Eat This While You Read That: Jeff Duntemann


The beauty and the challenge of ETWYRT is that I never know what I’ll get when I ask an author for a dish. At this point I’ve made everything from nostalgic dishes that reminded expatriates of home, to dishes that were taken from the pages of an author’s book. Some of the dishes have been a challenge, others were a joy to make and consume – sometimes both those things in one. When Jeff Duntemann told me what he wanted me to do for his book and a meal, my only fear was that I wouldn’t be able to find the wine he recommended.

filet mignon-1
Any meal that begins with a whole skillet full of sauteed mushrooms and onions is okay with the First Reader.

cold handsFor the book to pair with preparing and eating this meal, Jeff recommends his short story collection, Cold Hands, which I agree is an excellent choice. It doesn’t take long to prepare this meal, so you wouldn’t have time to get into his novel of an artificial intelligence sharing a human body by coursing through the man’s veins. And while you are eating this, you don’t want to be so distracted you don’t taste the food. But when you’re replete afterwards, then you will want the stories. Click on the cover to pick up the book, and then continue with the cooking!

Then I ran into a little snag. Well, in terms of river navigation it was a whole bunch of snags and finally I found a bridge instead to make it work. Jeff had suggested that I do this meal on the grill, in it’s entirety, which was a wonderful idea. Except…

I live in Ohio, and it’s December. It’s not snowing out, but it is rather cold and damp. I can deal with cold and damp – I have grilled with feet (multiple) of snow on the ground. But…

By the time I’m making dinner these days, it’s dark outside. Not only that, but we haven’t got an outside light in the backyard. No, honey, I don’t think I want to try food photography by the light of a clip-on repair lamp. New plan…

This summer, we’ll try the meal again and do it Jeff’s way. Tonight, I did it my way. The First Reader was in full agreement with me, he’s ready any time to eat this again.

What, you are now wondering, did the author ask me to make? Filet Mignon with grilled mushrooms, onions, and sweet peppers. Paired with a bottle of Menage a Trois wine.

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Brought inside, this is less a recipe and more a technique.

  1. In a cast iron skillet, melt about 2 tbsp bacon grease. Saute mushrooms and onions in this until onions are translucent. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a bowl and keep warm.
  2. In a small non-stick saucepan, put a dollop of bacon grease or butter. Pour about a tablespoon of mustard seeds into that and heat gently over med-low heat until they start popping. Dump about 2 finely chopped shallots in with them. When shallots are translucent, put in 2 tbsp of good seedy mustard (not, for heaven’s sakes, the neon-yellow stuff) and slowly whisk in about a cup of heavy cream.
  3. In the same skillet you fried the mushrooms in, wiped out quickly with a paper towel, put another tablespoon of grease. Bring up to med-high heat, until the grease just begins to smoke. Lay your little steaks in carefully, the grease will spatter. Leave them alone. Don’t touch them for about 2-3 minutes depending on thickness.
  4. Keep stirring the cream sauce. It will boil and start to thicken. Season to taste with salt.
  5. At the 3 minute (if not earlier) mark, turn the steaks. Again, don’t mess with them. That lovely sear crust needs contact with the pan to form.
  6. Remove from skillet and put on a plate to allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Really, this needs to happen. I like my meat fairly rare (ok, left to my own devices I like it blue, but I don’t usually feed that to other people), but even I allow it to rest and finish cooking and the proteins to unwind a bit.
  7. Serve.

Eat, drink the nice merlot and bask in the feeling good food gives you, that sense of contentment and well being that keeps you warm while you read Jeff’s spine-tingling tales from the deep cold of space.
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The First Reader’s comment was that the sauce was very good, and it was positively sinful for me to put it on that steak. The meat didn’t need it. If I make a lesser steak, he says, we’ll do the sauce. But when I make this on the grill, there is to be nothing but naked meat on his fork. I can live with that.

I will note that I didn’t buy filet mignon. What I bought (and on sale, to boot) was a chunk of beef tenderloin, which I then butchered into steaks. It was an order of magnitude cheaper, and for those who don’t know: filet mignon = tenderloin = backstrap which is what I grew up calling it. Any way you name it, this is a tender, flavorful cut of meat and the simpler you are in preparation, the better it is.

Oh, and the wine? I found it at Jungle Jim’s, and it’s a very nice wine for a reasonable price. It went well with this meal.

filet mignon-9
Look, I don’t want the cow to moo when I cut my steak, but this was perfectly done for me. Carnivore’s delight.

The ETWYRT Index Page is here. 


2 responses to “Eat This While You Read That: Jeff Duntemann”

  1. Reality Observer Avatar
    Reality Observer

    Another one to add to the collection, Cedar!

    I’m with First Reader myself – the good stuff off the grill needs no addition (other than a bit of salt and pepper before it hits the heat). I’m going to try Jeff’s original myself when the days get longer again, since I have the same problem as you – no lights good enough to see what I’m doing. Although usually not cold and damp here in Tucson.

    The cream sauce, though, looks like it may work for a lot of different things; probably next month I’ll try that. Although with steaks first – like you, I buy tenderloin and cut it myself; the stores around here normally have some on sale later this month. (The only hassle is getting all of the silverskin off of it.)

    Reminded me too that I have a roast to get into the oven around noon… Which I didn’t have on the day list, so a second thank you.

    1. I am glad to be helpful 🙂 I used scissors to take the silverskin off this, which isn’t the most elegant solution but I was rushing as I’d forgotten to do it in advance. Nothing like a smoking skillet to put some gittup in your go.