Filetti di manzo al pepe verde
One of my favorite restaurants in Florence is Trattoria Il Giova, a tiny, welcoming place in Borgo La Croce, near Piazza Sant'Ambrogio, and every time I visit Firenze, I make sure to have dinner there at least once.
I've never tried anything there that failed to please, but one of my favorite secondi (main dishes) on their menu is the Filetto di manzo al pepe verde (Fillet of Beef in Green Peppercorn Sauce).
It's an incredibly simple and quick--you can have it on the table in 15 to 20 minutes--yet immensely satisfying dish: a melt-in-your-mouth cut of grilled beef tenderloin served with a creamy, piquant pickled green peppercorn sauce.
The sauce is great over either pan-fried or charcoal-grilled fillets, but I've given directions for pan-fried fillets, so that this recipe can be used year-round.
The peppercorns used in Tuscany are pickled (fresh green peppercorns preserved in a brine solution), but you may use dried green peppercorns if you have trouble finding pickled. I have listed some suggestions for possible variations below the recipe.
- 4 beef tenderloin fillets, about 2 inches thick and each weighing 10 ounces (250 grams)
- Fine sea salt
- 4 tablespoons pickled (or dried) green peppercorns, drained
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) Cognac, brandy, or Marsala
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) cream
Preheat the oven to 175 °F.
Season both sides of each fillet with salt. Coarsely grind 3 tablespoons of the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle, spice grinder, or blender, then spread the resulting paste evenly over both sides of each fillet.
In a heavy-bottomed skillet large enough to hold all 4 fillets at once, melt the butter over low heat, then add the fillets. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook the fillets for 2 minutes per side.
Transfer the fillets to a small baking dish and put them in the oven to bake for another 4 minutes.
Add the Cognac to the skillet and stir well over medium heat to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add the cream, remaining tablespoon of whole peppercorns, and salt to taste. Continue to stir over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve the fillets with the sauce spooned over them.
Variations and serving suggestions:
- Add 1-2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard to the sauce after you've deglazed the pan with the Cognac.
- Substitute pink peppercorns for green.
- Serve each fillet on top of a slice of toasted brioche or other white bread.
- Garnish each serving with finely chopped flat-leaf parsley.