A quintessential retro classic, Steak Diane is about to return to the limelight – and not just because it’s perhaps best known for its innate restaurant theatrics that we’ve so missed in recent years. In the most classic iterations of the American dish, filet mignon is served flambéed at the table with cognac, adding depth of flavor and a breathtaking spectacle. With its rich, creamy buttery sauce, Steak Diane is comfort food with an edge, making it perfect for chef John Shields’ Loyalist, the sister restaurant just down from his Michelin-starred Smyth.
It was a long, circuitous journey that brought Shields and his wife, pastry chef and co-owner Karen Urie Shields, to Chicago’s West Loop. After years of working at acclaimed local establishments like Alinea and Charlie Trotter, the pair made the bold choice to refuse to lead the latter’s Vegas outpost opening, fleeing to County County instead. Smyth, Va. to open Town House in 2008. There, careful attention to local ingredients and seasonal flair won the pair national acclaim and even earned John Shields a James Award semi-finalist. Beard in 2011.
Upon their return to Chicago, the Shields launched the double-barreled concept of Smyth and the Loyalist — the former Michelin-star establishment that seeks, the pair say, to “express ‘farm on a plate’ — not in a sense. also literal. , but more like an idea. The latter, meanwhile, is a lounge bar inspired by French brasseries: good hearty cuisine and a friendly atmosphere. While the fare is certainly more casual down below, the attention to detail is anything but.
Steak Diane, to hear John Shields put it, was an obvious addition to the menu at the more casual of the two concepts, thanks to the fact that it was “rich, indulgent and deeply satisfying in every bite”.
For Shields, it’s also a dish close to his heart – one that reminds him of his early days as a culinary student.
“I first encountered Steak Diane when I had to cook the dish at the table during my first trimester test when I was training,” he recalls. “I had to prepare it in front of my instructors and all my classmates. It’s a good memory that I have of my training.
Of course, it updated the classic from its retro roots a bit. There’s no table-side flambéing with this version of the dish, which instead starts with roasted maitake mushrooms. Candied in a generous amount of butter and infused with fresh herbs, they form the base of the rich sauce. The recipe below does way too much for their stated purpose — and that’s a good thing: enjoy leftovers as a side, on a sandwich, or (let’s be honest) straight from the pan. Just be sure to set four aside for the sauce base, which is also spiked with roasted garlic, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, demiglace (which Shields notes you can easily find online or at Whole Foods ) and “lots” of black pepper, an addition that balances out the richness considerably.
While a more classic Diane steak offers the ultra-tender (and therefore aptly named) tenderloin, Shields prefers a skirt steak for added flavor – yet another modern twist that you’ll soon see he was right to make.
While this Steak Diane requires a bit of forethought, thanks to the roasted mushrooms it’s also surprisingly easy to prepare, making it the perfect dish to transition from a special occasion to Monday night dinner with ease. Do it for the family? Toss the remaining mushrooms into a serving dish, and it’s essentially a one-pot meal. Do you receive friends? Invite them into the kitchen and flambé the Cognac, or serve the steak with lobster, as Shields does on request, for a brainy game on the surf and turf that he notes he “honestly (sees) as a fun little Americana to add to the menu.
Whether that Diane steak is served to a crowd of friends or just your brood, there is one technical element that should not be overlooked: the temperature of the steak. shield notes, “I prefer to serve the steak medium as the cut of the meat has the best texture when it is.
The resulting dish, for Shields, is far from retro, but rather, quite simply, “timeless.”
Diane Loyalist Steak
For the roasted mushrooms
- 1 pound whole maitake mushrooms, ends trimmed (enough to evenly fill the bottom of a large 12″ x 16″ roasting pan or casserole dish
- 1 pound butter, divided into sixteen pieces
- 10 whole garlic cloves
- 1 bunch fresh tarragon
- 1 bunch of thyme
- ¼ cup good olive oil
- ¼ cup sunflower oil
- Sea salt to taste
For the sauce base
- 160 grams (1 cup) thinly sliced shallots
- 25 grams (1¾ tablespoons) butter
- 30 grams (2¼ tablespoons) cognac
- 500 grams (about 2 cups) heavy cream
- 25 grams (5 teaspoons) Dijon mustard
- 25 grams (1½ tablespoons) Worcestershire
- 27 grams (about 3 tablespoons) beef demi-glace base
- Black pepper to taste (a lot)
- 2 skirt steaks (3 to 4 ounces each)
- ¼ cup chopped capers
Preheat the oven to 400 ̊F. Place 12 of the squares of butter in a roasting pan, then add half the thyme and tarragon, to make a bed for the mushrooms. Place the mushrooms on the bed of herbs and butter, and sprinkle the garlic cloves all around. Season with the oils and salt, and pinch the remaining 4 squares of butter over the mushrooms. Finish with the remaining herbs. Cover loosely with foil and bake for a total of 36 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Set the mushrooms aside to cool until you can comfortably handle them. Remove the mushrooms and set aside, and mince the garlic cloves; reserve for the sauce.
To make the sauce, melt the butter in a roundel or large saucepan. Sweat the shallot until soft, taking care not to brown it. Add the cognac and reduce until the alcohol is cooked; the pan will be relatively dry. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients (including chopped and roasted garlic) and simmer gently until the sauce coats a spoon. Season generously with black pepper.
Slightly temper the steaks to room temperature and season generously. Sear the steak in a hot, heavy-bottomed skillet at the desired temperature (we serve the steak medium-rare in the restaurant). Rest the steak before serving.
To serve, heat 1 cup Diane sauce and add four of the coarsely chopped maitake mushrooms and the capers. Heat gently. Slice the steak and place it on a large platter. Top with hot Diane sauce and serve with a nice bright salad (and, if you ask Chef Shields, “maybe fries if you want to be a little more indulgent”).
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