Q: For years, probably 25-30, I have made a recipe for steak Diane, from a small newspaper clipping. ... For about a year or two now I haven't been able to find it, and I fear that it is gone forever. I can remember the ingredients, pretty much, ketchup, butter, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, mushrooms, sherry, brandy, and, of course, beef tenderloin. Alas, I am not good at remembering quantities of ingredients, and have never been a good judge of what amounts "should be" proportionately, so I have not felt comfortable making this dish without the recipe. I have looked unsuccessfully for this in cookbooks and online, and have found many other renditions but not this one. The ketchup in this is a somewhat unusual ingredient, but makes it! It has been a family favorite and I would like to serve it again if I could. I would appreciate any help you could give me. Unfortunately I have no idea what newspaper it was from. I have lived a number of places before settling in the Chicago suburbs for the last 27 years. Immediately before that, we lived in Marquette, Mich.
—Pat Prohl, Downers Grove
A: Yours is a pretty open-ended request. Even if I find a recipe with all these ingredients there's no guarantee it's THE recipe you are looking for. I didn't have any luck finding a steak Diane recipe calling for ketchup in the Chicago Tribune's online archives. I then tried Google, listing all the ingredients you gave me but there were way too many results to zero in on one.
Perhaps a reader will have the recipe you're looking for and be willing to share it. (Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, if so.)
In the meantime, let's try to come up with a Plan B. Have you ever tried winging the recipe? You probably have the framework of this recipe down pat because it's a family favorite. Now, you need to relax and let your memory by your guide. Don't worry about amounts or proportions — eyeball it and go with what looks (and tastes) right.
Don't get scared. Remember that steak Diane is basically two things: Meat and sauce. (The mushrooms are an extra flourish that can be omitted.) You can use a less-expensive meat than beef tenderloin as you experiment on getting the sauce right. I've had great fun spooning a Diane-like sauce over all sorts of things, including grilled burger, breakfast sausage links and boneless chicken breasts.
Another route to success could be building off of another's recipe. Steak Diane was invented, or so it is said, at the Drake Hotel in New York City by a chef nicknamed "Nino." There are now countless versions of steak Diane out there. The Tribune's Mary Meade, the pen name for food editor Ruth Ellen Church, made mention of Nino in a 1957 column and offered a very plain steak Diane that called just for steak, butter, dry mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and chives.
The steak Diane recipe I've always liked is found in Pierre Franey's "The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet" cookbook, which was based on his popular and widely distributed newspaper column. (The Tribune ran his steak Diane piece in March 1979.) Like Mary Meade, Franey credited Nino, born Beniamino Schiavon in Padua, Italy, for the recipe. But Franey's recipe has a bit more Gallic elan than Meade's, with cognac, parsley, imported mustard and beef broth among his ingredients.
Franey was a chef I really admired because he was really teaching technique as he showed readers how to assemble dinner in 60 minutes or less. He was a master of the saute, quickly cooking meat, poultry and fish in a skillet and then topping them with flavorful pan sauces, of which the Diane sauce is just one option. I bet you could eat steak every night of the week and not get tired of if you spooned a different Franey sauce on top.
You'll find Franey's steak Diane recipe below. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Makes: 4 servings
A recipe from "The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet" by Pierre Franey
4 filet mignon steaks, about 6 ounces each, or 4 boneless sirloin steaks
Salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons chopped chives or shallots
2 tablespoons cognac
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon imported mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons fresh or canned meat broth, preferably beef, although chicken can be used
1. Put slices of filet mignon or sirloin steaks on a flat surface and pound with flat mallet to about 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle meat on both sides with salt and pepper
2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet and when very hot, add 2 of the steaks. Cook about 1 1/2 minutes on one side and turn. Cook 30 seconds on other side. Transfer steaks to hot serving dish. Add other steaks to skillet and cook them identically in fat that remains in pan. Transfer steaks to serving dish.
3. Remove skillet from heat and add chives. Return skillet to stove and cook about 10 seconds. Add cognac and stir. Add parsley, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Add broth and stir. Swirl in the remaining tablespoon butter. Sprinkle steaks with pepper and pour sauce over them. Serve at once.
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