I bet it started in the ‘50s. Maybe the ‘40s even. Of course I could be wrong, but it seems to me a perfect timeline fit. Back when sips of bourbon-and-bitters-based Manhattans and nibbles of caviar topped deviled eggs started the meal and Baked Alaska ended it and The Joy of Cooking lived in every good housewife’s kitchen cupboard.
Somewhere along the food heritage line, steak became the poster child for decadent dinners. And there’s no steak seemingly more decadent than the petite filet mignon.
Maybe it’s how it’s spelled with that sneaky, silent ‘g’ that shows off it’s Frenchie, linguistic ways. Maybe it’s because when you say “filet mignon” it simply rolls off the tongue and you sound so upscale. “Minnnnn-yon.”
Or maybe it’s because it’s such a dang expensive cut of meat. Because doesn’t expensive mean it’s the best? Maybe if you’re a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills, but when it comes to especially flavorful food, hardly ever.
As things will happen over time, the filet mignon went from rock star status to a C-list contender on Dancing With the Stars, even getting lambasted by some of America’s top chefs. No flavor because it’s so low in fat. Overrated after becoming overexposed on nearly every American menu for years. And far too often, way overcooked for such a lean meat. Why oh why do people cook their meat well done?
But when this tender filet is cooked just right at a medium rare temperature, and a pat of fat is added to the ingredient list, suddenly we have a whole new ball game.