Need a special dinner for Valentine’s Day? We’ve got it: Succulent steak served with a rich mushroom and wine sauce.
This elegant meal is actually easy and straightforward to prepare. That means less time in the kitchen and more time at the table.
With your own special valentine.
Recipe: Steak with Mushroom and Wine Sauce
Good steak is a splurge for most of us. So you’ll want to choose something that’s flavorful and tender. For this recipe, we use filet mignon that’s about 1-inch thick. Other good choices are strip, ribeye, porterhouse, or T-bone steak.
We prefer to cook thinner steaks (anything about an inch thick or less) entirely on the stovetop. If you’re using thicker steaks, we suggest starting them on the stovetop and finishing them in the oven (see Notes for how to do this).
What kind of wine to use for the sauce? Any table wine (red or white) will work, as will many fortified wines (we particularly favor port, marsala, or madeira). We’re using red wine for our sauce – because red wine works so well with beef. You can use any red wine that you like to drink, although for sauce we tend to prefer merlot, Beaujolais, or cabernet sauvignon.
It takes about 20 to 25 minutes to make the sauce (including prep time). Cooking the steaks requires 5 to 12 minutes (depending on how thick they are). Then it’s best to rest the steaks for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. But you can make the sauce hours ahead of time, or even the day before you plan to serve it.
This recipe serves 4. But for Valentine’s Day, there may be just the two of you, so you’ll need only 2 steaks. In that case, you’ll have some leftover sauce, which will freeze moderately well for a month or so. Or you can refrigerate it in an airtight container for a couple of days.
For the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons butter (or more to taste)
- ~2 tablespoons minced shallots
- ~8 ounces mushrooms, sliced or quartered (any kind of mushrooms will work; see Notes)
- salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- 1 cup wine (red, white, or fortified; see headnote)
- ~¼ cup demi-glace or ½ cup beef stock (see Notes)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons additional butter (to finish the sauce; optional)
- slurry of 1½ tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons water (to taste; very optional)
For the steak:
- 4 six-ounce steaks, about 1 inch thick (if using thicker steaks, see Notes)
- salt to taste (maybe 1 teaspoon kosher salt)
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil (preferably one with a high smoke point)
- chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
- First make the sauce (you can prepare it right before serving the steaks, or hours ahead of time): Place a large frying pan over medium stovetop heat. Add the butter. When it’s melted, add the minced shallots. Sauté for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms. Season to taste with salt, then sauté for 5 minutes until the mushrooms are nicely browned. Add the wine and demi-glace or beef stock. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cook until it’s reduced by about half (approximately 10 minutes). Then set the sauce aside until you’re ready to finish it (if you’re preparing it ahead of time, just refrigerate the sauce in an airtight container until ready to use).
- About half an hour before cooking the steaks, remove them from the refrigerator, pat them dry with paper towels, and let them warm to room temperature.
- When it’s time to cook the steaks: Place a heavy frying pan over medium stovetop heat. While the pan heats, season the steaks with salt. When the pan is hot, turn the heat up to medium-high, add the cooking oil to the pan (it’ll heat instantly), then carefully add the steaks to the pan (try to avoid splatters from the hot oil). Sear the steaks on one side for 1 to 2 minutes (until they release easily from the pan). Turn the steaks, then reduce the heat to medium. As the steaks cook, frequently spoon some of the pan juices over the top of them. Turn the steaks every 45 seconds or so and cook until done to taste (see Notes).
- Remove the steaks to a plate, then cover them loosely with aluminum foil. Use a paper towel to mop up any excess oil in the frying pan.
- Return the frying pan to medium stovetop heat, then add the sauce (from Step 1). While the sauce heats, use a wooden spoon to scrape any charred goodness from the bottom of the pan and mix it into the sauce. Simmer for a couple of minutes (if the sauce reduces too much, you can add a small bit of water to it). Are there juices on the plate where the steaks are resting? You can stir them into the sauce for extra flavor. Taste the sauce and season if necessary. Then stir in some butter (if you wish) to enrich the sauce and add body. Remove the sauce from the heat and, if it’s not as thick as you’d like, stir in some of the cornstarch slurry until it reaches the consistency you prefer (you probably won’t need to use the entire amount of cornstarch mixture).
- Plate the steaks, spoon sauce over them, and garnish them with chopped parsley if you’d like. Serve and enjoy.
- We use an instant-read thermometer to determine when the steaks are done. We usually pull the steaks from the pan when the thermometer reads 5 degrees less than the desired temperature (the steaks will continue to “cook” and firm up as they sit).
- How well done do you like your steak? Rare steak (coolish red center) is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 125 degrees F (so remove it from the pan at 120 degrees). Medium rare (warm red center) is done at 135 degrees F (remove at 130). Medium (slight pink center) is 150 degrees F (remove at 145). Well done (no pink center, or maybe just a tinge) is 160 degrees F (remove at 155).
- Is it really necessary to turn the steaks every 45 seconds or so (Step 3)? Actually, no. You can just turn them once or twice during the entire cooking time. But the steaks will look better if you turn them more often. And we think flipping cooks them a bit more evenly.
- For steaks over 1 inch thick: We often start the steaks on top of the stove in a frying pan. We sear them for 2 to 3 minutes, flip them, then place the frying pan in a 400 degree F oven to continue cooking until the steaks are done to our taste.
- For very thick steaks, you may want to use the reverse-sear method: Cook the steaks in a low-heat oven (around 225 degrees F) until the steaks reach the internal temperature you want (this will probably take 20 minutes or longer). Then heat a heavy frying pan on the stovetop and sear each side of the steaks for about 45 seconds. With this method, you’ll be ready to serve right away – no need to rest the steaks.
- When we cook one big steak for company, here’s our method: After the steak is cooked until rare (and rested), we generally cut it into slices. If some guests prefer their steak more fully cooked, we briefly add their slices to the pan of simmering sauce and let them cook just a bit more.
- What type of mushrooms to use for the sauce? We prefer cremini mushrooms (baby bellas). But sometimes we’ll use the smaller white button mushrooms, or the larger portobello mushrooms (these are all basically the same mushroom, just at different stages of maturation). We cut the mushrooms in half, quarters, or slices – depending on their size and our preference for that particular day.
- We also like to use wild mushrooms in this dish, and will often use 2 or 3 different varieties (it depends on what the market has to offer).
- Demi-glace (or demiglace) is a very rich brown sauce. You can use it as a stand-alone sauce or add it to another sauce to provide flavor, body, and color (as we’ve done here – and which is probably the way it’s most commonly used). We use commercially prepared packets of concentrated demi-glace (just add the contents to water to create the demi-glace). We’ve used (and like) a couple of brands: More Than Gourmet and Savory Choice. You can often find demi-glace at a specialty grocery store, and it’s readily available online.
- You can also make your own demi-glace from scratch, of course, but it takes about 2 days (really). In our younger days we were up for that. No so much now.
- If you don’t have demi-glace on hand, you can substitute beef stock in this recipe. The flavor won’t be as deep or rich, but it will still be a nice sauce.
- How much demi-glace or beef stock to use in the sauce? We suggest ¼ cup of the first, ½ cup of the second (and let the sauce reduce a bit more if you use the beef stock). But this is one of those “to taste” things – taste as you make it and adjust as necessary.
- Do note that most commercial brands of demi-glace and beef stock tend to be salty. So you may want to taste the sauce and add salt only right before serving, if needed. If your sauce is too salty, adding a bit of acid (maybe a few drops of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar) can help. Or try stirring in some cream.
- Speaking of salt: We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If you’re using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
Steak and Sizzle
“Hey, magic mushrooms,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “I’m feeling enlightened already.”
“Or maybe that’s just the wine talking,” I said.
“Could be,” said Mrs K R. “But this dish is prime in any case.”
“Yup,” I said. “I’ll stake my reputation on it.”
“Careful,” said Mrs K R. “A steak pun is rarely well done.”
Better be cautious. Don’t want to cow-er in fear.
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