Friday, September 2, 2011

RECIPE - Filet Mignon with Clove-scented Sauce (Filé Mignon ao Molho de Cravo-da-Índia)

Untangling the differences, both in cuts and language, between the way a Brazilian butcher disassembles a beef carcass and the way an American or European butcher would deal with an indentical carcass has become a familiar topic here on Flavors of Brazil. The animal's muscles are not cut the same way in Brazil as they are elsewhere, resulting in cuts of meat in one country that can't be found in another. The traditional names used to describe the cuts are also contradictory and confusing.

No confusion though when it comes to a cut a beef called the filet mignon. It's cut identically in Brazil, Europe and North America - from the center section of the tenderloin - and with very small variations in spelling, it's universally called filet mignon, a French word meaning dainty filet. In Brazil, it's spelled filé mignon.

One of the most expensive cuts of beef, or as Brazilians say, one of the "noble cuts", filet mignon is tender and lean, and since it's usually cut into quite thick slices, normally served rare and juicy. It's a symbol of luxury everywhere it is served.

Filet mignon can be served simply, with no seasoning other than salt. Grilled or pan-fried. However, since the cut is lean, it takes well to saucing, something that cuts with a higher percentage of fat do not. Bearnaise sauce, green peppercorn sauce and other treatments are classic ways to serve a filet mignon.

One interesting Brazilian saucing technique for filet mignon seems to be restricted to Brazil alone. At least,Flavors of Brazil has not been able to track down similar recipes from other countries. The sauce is known in Brazil as molho de cravo-da-Índia, meaning clove sauce. In yesterday's post on this blog we detailed the importance of cloves in Brazilian cuisine, and this recipe for an elegant cut of beef topped with a red-wine and clove sauce is a perfect example of how the highly aromatic spice is creatively used in non-dessert cooking in Brazil.
RECIPE - Filet Mignon with Clove-scented Sauce (Filé Mignon ao Molho de Cravo-da-Índia)
Serves 4

4 filet mignon steaks, about 6 oz (200 gr) each
salt and black pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup (125 ml) dry red wine
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground cloves

In a deep plate, combine the filets, the minced garlic salt and pepper to taste and half of the red wine. Turn the filets over several times in the wineand then let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, turning the filets over once or twice more.

In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the corn starch in the the remaining red wine. Stir in the ground cloves. Reserve. 

Remove the filets from the marinade and dry them with a paper towel. Reserve the marinade.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. When hot, add the filets and cook to the desired point of doneness - turning the steaks over once, about half-way through the cooking process. Remove the steaks from the pan and reserve, keeping warm.

Pour the reserved marinade and the corstarch/red wine mixture into the frying pan and bring quickly to a boil, stirring constantly and scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the frying pan. When the sauce thickens, lower heat and continue to cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the sauce has lost it's starchy taste and is transparent. Remove from heat.

Place one filet on each of four dinner plates, and pour one quarter of the sauce over each. Serve immediately. Best accompanied by one or two steamed vegetables, or with french fries, if desired.

Recipe translated and adapted from Cozinha Regional Brazileira by Abril Editora.


  1. Sounds interesting - I've never been a big fan of cloves as they can be rather overpowering, but perhaps here the red wine helps to soften the flavour. We had a birthday churrasco this weekend and experimented with a cut called Coração de Alcatra (Heart of Sirloin?). It was excellent. We have a little left so I will try it 'ao Molho de Cravo-da-Índia' :)

  2. Tom - I agree about cloves, a little goes a long way. But used sparingly, I do like the flavor.

    Also, thanks for the note about Coração de Alcatra. I'll check it out and see if we can figure out how it corresponds to American/European cuts of beef.