Here at FOTL headquarters we’ve been known on occasion to indulge in lunches that might be described as unfair, over the top, or generally not in line with a proper upbringing—and that’s mostly without martinis! What can I say? It’s called “working from home.”
Last week, for instance, there was vanilla ice cream with homemade chocolate sauce to break up the heat of the day. This week—i.e. just a few minutes ago—witnessed a plating of fillet mignon for the afternoon repast. Connecting both these luncheons, besides sheer indulgence, was a nasty barbed plant familiar to hikers and bushwhackers throughout Cascadia: the treacherous devil’s club.
My experiments with devil’s club have just started. So far I’ve learned that the newly emerged buds of this native plant, with their strong aroma of conifer forest and wet woodland, can be used for both sweet and savory dishes alike to bestow a depth of character and regional identity. Last week, sweet. This week, a nod to the other side of the aisle. I adapted a bordelaise recipe from Saveur, opting not to make my own demi-glace (10 pounds of veal bones anyone?), going with Demi-Glace Gold instead.
The wild wood-sorrel, probably Oxalis oregona, came from a patch found near Tiger Mountain during a pit stop with the kids on the way home from camping in the Teanaway this past weekend. Oxalis isn’t actually sorrel (Rumex sp.), but this shamrock-looking groundcover has a similar tart, lemony taste due to oxalic acid, earning it the common name (one of many) of wood-sorrel. While you shouldn’t eat it in large quantities because the acid can cause gastric distress, in a salad or as a garnish it offers a sharp counterpoint to sweet and unctuous dishes.
1/2 cup red wine
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 shallot, finely diced
1 bay leaf
3-4 tbsp demi-glace
1 heaping tbsp fresh devil’s club buds, chopped
2 6-oz. filet mignons
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tbsp chilled butter, diced
1/2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 bunch wild wood-sorrel, de-stemmed
1. In a saucepan, combine wine, thyme sprig, shallot, and bay leaf over medium-high heat. Reduce wine until almost evaporated, then add most of chopped devil’s club. Cook another minute, stirring. Discard the thyme and bay leaf. Stir in demi-glace. Cover, remove from heat, and set aside.
2. Prepare the filets: Heat oven to 500 degrees. Season filets with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 10-inch skillet over high heat. Sear steaks, flipping once, until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until steaks are cooked to taste, about 4–5 minutes for rare. Set aside on a plate.
3. Sauce the steak: Return saucepan to medium heat. Whisk in butter and remaining pinch of devil’s club. Scrape skillet bottom for drippings and add a spoonful to sauce. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in parsley and season sauce with salt and pepper. Transfer steaks to cutting board; add juices from plate to pan and stir. Spoon 2 tbsp sauce onto each plate. Slice steak into 1/4″-thick slices. Sprinkle with rosemary and thyme. Serve with wild greens such as watercress or wood-sorrel.
Initially I was worried that watercress would have made a better pairing with the meat, but as it turned out the tartness of the wood-sorrel was just the ticket for giving a fresh punch of greenery to what is otherwise a very rich dish. And the devil’s club is an ideal way to temper this richness further and expand it with a cool taste of the woods. Serve with a full-bodied red.