan something more elaborate, so I went about making plans, plotting out tactics and recipes and even made… gasp… a grocery list!

At first, I thought about doing a slow cooked egg floating in a black truffle consommé with maple foam and caviar on top as an appetizer, but the caviar and truffles alone would have eaten up over half my budget and that was for just a few ounces. As good as it would have been, I quickly abandoned that idea. Foie gras and lobster both seemed like no-brainers on the extravagance side and were rich/big enough to make a multi-course meal without needing to spend much on anything else, so I decided to go with those.

Every now and then, I get these cravings, lustful cravings so strong it’s as if my soul itself is crying out for the food of my desires. While I tend not to eat much beef, the need hit me strong this week and neither the butternut squash tagliatelle I made on Thursday nor the maitake and hoisin pizza on Friday seemed to sate the hunger. As a last minute addition I decided to add beef to the menu. Since I already had lobster pegged as the main, I wanted to do something slightly lighter between the 3 foie gras appetizers and the main.

As luck would have it, Fresh Direct had fillet mignon on sale for $20 a pound so I had two gorgeous inch and a half thick fillets sitting in the fridge calling out to me. I’d also picked up a pristine bulb of fennel the other day and decided I’d do a salad with the beef. Digging a little further into the vegetable drawer I found two golden yellow meyer lemons rolling around and the salad pretty much fell together from there.

I really dislike the taste of licorice and pretty much anything that tastes like it, but I’ve warmed up to fennel over the past few years. Soaking it in water tones down the anise notes and it also helps make it more crisp. When it comes to cooking beef, I have a tendency to err on the side of undercooked since I hate anything more than medium rare. This means I’m often eating raw meat as I get towards the center. I went out on a limb this time and tried to apply a technique for prime rib that JS and TS from Eating Club Vancouver had documented.

I seared the steak on a very hot cast iron skillet then transferred it to a hot oven, which I then turned off. The residual heat gradually comes down, allowing the internal temperature in the meat to slowly rise without overcooking it. The steak was sublime. When I first cut into it, it was more pink than red, giving me concern that it was overdone, but one bite allayed all my fears. It had a crisp brown salty crust with a juicy tender core.

As it turns out, the beef/fennel/lemon combo is perfect. I don’t mean perfect as in “it all worked out” I mean perfect as in these three ingredients were made for each other. The tart slightly sweet dressing cuts through the richness of the meat while perfectly complimenting the savoury crust, the herbal licorice notes in the crisp fennel mate perfectly with the bright, sweet meyer lemons. Even the colours all work in harmony from the earthy browns and reds of the meat to the strips of white punctuated with little bits of green and flecks of yellow.

I paired it with a wonderful La Marca Prosecco Di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene that Stacey from Stacey Snacks had brought over during our miracle berry event. It might sound like an odd choice at first, but the prosecco is smooth, with notes of apples and lemons with a crisp citrusy finish, perfect for this salad.

This was the best dish we had all night, yet it was the simplest and most spontaneous.

1 1/2″ thick fillet mignon
salt pepper

for salad
1 small fennel bulb
5 chives chopped

for dressing
juice and zest of 1/2 a meyer lemon
1 Tbs olive oil
pinch of sugar
salt & pepper to taste

Using a mandoline slice the fennel into 1/16″ slices, discarding the tough bits that come from the core. Put the slices in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Refrigerate until you’re ready to make the salad.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take the fennel out of the fridge, and drain it in a strainer letting it air dry while you make the steak.

Remove the fillet from the refridgerator and give it at least 15 minutes to come to room temperature. Generously salt and pepper all sides of the fillet. Get a cast iron pan very hot on high heat. Sear 4 sides of the steak to get a nice brown crust. Once the steak is browned on all sides, quickly put the whole pan in the oven and turn the oven off.

Allow the steak to finish cooking as the oven cools down for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile whisk all the ingredients together for the dressing in a small bowl.

Remove the steak from pan and allow it to rest for 5 minutes on a plate. Using a sharp chefs knife, cut the steak in half, then slice the steak at a 45 degree angle against the grain into 1/8″ thick slices. Add this to the bowl with the dressing then add the fennel and chives. Toss to coat and serve immediately.

  • http://www.cococooks.blogspot.com/ courtney

    Looks like a fantastic dinner in the comfort of your own home/nest. Way better than the crowdy overpriced restaurants. Im loving the flavors of this beef dish.

  • http://www.cococooks.blogspot.com courtney

    Looks like a fantastic dinner in the comfort of your own home/nest. Way better than the crowdy overpriced restaurants. Im loving the flavors of this beef dish.

  • http://souvlakiforthesoul.com/ Peter G

    A great gesture for Valentine’s Day Marc!…and much better than any restaurant fare. Fennel is a fave of mine and I quite enjoy cooking with it….I really think you’ve done a great job with adding it to the sliced steak.

  • http://souvlakiforthesoul.com Peter G

    A great gesture for Valentine’s Day Marc!…and much better than any restaurant fare. Fennel is a fave of mine and I quite enjoy cooking with it….I really think you’ve done a great job with adding it to the sliced steak.

  • http://staceysnacksonline.com/ Stacey Snacks

    Marc, I was just writing to you to ask you if you and your wife tried the prosecco for Valentine’s day and there you were! Glad it paired well with your delicious dinner.
    Stace

  • http://staceysnacksonline.com Stacey Snacks

    Marc, I was just writing to you to ask you if you and your wife tried the prosecco for Valentine’s day and there you were! Glad it paired well with your delicious dinner.
    Stace

  • http://saraskitchen.blogspot.com/ Sara

    This looks amazing! I am a huge fan of fennel, especially roasted fennel.

  • http://saraskitchen.blogspot.com Sara

    This looks amazing! I am a huge fan of fennel, especially roasted fennel.

  • http://constableslarder.blogspot.com/ Giff

    this salad looks delightful, and a great pairing with the prosecco. glad you had a nice dinner!

    but good to know not to serve you Pernod if you ever come over for dinner :)

    • marc

      Yea, not a big fan of Pernod for drinking, but I actually have a bottle that I cook with from time to time:-)

  • http://constableslarder.blogspot.com Giff

    this salad looks delightful, and a great pairing with the prosecco. glad you had a nice dinner!

    but good to know not to serve you Pernod if you ever come over for dinner :)

    • marc

      Yea, not a big fan of Pernod for drinking, but I actually have a bottle that I cook with from time to time:-)

  • http://chefholly.typepad.com/holly_hadsell_el_hajji/ Holly

    Looks great like always. I hope you had a great evening.

  • http://chefholly.typepad.com/holly_hadsell_el_hajji/ Holly

    Looks great like always. I hope you had a great evening.

  • http://www.buffchickpea.com/ Hayley

    My sister made the most incredible roasted fennel salad last night. I just love the licorice flavor. Beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.buffchickpea.com Hayley

    My sister made the most incredible roasted fennel salad last night. I just love the licorice flavor. Beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.rosas-yummy-yums.blogspot.com/ Rosa

    Wonderful! This dish looks fantastic! A great flavor combo.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  • http://www.rosas-yummy-yums.blogspot.com Rosa

    Wonderful! This dish looks fantastic! A great flavor combo.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com/ Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    I’m not a fan in the slightest of liquorice but I love fennel, and the salad sounds like a gorgeous combo. So what was for dessert? I mean that in an absolutely non-dodgy way!

    • marc

      Hahaha, check out my latest post for dessert:-)

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    I’m not a fan in the slightest of liquorice but I love fennel, and the salad sounds like a gorgeous combo. So what was for dessert? I mean that in an absolutely non-dodgy way!

    • marc

      Hahaha, check out my latest post for dessert:-)

  • http://www.pigpigscorner.com/ Pigpigscorner

    Sounds like a great meal! We spent our velantine’s day in the market and had dinner with friends instead.

  • http://www.pigpigscorner.com/ Pigpigscorner

    Sounds like a great meal! We spent our velantine’s day in the market and had dinner with friends instead.

  • http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.com/ lisaiscooking

    Great menu. Sounds like a fantastic evening and much better than going to a restaurant!

  • http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.com/ lisaiscooking

    Great menu. Sounds like a fantastic evening and much better than going to a restaurant!

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com/ we are never full

    so, so simple. i love this whole idea – just beautiful, well executed and simple.

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com we are never full

    so, so simple. i love this whole idea – just beautiful, well executed and simple.

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com/ Heather

    Gorgeous dinner, Marc. I’d take this over the crowds and clamor any time.

    Roasting also tames the anise notes of fennel, and renders it sweet and earthy (still nice in a salad).

    • marc

      That’s actually how I first got into them. Now I’ll even eat the tops of fennel in a soup:-)

    • Phred

      Yeah roasted fennel is AWESOME which seared chicken breast!

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com Heather

    Gorgeous dinner, Marc. I’d take this over the crowds and clamor any time.

    Roasting also tames the anise notes of fennel, and renders it sweet and earthy (still nice in a salad).

    • marc

      That’s actually how I first got into them. Now I’ll even eat the tops of fennel in a soup:-)

  • http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com/ Jenni

    Oh, lovely. I wasn’t a fan of fennel until I started working in restaurants. My chef was fennel-crazed. Fennel pollen? Check. Candied fennel? Check. Fennel broth? Check.

    Now, I really like it, but I have to think of the flavor as “spring-like” and “refreshing” so I don’t think of “Good-N-Plenty!”

    It does, indeed, sound like a perfect salad!

    • marc

      That’s a great way to think about it. I’ve seen fennel pollen, but what do you do with it?

      • http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com/ Jenni

        Use it as a flavor element in a cream sauce, or maybe as part of a filling for some sort of filled pasta. You can also use it as an ingredient in a dry rub. I also saw a recipe that uses it as part of a brining solution. I think it’s one of those ingredients that give you License to Play! But all ingredients are, for you. :)

  • http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com/ Jenni

    Oh, lovely. I wasn’t a fan of fennel until I started working in restaurants. My chef was fennel-crazed. Fennel pollen? Check. Candied fennel? Check. Fennel broth? Check.

    Now, I really like it, but I have to think of the flavor as “spring-like” and “refreshing” so I don’t think of “Good-N-Plenty!”

    It does, indeed, sound like a perfect salad!

    • marc

      That’s a great way to think about it. I’ve seen fennel pollen, but what do you do with it?

      • http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com/ Jenni

        Use it as a flavor element in a cream sauce, or maybe as part of a filling for some sort of filled pasta. You can also use it as an ingredient in a dry rub. I also saw a recipe that uses it as part of a brining solution. I think it’s one of those ingredients that give you License to Play! But all ingredients are, for you. :)

  • http://fivestarfoodie.blogspot.com/ Natasha – 5 Star Foodie

    Looks like a wonderful dish – fennel sounds great!

  • http://fivestarfoodie.blogspot.com Natasha – 5 Star Foodie

    Looks like a wonderful dish – fennel sounds great!

  • http://colloquialcookin.canalblog.com/ colloquial cook

    Do you think I could operate similarly with NY strip steaks? I also love soaking fennel when serving it raw…

    • marc

      I don’t see why not. I actually want to try this method with tougher cuts like hanger steak too.

  • http://colloquialcookin.canalblog.com/ colloquial cook

    Do you think I could operate similarly with NY strip steaks? I also love soaking fennel when serving it raw…

    • marc

      I don’t see why not. I actually want to try this method with tougher cuts like hanger steak too.

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  • http://theleapingthought.blogspot.com/ Milena

    Hi. New to your blog and I’m loving the recipes. What beautiful photography too. I can’t wait to try them out. So happy to have found such culinary talent.

  • http://theleapingthought.blogspot.com Milena

    Hi. New to your blog and I’m loving the recipes. What beautiful photography too. I can’t wait to try them out. So happy to have found such culinary talent.

  • http://www.eatingclubvancouver.com/ _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver

    Thanks for the mention! This looks very light and refreshing — odd words to say about beef. =)

  • http://www.eatingclubvancouver.com _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver

    Thanks for the mention! This looks very light and refreshing — odd words to say about beef. =)

  • http://www.meatcookingexpert.com/ Meat Cooking Expert

    A great valentines menu you ‘threw’ together. I espcially liked the idea of searing the filet mignon and then transfering to an oven which was tunred off slowly cooking the steak without over cooking. An interesting concept which I intend to play around with myself, so thank you for the ideas!

  • http://www.meatcookingexpert.com Meat Cooking Expert

    A great valentines menu you ‘threw’ together. I espcially liked the idea of searing the filet mignon and then transfering to an oven which was tunred off slowly cooking the steak without over cooking. An interesting concept which I intend to play around with myself, so thank you for the ideas!

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  • Ellieut

    Wow. This is the second recipe I have made from your site and it is TO DIE FOR! Love how soaking the fennel takes away the harsh licorice taste and the Meyer lemon dressing was perfect on this. I did not have filet mignon available tonight so I used a beautifully marbled rib eye steak, cooked identical to the way you described except I cut oven time down to 5 minutes. Came out perfectly rare (the way I like it) another 3 minutes and it may have been medium-rare. Thank you!

  • Phred

    The seared beef is sublime but rather than have the fennel raw, I caramelize it with sweet onion, butter, white wine and a little coconut palm sugar and use that as a relish for the steak.

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!