My dad can’t cook. No offense Dad. But honestly, it’s no secret. In fact, even being in the kitchen could make him prone to some sort of panic attack. Once in a while he would flare his nostrils and inhale loudly.
“Bobbie!!!” (My mom’s name is Bobbie, short for Barbara. Adorable, I know.) “Something’s burning Bobbie!” He would scream, with a look of terror in his eyes that reflected the image of all of his assets and our post-and-beam house bursting into flames. In his defense, it was a scary thought. I think that after decades of marriage you become skilled at ignoring your spouse when they’re being ridiculous. So my mother just continued cooking. She might smile at me and roll her eyes. I however, had no tolerance for it.
“Dad. First of all, you’re standing two feet away from me so there’s really no need to scream. And secondly, nothing’s burning. That’s just the smell of food when it’s cooking.”
But the great thing about my father’s inability to cook, was that he truly appreciated anyone who could, i.e. my mother. He would eat anything and everything you put in front of him, gladly and gratefully. My dad, a creature of habit,with mild O.C.D. and very much set in his ways, worked as an electrical engineer for IBM for thirty-seven years. He started working there in 1968 when “Hey Jude” was number one on the Billboard charts, and they still used slide rulers instead of calculators because calculators didn’t exist yet. He got up at 6am every morning, and returned home every night with his briefcase in hand at 6pm. And the five of us would sit down to dinner 630.
That was the one time in the day that we would all be together. For this reason, I am a firm believer in family dinner time. Even as a single adult, I always make a point to have dinner with my roommates. When I was a kid we always sat in the same seat and my dad at the head of the table would go around asking each of us the same question.
“Heather, what did you learn in school today?” This always irritated me. But not because it was an unreasonable thing to ask. That’s what school is for after all, learning things. And the fact that I could never think of a single thing to say made me seriously question the education I was receiving at Essex Elementary School. But no matter what we talked about, or didn’t talk about as we sat at the dinner table, we were all together for moment in the day. And that was important.
This Father’s Day, I won’t be able to cook dinner for my dad as we live on opposite sides of the country, which really means that I won’t be getting into an argument with him about how to grill steak. See, the problem is that my dad likes his meat extra well-done. And in my mind well-done equals ruined. And as a result of these quarrels, I always end up stubbornly chewing on an almost too-raw piece of meat just to make a point as he happily pretends that his overly charred piece of beef actually tastes good. But that’s why making filet mignon for my dad is great. It’s much easier when everyone has their own “cute” little filet and I can remove mine from the grill a little while before his… and they’ll both be delicious no matter what.
Grilled Filet Mignon with Anchovy Butter and Watercress
- 1 tablespoon room temperature unsalted butter
- 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1/2 tablespoon whole capers
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest, divided
- 1/2 lemon, for juicing
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 1/4 lb pieces of filet mignon
- 2 cups watercress, trimmed
Preheat grill to high heat.
In a small bowl, stir the softened butter with 2 teaspoons oil until combined and creamy. Add chives, shallots, capers, anchovy paste, 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cover and chill. Combine the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper, rosemary and minced garlic in a small bowl. Rub the rosemary garlic mixture on both sides of steak. Grill the steak 4 minutes per side for medium-rare and 8 to 10 minutes per side for well-done. Divide watercress among 4 plates. Place the steak on top of the watercress and place a dollop of the anchovy butter on top of the steak. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.