Food fads come and go. But sometimes they return. During the 50s-60s, one of the highlights at swanky New York supper clubs was Steak Diane prepared table side and flambéed. The pan-fried beefsteak came with a superb sauce. The ingredients included butter, mushrooms, mustard, shallots, cream, Worcestershire sauce, and a splash of brandy, that was ignited in a show of table side pyrotechnics.
The dish likely evolved from the 19th century treatment of venison, that was cooked in similar fashion or “a la Diane.” The name comes from a virgin, Greek goddess. When she was spied upon while bathing, Diana used her magical powers to turn her intruder into a stag. She has since been considered the goddess of the hunt and protector of women. It’s a good story to tell as guests enjoy the feast.
Happily, the retro-dish has had a resurgence of interest in recent years. That’s not surprising because it’s so doggone good and elegant to serve. Although it’s not especially attractive to photograph, the flavor is unsurpassed. Served with potatoes and broccoli, it makes a grand special occasion meal.
There are as many variations on this recipe as there are chefs. Guy Fieri does one as does Julia Child. In the recipe shown below, I adapted Mark Bittman’s NYT version, adding broth and brandy but cowardly bypassing the option to flambé. If you want to taste the dish, it’s on the menu at The Cheesecake Factory ($19.95) and Lemp Mansion ($24.95).
- 2 6-oz beef tenderloin fillets
- salt and pepper
- 2 Tbs. butter, divided
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 2/3 cup beef or veal stock
- 2 Tbs. shallot (or onion), finely chopped
- 1 tsp. garlic, minced
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms
- 1/4 cup brandy or cognac
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- Lemon juice to taste (optional)
- Fresh chives or parsley for garnish
- Because the dish comes together so quickly, all ingredients should be assembled before starting the preparation. It’s what French chefs call mise en place—having everything measured, chopped and ready.
- Cut (and/or pound) the steak to one-half inch thickness.
- Sear steaks no more than 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side.
- You can leave off the flambé if you fear for the safety of your eyebrows. Many recipes omit the burn. But igniting the brandy does more than add to the theatrics. Testers at Cook’s Illustrated found it enhanced the flavor as well.