Vietnamese flavors — fish sauce, rice vinegar and garlic — marry with tender filet mignon in this recipe, inspired by a dish served at the Slanted Door restaurant in San Francisco. Once you add the meat to the pan, don’t move it for at least 2 minutes, or you’ll sacrifice a beautiful caramelized surface — the signature feature of this simple preparation.
Caramelized Beef with Onions & Watercress
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
1 Tbs. Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
1 tsp. sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 Tbs. (2 fl. oz./60 ml.) canola oil
1 1/2 lb. (750 g.) filet mignon, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm.) cubes
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
About 6 oz. (185 g.) watercress, tough stems removed
4 green onions, white and light green parts, finely chopped
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
In a resealable plastic bag, combine the garlic, white onion, fish sauce, sugar, 3/4 teaspoon salt, a generous grinding of pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the beef, squeeze out some of the air, seal the bag, and turn to distribute the ingredients. Let stand at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 1 1/2-2 hours. If the beef is refrigerated, return it to room temperature before cooking.
In a small bowl, toss the red onion with the vinegar and plenty of pepper. Let stand for 10-15 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and toss. Divide the watercress and green onions among plates and arrange some of the red onion on top.
Remove the beef from the bag and discard the marinade. Place a wok or large, heavy frying pan over high heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil has just begun to shimmer, add the beef, distributing it evenly, and cook without moving it until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn, add the butter, and cook for about 1 minute more. Do not overcook.
Arrange the beef and pan juices alongside the watercress. Serve at once. Serves 4-6.
Recipe from The Cook & the Butcher, by Brigit Binns.