Sometimes the old rules—red wine with meat, white wine with fish—just don’t fly. Even serving the quintessential red wine dish, filet mignon, can throw you a curve ball every now and then. What if lobster or crab has been incorporated in the dish or the sauce that tops that juicy filet is a béarnaise? In these times, it’s best to think outside the box.
The most complementary pairing is when the wine matches the flavor spikes in the dish, such as the sauces, herbs and spices. Filet Oscar, a popular dish that pairs filet mignon and a side of asparagus with béarnaise sauce, is a good example of this challenge. While Cabernet Sauvignon is the natural inclination, the creamy flavors of the sauce would be overwhelmed by the traditional steak partner. In fact, several whites won’t work well, either: The buttery flavors eliminate Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling as options. It’s time to roll out the big guns from the white wine shelf.
This delectable dish calls for a full-bodied, smoky, oaky Chardonnay—exactly the kind that many wine lovers have dismissed in recent years as too fat and over-the-top. But the role of chaser for such a richly flavored dish requires a substantial wine. Rhône-style white wines like Roussanne and Marsanne also work with such a rich dish.
Morton’s The Steakhouse of Chicago has an interesting take on Filet Oskar, as they’ve named it, and it’s topped with crabmeat and asparagus:
Morton’s Filet Oskar
10 ounces filet mignon
2 spears asparagus, blanched
2 ounces crab meat
3 ounces béarnaise sauce (recipe below)
1 pinch chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Grill or broil the steak to desired temperature. While filet is cooking, select 2 asparagus spears of approximately the same size. Cut each spear in half and split lengthwise, trying to ensure that the pieces are approximately the same size. Place asparagus and crabmeat in a single layer in a pie tin or on a cookie sheet, then heat thoroughly in oven for approximately 8–10 minutes.
When the filet is cooked, remove it from the broiler or grill and slice it in half against the grain, and place each half on a plate. Remove the crab meat and asparagus from the oven and place the four pieces of asparagus halves carefully on top of each filet half to form a number sign so that it will support the crab meat.
Place 1 ounce of crabmeat on top of asparagus on each filet half. Pour 1½ ounces béarnaise sauce over the top of each filet half and garnish with a sprinkle of parsley.
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon shallots, minced
½ teaspoon dried tarragon
A dash of freshly ground black pepper
2 egg yolks, or egg substitute
3 tablespoons butter
Combine white wine, vinegar, shallots, tarragon and black pepper in a small nonstick skillet. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Put 1–2 inches of water in bottom of a double boiler. Strain wine-vinegar mixture and pour it into the top of a double boiler, discarding all solids like the shallots. Add eggs and stir well.
Bring water in double boiler to a boil, stirring mixture in upper chamber continuously. When slight bubbles appear around the perimeter, reduce heat to low. Add butter, one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until blended. Cook until sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat, set aside and keep warm.