My little friend, the gorgeous baby E. Foard simply loves this phrase: “Oooooh lah lah!” She says with such panache that it is oh, so cute! I couldn’t help myself, but I just had to look up the different words for ‘cute’ in all the languages that I could find on google translate.
In Italian, it’s carina, for a girl and carino for a boy. It’s kawaii in Japanese, ke ai in Mandarin and in Cantonese, tak yi. In bahasa Malay and Indonesian, it is lucu, pronounced luchu and in Spanish lindo. Such colourful ways of saying the same thing. In French, there is mignon/mignonne. Now, how does one pronounce this, you ask, when the words in the other languages seem much easier phonetically. Well, c’est compliqué, is what I say! You can say “mi” but what about the “gn”which makes a rather odd sound akin to “ni-uh”. The “on” has a silent “n” and makes a nasal sound like you’re trying to swallow the “o”. That’s as close as I could get to this darn French pronunciation. So, mignon is pronounced like so: mi-ni-uh-o.
French conversation, Part 1 is to be able to tell the butcher man the cut of pork you”d like for dinner. With that phonetic chart in my head, I toddled off, with a spring in my step due to my excitement, to le boucherie down the road to get me a piece of filet mignon de porc. I wanted to surprise my family with a recipe I concocted one sleepless night whilst it was storming outside. This required the said cut of pork, some honey, balsamic vinegar, whole grain mustard and a frying pan. Since I had all the ingredients in my pantry, including the frying pan, the rest of the recipe just required cooking the meat.
Now, how do you say mignon again? I tried to get the word out, especially the part that required swallowing the “o” which I kept in, of course. After a couple of attempts, I just pointed at the darn cut of meat, only to have the butcher say “Ah! filet mignon!” Imagine my frustration. I tried, really I did! Maybe I didn’t swallow the “o” enough….
I wonder why the French have called this cut of pork so. The filet mignon de beouf is chateaubriand beef in English according to Tony Tobin from Saturday Kitchen. What cute part of the pig did this cut of meat derive from?
Here’s the recipe:
1 piece of filet mignon de porc, good for 4 persons. You can ask your butcher to help with deciding what is a good sized piece.
2Tbsp of olive oil
1tsp of whole grain mustard
2tsp of acacia honey
1/2tsp of balsamic vinegar. I used one that is slightly fruitier because it had been infused with fig. Otherwise, balsamic vinegar from Modena will do.
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Whip up the marinade so that all the ingredients mix well.
2. Cut your meat into 4 equal parts and make an incision from the sides of the meat much like when you are halving a sandwich bun or baguette. Do not half the meat completely, only slice midway.
3. Using a pastry brush, coat the insides of the meat with the marinade, like you are buttering your baguette.
4. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes.
Then heat some olive oil in a non-stick pan and when the pan is smoking, gently slide the meat into the hot oil and allow to brown. Turn the meat over to brown the other side. When both sides have been nicely browned, lower the heat and allow the meat to cook. Cooking times depend on the thickness of your pieces but do keep turning your meat over so that your meat gets cooked and not burnt. It should have a nice golden colour to it with perhaps a bit of crust forming because of the honey in the marinade. You may find it difficult to cook the meat if the cut is on the thick side, then open up the pieces and cook the meat this way to ensure that the insides are done. When the juices run clear, your meat is done. Remove and scrape the bits that have been left over in the pan and pour some hot water over it. This forms the jus. That, kawan kawanis your gravy. Allow to simmer for 2 minutes and pour over your meat before dishing into individual plates.
I served this with a risotto made from carnaroli rice, which is another grain of risotto rice next to arborio. The latter works just as well. Cook the risotto like you normally would. Instead of shallots, I used half a leek which I sliced very finely and sautéed them in a cast iron casserole. I added a knob of butter to olive oil. It is important to coat each grain of rice thoroughly before adding the broth or stock. Risotto needs love and patience, you have to keep adding stock, keep stirring until the rice is cooked. A glass of wine in the non-stirring hand helps greatly, I found. Couple that with imaginary sounds of joyful grunts of appreciation from the family and before you can say “hey presto!”, your risotto is done. Love and patience takes about 20 to 25 minutes, so not long really. I added peas to mine because I felt the pork needed a blander vegetable to go with it and because I had a bottle of pesto already opened, I added 2 teaspoons of that too. The risotto should be served as soon as it is cooked. For added measure, I drizzled some truffle induced oil over it.
Risotto ought to still have a crunch on the bite – al dente– is how the Italians refer to this . If you are used to rice that is soft and fluffy, then this crunchy rice takes some getting used to. With the gocce de tartufo, this risotto is simply perfetto!
Try this at home, kawan kawan. I would love to hear about it.