Steak Diane. What can I say? This dish was already passé 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 zippy sauce of mustard, Worcestershire sauce, demi-glace, cream and shallots — all flambéed 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 Culinaire 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 more than a decade ago, and I am more than happy with my version, which is a little stronger flavored than a typical steak Diane; it seems appropriate considering that venison is more strongly flavored than beef.
Over the years it has become one of my most popular recipes. Not a week goes by that I don’t get a note from someone who made this and loved it. I am very happy to have played a small part in reviving this classic.
Serve steak Diane with a big red wine, like a Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Petit Verdot or Graciano.
This is absolutely a date-night dish, but it is also so 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
- 1/2 pound piece of venison backstrap or tenderloin
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 1/2 cup venison stock or beef broth
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon mustard (I use Dijon)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 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 to 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 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 are traditional, but basil and parsley are also nice.