Revelation number 1:
French butchers go through string as fast as French bureaucrats go through paper.
It has long been accepted, at least by those of us who carry around thick folders stuffed full of numerous copies of document wherever we go, (aka: non-EU French residents) that the French are masters of generating mountains of paper.
It's the sole reason why forestry is such a big industry in France: they need the trees for the paper.
French butchers are doing their best to dominate the string industry in much the same way.
I have never bought a piece of untidy meat in France.
The art of string tying must get equal time with that of cutting meat at the French butchers' schools.
Regardless of the cut or purpose, all meat is neatly tied up in string, complete with bows.
Well, except for hamburger….
They would reach the pinnacle of their profession if only they could conquer tying minced (ground) beef.
Also, please note, regardless of the cut of meat, there is never enough fat to cook it properly. Thus, extra fat is always prettily tied around the edges.
I wanted to get filet mignon for our New Year's Eve dinner.
Apparently, so did everyone else in the Lot et Garonne as the butcher's case was stacked high with whole tenderloins, each carefully wrapped in back fat and tied with festive bows every centimeter… precisely.
I made my choice and asked for thick slices.
Revelation number 2:
Always look for a fat butcher.
We have discovered, after 12 years of dealing with butchers, if you ask a skinny butcher for a thick steak he'll happily cut a piece about 1/2" (1.25cm) thick before you can shout to stop him… Normal for a steak here is about 1/3" (1cm).
If you ask a fat butcher for a thick steak, he'll lay his knife about 2" (5cm) from the edge and look up, grinning, waiting for permission to cut.
My butcher on this day was a bit plump….
He started at 3/4" (2cm) and after several 'plus' from me we got to a mutually acceptable thickness.
He cut the 2 steaks and before I could blink, trotted back into the work room with them.
I was not to be allowed the risk of untidy meat at dinner!
They do look rather, um, neat, don't they?
Naturally, rebel without a cause that I am, I untied them immediately… And fed the fat to the girl-dogs (New Year's treats and all that)
Still… They didn't turn out badly, now did they?
Filet Mignon with Shallot and Red Wine Reduction
2 steaks, 7oz (200gr) each
3 large shallots
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup (4oz, 125ml) red wine
Peel and thickly slice shallots. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallots and sauté until starting to brown and caramelize, about 15 minutes. Remove shallots to a plate and cover to keep warm.
Increase heat to medium-high and add steak. Quickly cook steaks for 2 – 4 minutes per side depending on type and thickness. When done, remove and cover to keep warm.
Add red wine to pan and scrape up all the yummy brown bits on the bottom. Add the shallots, sugar and vinegar. Cook, stirring over high heat, until sauce is reduced and starting to thicken. Spoon a bit over the each steak and serve.
BTW: I once bought what I thought was a roast. When I got it home and untied it (see above) I discovered I had short ribs. Of all the times I searched in vain for short ribs, and then to buy them by accident when I really needed that roast!