One of THOSE days (aka Filet Mignon on Charred Onions and Crispy Gruyere Potato Cakes)

image of Filet Mignon on Charred Onions and Crispy Gruyere Potato Cakes

Have you ever had one of THOSE days? Where nothing goes as planned? Yesterday was one of those days.

Tuesday night was my grocery store night and in a rebellious moment, I splurged on a package of lovely tenderloin steaks. I love a good steak and so do both of the carnivores er, guys I live with. I have a wonderful honey marinade recipe that I usually use with steaks – it’s easy, we all love it, but one does have to think ahead to get it marinating about a day before using it. And, of course, I forgot.

So, no problem, right? Let’s do something new and different. No matter how good that marinade is, there’s always something else really good right around the corner. Right? I surfed and I browsed and I drooled and finally I decided on this recipe – Filet Mignon on Charred Onions and Zucchini with Balsamic Vinegar Sauce. Sounds delish, doesn’t it?

I knew I didn’t have any zucchini at home, and I didn’t want to stop at the store, but no problem again. I’d just substitute what I did have. What did I have? I had some potatoes. I had some mushrooms. I had some lettuces. I had some bell peppers. My boyfriend hates bell peppers, so I can only use those when I can hide them in the dish somehow, so those were out. Lettuce wasn’t right. So, mushrooms and potatoes won.

I wanted to maintain the idea of stacking the veggies under the meat, and I thought something crispy would go well, so I figured I’d do a little crispy potato cake thing at the bottom, with some mushrooms and cheese in the center of the potatoes for flavor and interest.

Right, then! All figured out and ready to go. But remember, this was one of THOSE days.

  • Turns out, I didn’t have mushrooms at all. No biggie, just potatoes and cheese will work.
  • Did you know that when reducing red wine and balsamic vinegar, it can turn from very liquidy to syrup to TOTALLY BURNED AND USELESS in about 1 second? While you are watching?
  • Trying to flip an entire pan full of hash browns without dumping it all over your cluttered stove top with several hot burners is really hard.
  • Getting an attractive photograph of a plate full of brown is quite challenging.

As one of THOSE days go, I suppose it was a pretty minor one. At the end, we had a decent steak – cooked my usual way instead of specified in the recipe though. I always sear on the stove top and finish in the oven as I find trying to do it all the way on the stove top gives you a burned outer crust before you get the center cooked right, even for rare. The potato cakes did come out well despite the huge mess I made. I whipped together a red wine and dijon pan sauce at the last minute to replace the balsamic vinegar reduction, and although it was not a winner (so I didn’t include it in the recipe), it didn’t ruin the dish. Just pretend there’s no sauce in the picture, ‘k?

I’ve adjusted this recipe to try to solve some of the problems I had. Hopefully it will work better for y’all!

Bottom line – a bite of good rare steak combined with a bite of crispy potato cake and some charred onions is a pretty tasty bite.

Filet Mignon on Charred Onions and Crispy Gruyere Potato Cakes

Yield: 4


  • 4 tenderloin steaks trimmed
  • 1 large white onion peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 3/4 pounds red potatoes peeled and coarsely grated (I’m guessing – didn’t remember to weigh)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Grate potatoes and put into a bowl of cold water. When ready to use, press firmly between a towel (or several thicknesses of paper towels) to remove any excess moisture. Mix minced garlic into grated potatoes.
  3. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and spray liberally with cooking spray.
  4. Season potatoes with salt and pepper. Use half of the grated potatoes to create individual potato cakes in the pan (do this in batches if needed to keep cakes separate and give yourself room to maneuver). Press down each cake firmly with a spatula to encourage browning. Slightly reduce heat. When cake bottoms start to become cohesive, sprinkle some grated cheese over each cake and top with other half of the potatoes. Allow cakes to fully brown on bottom, then flip each individually with spatula and cook until browned on both sides. Try not to fling potato bits all over your stove like I did.
  5. Keep completed potato cakes warm in a 300 degree oven until ready to use, if desired.
  6. Heat an oven safe heavy skillet or grill pan over high heat. Spray liberally with cooking spray. Add onion to skillet and cook until lightly charred on both sides, but not blackened. Remove from pan.
  7. Spray meat lightly with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Sear meat on all sides until golden brown and delicious. Transfer pan to preheated oven and finish roasting to desired doneness (approximately 130 for medium rare – take it out 5 degrees earlier than you want it, it will continue to cook while it rests). Remove meat from pan, cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  8. Place 2 potato cakes next to each on plate. Spread some charred onions over the potato cakes. Top with steak. Dress with pan sauce of your choice, if desired. Enjoy!

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