Pan-Roasted Filet Mignon, Roasted Red Pepper Risotto and Braised Spinach

by michael vyskocil    photography by tara hope cofiell

From Manchester to Mount Airy, Carroll County’s fruit of the vines delivers with every nuance and depth of flavor. The richness of full-bodied reds, the tang of tannins and the sweet punctuation marks of ports give Carroll County’s wines unmistakable nuances of flavor, making exceptional choices for drinks with your dinner.

We asked three Carroll County wineries — Cygnus Wine Cellars in Manchester, Old Westminster Winery in Westminster and Black Ankle Vineyards in Mount Airy — to provide some pairings for this special occasion dinner. Discover what wines the winemakers and winery tasting room staff recommend to accompany the luscious Pan-Roasted Filet Mignon with Braised Spinach, Roasted Red Pepper Risotto and Chocolate Brownie Cups starring in this elegant yet easy-to-prepare dinner.


Pan-Roasted Filet Mignon

Pan-Roasted Filet Mignon with Braised Spinach

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2  1-1/2-inch-thick beef tenderloin steaks (about 5 to 6 ounces each)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 ounces (about 4 cups) fresh spinach leaves, torn
Fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish

  1. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Season steaks with salt and pepper, and add steaks to skillet. Do not cover pan. Cook steaks over medium heat for 10 to 12 mins for medium-rare or 14 to 16 mins for medium, turning steaks once halfway through cooking.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt remaining tablespoon of butter. Stir in spinach; cook for about 5 minutes, or until the spinach becomes slightly wilted. Remove from heat and season spinach to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Place wilted spinach on serving plates. Arrange steaks on top of spinach mixture and serve with Roasted Red Pepper Risotto. Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs. Makes 2 servings.


Roasted Red Pepper Risotto

Roasted Red Pepper Risotto
Stirring the risotto constantly while cooking ensures the Arborio rice attains its signature creamy texture.

1 medium red bell pepper
5 to 6 cups homemade chicken stock or commercial low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and finely minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus additional sprigs for garnish
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Roast pepper by placing it directly over a gas burner flame, turning pepper until skin is completely blackened. Alternatively, you can roast the pepper on a broiler pan underneath the broiler. Watch carefully and keep turning the pepper during the broiling process. Transfer pepper to a small paper bag and allow to cool before handling.
  2. Peel blackened skin off the pepper; do not rinse. Remove and discard stem and seeds. Cut pepper into 1-inch-wide strips and set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, bring chicken stock or broth to a simmer. In another large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add olive oil and shallots; cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add rice; cook, stirring rice, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add wine to rice and cook, stirring, until the wine is almost absorbed. Add 1 cup of stock and the roasted pepper strips; simmer until the cooking liquid is almost absorbed. Continue adding and stirring in stock, about 1 cup at a time, until the rice is creamy and firm, but not hard, in the center of the grains. This process may take between 16 to 22 minutes. Season risotto to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Add chopped rosemary; stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Spoon risotto into serving bowls; garnish each serving with remaining cheese and rosemary sprigs. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


Chocolate Brownie Cups

Chocolate Brownie Cups
A cross between a cake and a pudding, these brownie cups make individualized chocolate indulgences.

6 ounces semisweet chocolate
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of coarse salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place a baking dish half filled with water in the oven.
  2. Bring a saucepan filled with water to a simmer. Set a heatproof bowl over top of saucepan; melt chocolate and butter together in bowl. Stir until chocolate is almost melted. Remove bowl from heat and let chocolate mixture cool, stirring occasionally.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder twice. Set dry ingredients aside.
  4. In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs and vanilla extract until the eggs become foamy. Add sugar to eggs and beat again until fluffy. Stir in chocolate-butter mixture, then fold in dry ingredients. Pour batter into four 8-ounce ramekins or custard cups, filling cups close to the rim with the batter. Place ramekins in baking pan; add more water, if necessary, so that water level comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until the tops of the brownies are cracked but firm to the touch. Remove ramekins from baking pan and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to individual serving plates, dust tops with confectioners’ sugar, garnish with mint sprigs and serve. Makes 4 servings.