Like most married men, I would rather stick rusty pins in my eyes than go out to a restaurant on Valentine's Day.
All those cooing couples; all those blokes looking at their watches while worrying about what the bill's going to come to; all those women thinking about Brad in the office as they grin rictus smiles across the prawn cocktail.
Not to mention the 'would you like a rose for the lady' seller and the marked up Prosecco and the 'compliments of the chef' heart-shaped chocolate treat.
It's all too hideous.
Still, it's worth making an extra special effort to make February 14th special for your beloved – especially as it's on a Saturday (sod the kids and their Sunday football club: have a lie-in for a change).
And just as it's true that the route to a man's heart is through his stomach, the same is the case for the mother of the species.
Which brings us to this here monumentally beautiful fillet steak – cooked by you, for your beloved. The great gesture of romance you will ever make.
Each of these lovelies cost a tenner each from my local butchers. In a restaurant, they'd set you back at least £50 for the two, not to mention all the added extras.
What a brilliant reason to avoid all those nauseating displays of lovey doveyness on Valentine's Day – with the added bonus of getting to watch Match of the Day while the subject of your affections does the washing up.
Now before you dive in, let me explain a few things about cooking this marvellous piece of meat – for they need to be handled with deft delicateness.
Your mission is to achieve a caramelised, almost crunchy, crust, but also to ensure the meat is warm all the way through – which isn't easy when the steak is three inches thick, or more, as in the case of these beauties.
If you only pan-fry, the danger is you have a fabulous external crust, but a stone-cold interior; and if you try to get the interior to come up to temperature of, say, 60C for medium-rare, then you have to keep the steak in the pan for quite a long time, which then overcooks the exterior, leaving it dry and mealy.
The answer is to low-roast the beef first.
This simply involves pre-heating the oven to 60C and when it comes up to temperature, insert a meat thermometer into the centre of the steak. When that reaches 60C – bingo! Job done.
This can take anything from 45 mins to an hour, so it's important you keep an eye on that all important gauge.
After that, it's simply a case of bringing the meat out of the oven to rest for a few minutes while you heat a cast iron pan to smoking hot, then sear the steaks for a minute of so each side, adding a knob of butter right at the end to help the crust along.
The results are stunning, as you can see: the meat is cooked exactly to your liking all the way through, but it has that unbelievably toffee-crust that will send your partner's senses into overdrive.
Serve with chips, sautéed mushrooms and my version of tangy Bearnaise sauce, which cuts right through the richness of the beef.
HERE'S THE SAUCE RECIPE:
30 ml white wine vinegar
2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves, reserving the stalks
1 large shallot, fine chopped
8-10 whole peppercorns, lightly cracked
3 egg yolks
200g warm melted butter
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tbsp chopped chives (or chervil)
1 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Put the vinegar, tarragon stalk and peppercorns in a small pan and reduce by half over a low heat. Cool then strain into a heat-proof bowl.
2. Add the egg yolks and 30ml cold water and whisk together.
3. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, ensuring the bowl doesn't touch the water itself. Whisk the mixture until it becomes thick and pale in colour.
4. Remove the bowl from the heat, then gradually whisk in the melted butter a bit at a time until the sauce becomes thick and glossy.
5. Stir in the lemon juice, chopped tarragon and chives, and mustard (if using). Then season with salt and pepper.
6. Slice your steak and serve a great big dollop of the sauce on top. Sublime!
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