Steak Diane. What can I say? This dish was already passe when I first began going to restaurants as a boy in the 1970s; its heyday in America was in the 1950s and 1960s, when French cooking was all the rage. (thanks, Julia!) Most people who remember this dish remember it as beef filet mignon with a piquant sauce of mustard, Worcestershire sauce, demi-glace, cream and shallots — all flambeed at the table with cognac.
Ritzy, eh? Well, my version of steak Diane is a little less flamboyant, and it hearkens back to the dish’s roots. Diane, you see, is really Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt. And Sauce Diane, at least in its proto-form, was first mentioned by Escoffier in his Le Guide Culinare back in 1907. And it was a sauce not for beef, but for venison.
It is a classic for a reason. This sauce is so good you must have lots of bread around to sop it up. If you don’t, you will find yourself licking the plate, and that’s not very polite.
I developed this recipe after working with Elise at Simply Recipes on her version of steak Diane, and I am more than happy with my version, which is a little stronger flavored than hers; it seemed appropriate considering that venison is more strongly flavored than beef. Steak Diane is absolutely a date-night dish, but it is also so damn easy to make you can whip it up on a Wednesday night. So I suppose if you have a Wednesday night date it would be perfect…
Venison Steak Diane
Steak Diane really needs a tender cut, and with venison that means backstrap, loin in non-hunter vernacular. The best way to cook this is with a large piece of backstrap that you then cut into medallions right before you serve. If you have regular medallions, it will still work. While it is important to use heavy cream for this recipe (lighter creams will separate), it is not that important to have fancy brandy for this recipe — just use something you would drink, OK?
Looking for another classic to make with venison tenderloin? Try Venison with Cumberland Sauce.
Serves 2, and can be doubled.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
- 1/2 pound piece of venison backstrap, boned lamb loin or beef filet mignon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 1/2 cup venison stock or beef broth
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Enough heavy cream to turn the sauce the color of coffee-with-cream, about 1/4 cup
- Minced herbs for garnish (basil, parsley, chives, etc)
- Bring the venison loin out of the fridge, salt it well and let it come to room temperature, at least 20 minutes.
- Heat the butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat for about 90 seconds. Pat the venison dry with a paper towel and cook it on all sides. Turn the heat to medium so the butter doesn’t scorch, and take your time. It should take about 8-10 minutes or so to get a nice brown crust on the venison without overcooking the center. Remove the venison, tent loosely with foil and set aside.
- Add the shallots to the saute pan and cook for 1 minute, then add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Don’t let the garlic burn. Deglaze the pan with the brandy, scraping off any stuck-on bits in the pan with a wooden spoon. Let the brandy cook down almost to a glaze, then add the venison stock, tomato paste, mustard and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine. Let this boil down until a wooden spoon dragged across the pan leaves a trail behind it that does not fill in for a second or two. This should take about 3 minutes on high heat.
- Turn off the heat and let the boiling subside. Stir in the cream until the sauce is as light as you like. Don’t let the sauce boil again or it could break.
- Slice the venison into thick medallions. If you find you have not cooked it enough, let the meat swim in the sauce for a few moments to heat through. If the venison is to your liking, pour some sauce on a plate and top with the meat. Garnish with some chopped herbs. Chives is traditional, but basil and parsley are also nice. Serve with a big red wine, like a Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Petit Verdot or Graciano.