Italian Christmas dishes: Make mushroom pasta, steak

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An Italian twist on Christmas dinner: filet mignon

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Chef Michael White, author of the new cookbook "Classico e Moderno," makes two festive dishes for a Christmas feast: filet mignon topped with a butter-herb crust and barbera wine sauce and pasta ribbons with mushroom sauce.

Filet mignon topped with butter-herb crust with a barbera wine sauce
Servings:

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

    • 1 cup seasoned toasted bread crumbs
    • 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 2 teaspoons thinly sliced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
    • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
    • 2 tablespoons canola oil
    • 4 beef filet mignons, 6 ounces each
    • Kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 small shallot, minced
    • 1/4 cup dry red wine (see the headnote)
    • 1/2 cup beef stock

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Put the bread crumbs, 8 tablespoons of the butter, the parsley, and thyme in a medium bowl and stir together with a rubber spatula until well blended. Transfer to a large piece of parchment paper and top with another piece of parchment paper. Use a rolling pin to roll the mixture out to a rectangle about 3 inches by 12 inches and about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer the parchment-paper-encased crust to a baking sheet and place in the freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.Cut the crust mixture into 3-inch squares (roughly the same size as the filet mignon pieces), cutting through the paper and leaving it intact. Set aside.Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.Heat a large heavy skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the canola oil and tip and tilt the pan to coat it, heating the oil. Season the steaks with salt and pepper, add them to the pan, and sear, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.Transfer the steaks to a baking sheet or an ovenproof sauté pan (set the skillet aside), set in the oven, and cook for 4 minutes for medium-rare, or a bit longer for a well done steak.  Meanwhile, make the sauce: Return the pan in which the steaks were seared to medium-high heat, add the remaining tablespoon of canola oil, and tip and tilt the pan to coat it with the oil, warming it. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the shallots, and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Pour in the wine and use the spoon to loosen any flavorful bits cooked onto the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook until the wine is slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, bring to a boil, and simmer until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon and the flavors are nicely concentrated, about 6 minutes. Swirl in the remaining tablespoon of butter until it is melted and season with salt and pepper. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and cover to keep warm.When the steaks are done, remove the baking sheet from the oven and preheat the broiler. Top each piece of beef with one of the prepared crusts, removing the parchment paper, then return the baking sheet to the oven and broil until the crust is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.Arrange the steaks on 4 dinner plates, drizzle with the wine sauce, and serve.

Pasta ribbons with mushroom sauce
Servings:

Makes 6 servings as an appetizer

Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup olive oil, or as needed
    • 1 Spanish onion, cut into small dice
    • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    • 2 pounds mushrooms, ideally 8 ounces each white button, cremini, shiitake, and oyster, trimmed (discard shiitake stems) and thinly sliced
    • Kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
    • Needles from 2 rosemary sprigs, minced
    • 4 fresh sage leaves, minced
    • Pinch of red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine
    • 2 cups dark chicken stock

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Fresh pasta sheets, cut into stracci or other wide pasta, such as pappardelle or 1 pound fresh or dried store-bought stracci or other wide pasta A wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano, for gratingPour the oil into a wide, heavy sauté pan and heat over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering and almost smoking. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and a few grinds of black pepper, and cook, stirring, until they begin to give off their liquid, about 5 minutes, adding more oil if the pan becomes too dry. Stir in the tomato paste, stirring to coat the mushrooms, and cook until it turns a shade darker, about 2 minutes. Stir in the rosemary, sage, and red pepper flakes. Pour in the wine, bring to a boil, and simmer until it has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock and bring it to a boil, then lower the heat, partially cover the pan, and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 1 hour. (The sauce can be cooled and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; reheat gently before proceeding.) Meanwhile, about 20 minutes before the sauce is ready, fill a large pot two-thirds full with water and salt it liberally. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 4 minutes for fresh, or 9 minutes for dried.Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Toss well.  Divide the pasta and sauce among 4 to 6 plates, using a kitchen spoon to layer the mushrooms and sauce between layers of pasta. Shave some cheese and grind some black pepper over each serving and serve. Variations: This dish is also good with thyme instead of rosemary. You can vary the mushrooms, using just about any variety.  You can also use the mushroom sauce to top a grilled steak. It would be a somewhat modern touch, but adding some tomato confit to the mushrooms just before tossing with the pasta brings welcome color and sweetness to the plate.

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