Last week I had another dinner party. I invited my New York cousin, Cricket, and my old friends Marty and John. Marty and Cricket have a mutual interest in the Stockbridge Library, Cricket having donated books by the yard to the library sale after her mother died, and Marty having sorted them. The menu underwent revision. I was going to do something with clams. Clam pie, fried clams, something. Well, that didn't meet with favor, so I thought lamb and eggplant would be good. Nope. So I finally ended up with this recipe from the great state of Missouri.
Now do not think for a moment that pioneer Missourians, or even their great grandchildren of the 1880s knoshed on this dish. When Hewlett asked for recipes, she didn't specify old recipes. She just asked for recipes, and this could as well have come from Manhattan as St. Louis or Kansas
City. But it was good, and gave me a reason to visit the Meat Market, a genuine, honest-to-God butcher shop that opened in Great Barrington a little over a year ago. It also gave me a chance to network on behalf of the real Berkshire farmer's son, a nice guy who has a herd of beef cattle on our acres but makes his real living driving a semi. They said they were always interested in talking to more farmers, so I passed on the butcher's business card.
I was thinking about borrowing (getting) the cognac from Mrs. Curtiss, but then had the bright idea of buying a miniature. Bingo. No $15 expenditure, no bottle of cognac cluttering up the shelves. The flaming didn't make as big a splash as I imagined when I read the recipe. I poured in the cognac and lit the match. Small flames. I poured in more cognac and lit another match. More small flames lasting for short time period. Possibly if I had lit the match at the table, the flames would have been more apparent.
The dinner party was fun. We sat outside (something that is not possible in August in DC,) and drank wine and nibbled on gluten free hors oeuvres while the clouds sped overhead and the pines shaded us from the sunset. A lot of the conversation was about Stockbridge, where John and Marty lived for several years, and where Cricket has spent the summers since infancy. The farmer that rents Mrs. Curtiss's niece's acres, just down the road, had been spreading manure in quantity all day. An evocative smell of cow poop had been permeating the field outside my place, but apparently, around sunset the wind changed and we were cow free. Now manure just reminds me of my childhood, spent shoveling the stuff, but I understand some people don't care for it, so I was just as glad not to be inhaling it.
4 small filet mignons, each about one-inch thick
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 pound mushrooms thinly sliced
1/2 cup scallions including green part
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
3 tablespoons cognac
4 toast points ( I left them out due to gluten intolerance)
1. Trim off any bits of fat from the steak.
2. Heat the butter in a skillet and brown the meat one one side. Turn the meat and scatter the mushrooms and scallions over it. Sprinkle with pepper. Cook to the desired degree of doneness, five minutes or longer.
3. Combine the Worcestershire or soy sauce and cognac and pour over the meat. Ignite the cognac. Stir all ingredients around in the sauce and serve the meat on toast points with the sauce poured over.