I don’t have any kind of story to go with this recipe so I’m going to do a before and after and see where it leads. See, some photographers are able to get their images right in the camera. Perfect white balance, great lighting, exquisite staging, and food that photographs well.
In all the time that I’ve been taking photos of the food on my plate, I’ve yet to become one of those photographers. And while technology makes that ok, I strive to be better. I want my straight out of camera (sooc) images to be so close to my final image that you almost can’t tell them apart. Looking at the example above, you can see I’ve got a ways to go yet.
Some constraints, like the photogenic nature of foods, are out of my hands. But other things, like lighting and balance, I need to become more familiar with. Even though I’ve taken my camera off of the fully automatic settings and gone into manual mode, and I manually set my white balance, I don’t yet have the sense to instinctively know when I’m on the right track or when I’m setting myself up for disappointment.
Take the Steak Tips and ‘Shrooms up there. SOOC it’s a pretty boring image. There’s no depth; the whole thing feels flat. When I was previewing the images, I should have picked up on that and thrown a napkin or something with texture down to bring in some visual interest. SOOC the color is also quite dull. Yeah, I don’t know what I could have done about that. But my point is that I should have tried to do something so that I didn’t have to rely on Photoshop to saturate the color of the food so that it doesn’t look so washed out.
I suppose that the photos are like the cooking…it takes practice to get the feel for what I’m doing behind the camera or in front of the stove. I feel like I’m making progress where the food is concerned. The challenge now is to get that to translate to the images on the screen.
Steak Tips and ‘Shrooms
Adapted from The Washington Post
BAH Note: The recipe from The Post suggested substituting tenderloin tips for the center cut fillet. Please don’t make the mistake of using plain old steak tips, like I did. The first time I made this, I had to ask the meat counter at Giant if they had any center cut fillets because they weren’t in the case. The version using a center cut was so far superior to the one I made with generic steak tips (because all The Fresh Market could offer me was a $20/pound fillet mignon) that it was worth every curse word that came out of my mouth as I trimmed the silver skin and tissue off that center cut scrap. Even when it was reheated in the microwave, the center cut meat was still tender, soft, and tasted meaty. Straight out of the dutch oven, the tips were tough, dry, and bland.
BAH Tip: If you don’t have red wine, just use an additional 1/2 cup beef broth. And if you don’t have, or don’t want to use brandy, substitute 2 teaspoons broth.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 12 ounces center cut beef tenderloin, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 onion, sliced
- 16 ounces mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 3/4 cup beef broth
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
Heat half of the oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add half of the beef cubes and brown on all sides. Transfer the first batch to a plate, brown the remaining beef, and transfer them to the plate as well.
Add the remaining oil to the pan. Add the onion, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for about 10 minutes or until the onion has softened.
Add the mushrooms, increase the heat to medium high, and cook until the mushrooms release their liquid and begin to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the red wine to the pot and cook until the liquid reduces by half.
Whisk together the mustard and broth and add it to the pot once the wine has reduced.
Add the beef and any accumulated juices back to the pot. Combine the cornstarch and brandy in a small bowl, stirring to make sure the cornstarch totally dissolves. Add the cornstarch slurry to the pot and stir to combine.
Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes until everything is gently bubbling and the beef has just cooked through. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste before serving.