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Andrew Guidroz II

    Sugar Steak


This isn't a Cajun recipe. A friend of mine named Mike Pickus read this recipe in the newspaper and really got my curiosity going. Here's the story of my adventure.


Coating for steaks

A raw filet mignon, wrapped in bacon, and sprinkled with salt, sugar, and fresh ground black pepper

Mike posted a message in a newsgroup referencing a Washington Post article. In the article, the writer describes a steak that her friend cooks. She feels it is the best steak she's ever had. After a few folks read the article, a great debate started.

Was the effect on the steak caramelizing? Or was it more similar to Cajun spice blackening? Would it really make any difference? Guessing is okay but, finally, experimentation was called for.

Where do I find a good filet mignon? I frequent a lot of local butchers but filet mignon is on the higher side of the street. Most Cajun meals are made of few ingredients and usually using what is at hand. My normal butchers were out. I thought about it and remembered a place in Lafayette called Joey's Specialty Foods.

The one thing that worried me is that most of their products are, well, prepared. They stuff pork chops wonderfully, make fantastic butters, and, in general, produce a product that only needs to be cooked to be enjoyed. I wondered if I could buy a plain, unseasoned filet mignon. I called and the phone was picked up by Joey himself. He had filet mignon's and, he said, they were one of his best selling items. This is a good sign because at the rate that filet mignon sells, a person would only buy a bad one once. The store was open until 6 PM.

I tear out of the office at speeds that are best left unsaid on my way to Lafayette. There in Joey's cooler is a tray of beautiful filet mignons. And they are bacon wrapped. This could be a problem.. Do I unwrap them because the recipe did not call for them? Or, more exactly, does a Cajun remove hog fat? Never in a million years. I bought four and walked around enjoying the all the wonderful things Joey had for sale.

I found a lovely Australian Shiraz called Yellow Tail that was a bargain and highly recommended by Joey. And when I say bargain, I mean under $6 US a bottle. He suggested I come by on Friday for his wine tastings. On my way out, I grabbed a business card because he also promised to get me some sashimi quality fish ... looks like I'll have a new page soon with a new adventure on it.

Now, to Albertson's grocery store for my super fine sugar. I looked. I asked questions. The only sugar that resembled super fine was a bag of extra fine. This would not do.

On the way home, I stopped at Guidry's Produce for some yellow squash and snow peas to saute on the side.

Back at home, I start worrying. Where do I find the sugar? The sugar must be really close to baker's sugar so I call my friends the Pitre's who like to bake and ask them where I can find it.


Yellowtail Shiraz

They rule out some of the baking supply places and time is running out. It is nearly 8 PM. I rush to the new Wal-Mart Supercenter and there is none. Finally, I go to Super 1 Foods in Opelousas. This grocery store is on its last leg since Wal-Mart opened. There in the sugar aisle I find ultrafine baker's sugar. This isn't exactly what was recommended but it should be very close. An extra bonus is that it is cane sugar. Louisiana is one of the largest producers of cane sugar.

At home, I mix the salt and sugar in a ramekin. I grind a little black pepper into the ramekin also. Now, here is another problem. A little black pepper in Cajun terms may be too much. I put what I figure is twice as much as the recipe calls for and about one fourth what I would normally use.

I saute the vegetables first. The squash looks lovely as well as the snow peas. It is hard to beat good fresh produce on the side of a good piece of meat.


Snow Peas and Squash

The wine is lovely. Great flavor with a hint of vanilla. I start to figure out case pricing in my head.

I pat the steaks dry with a paper towel. I sprinkle the seasoning mixture on both sides of the steaks. This is the part that is hard to measure. It looks good but is it enough to make a difference in the cooking process?

Now is the time. I heat the cast iron skillet with a tablespoon of vegetable oil. It begins to smoke. I worry that the bacon will alter the flavor. But I'm in with the hog fat.

In go the steaks and I hit the stop watch. They smoke nicely and I don't notice any caramelizing of sugar at all. This either means I didn't put enough sugar or I put just enough. Three minutes is over with quickly and I turn them over. All of the steaks look perfect except for one that I probably didn't sprinkle enough. The outside is a dark black but not a burned look. There is a slight sheen to the meat also. Six minutes on the other side and I pull them. I place them on a chopping block to allow them to finish cooking inside. The recipe calls for ten minutes but eight is all I can wait.

The finish on both sides of the steaks is perfect. I plate them with snow peas, squash, and a glass of Shiraz on the side. Now, it is taste testing time.

The coating forms a slightly crunchy layer not at all like blackening from Cajun spices. But there is no sugary flavor either. The biggest impact is in the coloring of the steak and that slight crunch to the outer layer of the steak.

The flavor of the filet mignons is incredible. The bacon does not over power them at all.

A good filet mignon is hard to mess up. Don't over season and don't over cook and it is always wonderful. Did the sugar really change the dining experience? The coloring and texture is certainly different.

It was worth trying and the finish on the meat really makes a nice look. Highly recommended. And my wife forgave both me and Pickus for the kitchen mess.

Ingredient List

4 filet mignon, 8 ounces each

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

fresh ground black pepper

Mix sugar and seasonings. Pat steaks dry. Sprinkle (lightly!) mixture on steaks. Heat a cast iron skillet with a teaspoon of vegetable oil until it begins to smoke. Cook steaks on one side for 3 minutes taking care not to crowd them. Turn them over and cook them 3 minutes for rare, 5-7 minutes for medium rare. Remove from fire and let sit for 8 minutes. Plate and serve.


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