Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Blue Cheese-Crusted Filet with Balsamic and Blueberry Gastrique

Blue Cheese-Crusted Filet with
Balsamic and Blueberry Gastrique

I am feeling very "blue" today, but not in the way you might think.  Here is my entry into the "Blueberries Meet Their Match" blogger recipe contest, and as you will note, I've got a lot of blue going on - blue cheese and fresh BLUEBERRIES.  Yum!


Over the last few weeks, this home cook has discovered the art of making a Gastrique;  You've probably heard about this delicious sticky sauce if you watch shows such as "Chopped."  But it's more than a fancy way of saying "sauce." A gastrique can be wonderfully complex in flavor and the perfect complement to any protein. 

A gastrique begins with caramelized sugar and equal parts of vinegar.  Then you can add in pretty much anything you want -  run the gamut of sweet to savory, or any variation in between.  

Here I opted for a more traditional method of making the sauce; I reduced the sugar with water to caramelize it, and then I deglazed with the vinegar.  Because I didn't want to overpower the natural sweetness of the blueberries, I opted to use one tablespoon less of the rich balsamic than I would had I used a lighter vinegar in a recipe.

When I made a savory gastrique a week or so ago (for another contest) using a lighter vinegar, I actually reduced the sugar with the vinegar to create the caramelized sugar,  and then added white wine to go "all out" and crazy with a double reduction.

The "double reduction" is part of this recipe, too:  I felt the balsamic needed to be showcased in a "supporting role," so I wanted it to marry into the sauce rather than have it caramelize along with the sugar.  Adding it in to "deglaze" using the more traditional method, and then creating a double reduction with the broth and wine really made a difference in how the flavors all came together.  You really taste the blueberry.  Why add in a delicious fruit like blueberry if you are going to mask the natural sweet flavors?

When you are making a sauce like this, it's important to have a few tasting spoons on hand so you can taste as you go.   That's really the key.

And if you do a Google search, you will see there are variations on how people make a gastrique.  A chef might tell you otherwise, but I am not sure there is a right or a wrong way.  As long as it comes out delicious, who cares if you break with culinary tradition, right?   

You can feel free to experiment, too.  I would encourage you to do so if you like to play around in the kitchen - the possibilities are endless! 

Today I paired this wonderfully sweet and fruity sauce with a blue-cheese crusted filet.  The flavor of the blueberry and balsamic with the cheese really make for a stunningly delicious combination.  I know you will want to try this. 

Note:  For this recipe, you will need a cast iron or heavy skillet (oven safe).


2 beef filets, cut about 1 inch thick and 8 ounces each
1/2 tbs. olive oil, divided
1/4 tsp. coarse sea salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

For the crust:
2. tbs. plain Panko bread crumbs
3 springs fresh thyme, stemmed
1 tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbs. blue cheese crumbles

For the Gastrique:
3 tbs. granulated white sugar
3 tbs. cold water
2 tbs. good quality balsamic vinegar
1 tbs. low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine or non-alcoholic wine
1 flat (6 ounces) fresh winter blueberries, washed and divided
Fresh torn basil, optional


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Rub 3/4 of the olive oil onto both sides of the steaks and salt and pepper.

Combine the Panko, thyme, lemon juice and blue cheese into a small bowl.  Mix with a fork until well combined.   Set aside. 

Rub remaining oil into the bottom of a cast iron or heavy skillet.  Heat on high.  Add room temperature steaks and sear on both sides for about two minutes each side.  When you flip to the second side, top each steak with half of the blue cheese crust mixture.  Spread evenly over top with a spatula and transfer to a hot oven.  Cook for 11 minutes for medium rare (145 degrees).  Ovens vary, so adjust cooking time accordingly and to your desired temperature. 

Once steaks are cooked, remove from oven and let rest for about five - seven minutes to let the juices redistribute.   

While the steaks are in the oven, combine the sugar and water into a small sauce pan.  Simmer for about five minutes until caramelized.  You need to watch your sauce - stoves vary as well - and you don't want candy.

Once caramelized to your liking, add in 1/4 of the blueberries.

Reduce down until you get a sauce/jam-like consistency - about five minutes; add in a second layer of blueberry, reduce down for about three minutes.  Add in the remaining reserved blueberries right before serving.

This technique creates this vibrantly-colored, sticky, sweet and savory sauce.  The three "levels" of blueberry give this sauce a wonderfully fresh taste.  You want to taste the actual fruit. 

I recommend that you swirl a bit of it on the plate (as shown), top with your steak, and then drizzle some of the gastrique on top.  I like add a little fresh torn basil, but that is optional. 

Give this recipe a try.  I know you will love it.  And as always, see you soon!
Be sure to check out:  littlebluedynamos.com

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