The craving: I’m feeling earthy and carniverous.
The palate: smooth while piquant.
The dish: Mushroom Brandy Steak Sauce on Filet Mignon (try it with any cut of steak)
President Eisenhower’s diet prohibited him from too rich or exotic meals, according to a 1957 Times-News article. But he begged for the recipe when served steak with mushroom sauce at the Officers’ Club, NATO, Virginia. The manager denied him, stating the recipe was a secret. We can only speculate that it likely had brandy in it.
But classic Mushroom Sauce with Brandy not only gets a kick from this warm spirit, but also emits earthy essences from the lusty mushrooms and hearty thyme. Thyme is known for its sweet, earthy, dry character, harmonizing perfectly with the mushrooms. Different forms of mushroom sauces have been concocted for centuries, but this smooth sauce with the added brandy is something unique.
For optimum taste, drippings from the cooked meat should be incorporated. Chef Dave Beaulieu says “I like to make this sauce as a ‘pan sauce’, meaning in the same pan in which I just cooked steak, chicken or pork. The drippings from the meat add great flavor and color.” Adding juice that accumulates while the meat is resting heightens the meal another notch.
Fire! Those never having cooked with alcohol should prepare themselves for the little flame-up once the brandy is added. Removing the pan from burner just before pouring helps minimize the drama. Once back on the heat, the fire will eventually die down when the spirits have burned off, but having a lid handy adds a sense of control. All the excitement will prove worth it with the incredible taste imparted by the spirit.
Aside from mushrooms and brandy, the sauce usually includes butter, shallots, chicken stock and thyme.
Variations for Mushroom Sauce with Brandy:
- substitute spirits: cognac or wine (white or red)
- use other meats: pork or chicken
- saturate flavor: garlic along with the shallots
- add richness: cream
- boost seasonings: basil, saffron