Lessons Learned from my Father & Grilled Filet Mignons & Mushrooms with Stilton Butter

Susie_Dad_SF_11_2016_01I generally give my mother top billing when it comes to the lessons I have learned from my parents. After all, she was the stay-at-home mom whose influence touched us day in and day out. In truth, many of the values she passed on were deeply held by both of my parents. Mom just happened to be the one around at three o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon to deliver the message.

While I will continue to identify many of life’s lessons with Mom, I will always hear my father’s voice when it comes to certain dos and don’ts. For instance …

Stay out of debt. Wait a minute; make that – stay out of credit card debt. Mortgages and even car loans are okay or at least a necessary evil. However, Dad continues to have a strong aversion to giving even one cent of interest to the credit card companies. When I received my first credit card in my early twenties, he passed his aversion onto me.

Don’t live beyond your means. This is part two of the credit card debt lesson. It’s hard to be debt-free if you spend more than you make in a month. Although I rarely carry cash and use my credit card liberally, I’ve never gone into debt over a new pair of shoes, one too many dinners out or a vacation I couldn’t afford.

Love your work. Dad loves to tell people how excited he was to get up and go to work every morning. He’s been retired for almost thirty years but he’ll still tell you how much he loved his job. A sales guy through and through, he liked winning deals. However, meeting people and developing relationships was the best part of the business for Dad.

Make friends wherever you go. I’m convinced people were the key reason Dad loved his work so much. Many of his business friends, including his boss, called him Mr. Nice. He continues to make friends, here there and everywhere. I frequently run into people who tell me that they met my dad at some event or another. “What a charming man,” they inevitably say. That’s my dad; he draws people in. Not quite like a spider enticing a fly, Dad’s pull is more like a bee to honey.

Tell stories. Stories are Dad’s honey, it’s how he draws you in. At first, it seems like innocent small talk. Before you know it, you’ve told Dad your life story and he’s shared his. Well, maybe not his own story; there’s a pretty good chance he regaled you with something about his kids, grandkids, his business, his parents or grandfather, my mother or someone he met last week or in the last century. Dad has a good memory. He’d be happy to tell about the time he climbed a lamppost to see FDR on parade in his enormous Packard convertible. Or chatted with Tip O’Neill on a flight to Washington. The Speaker was loaded down with jars of Hellman’s mayonnaise for the Mrs. At the time, it was not available in the nation’s capital. Who knows; it might not be today. Anyway, at the drop of a hat, he can dive into stories that date as far back as the 1930s or as recent as this morning.

Stay connected. For years, Dad has filled his Sunday mornings with phone calls. In the past, he called his mother and dad and ninety-year-old cousin. Then it was his kids. He lives with me now but my sister and brother continue to receive his at-least weekly calls and emails. Of course, the grandchildren have been added to his routine, maybe not weekly but a few times a month.

All and all, not bad lessons from a guy in his ninetieth year.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there – including my own. Bon appétit!

Grilled Filet Mignons & Mushrooms with Stilton Butter
Get out the grill, this recipe is a great choice for your meat-and-potatoes dad. Enjoy!
Serves 8Grilled_Filet_Mushrooms_Stilton_Butter_01

8 (4-6 ounce) filets mignons
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
16-24 good sized whole mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
Balsamic vinegar
Stilton Butter (recipe follows)

Brush the filets with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. (In hot weather, reduce the sitting time.) Preheat a charcoal grill to medium-hot or a gas grill to high.

Working in batches, drizzle the mushrooms with enough equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar to lightly coat, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Place the mushrooms cup-side up on the grill and cook for 3-5 minutes or until golden with nice grill marks. Turn, move to the coolest part of the grill and continue cooking until tender, 6-10 minutes.

Place the steaks on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes, turn and continue cooking for 3-5 minutes more for medium-rare. Transfer the filets to a platter or individual plates, top each with a pat of Stilton Butter, garnish with the mushrooms and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Stilton Butter
Olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon cognac
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
About 2 ounces (1/3 cup) crumbled Stilton cheese

Lightly coat a small skillet with olive oil and heat over medium, add the shallot and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cognac and Worcestershire sauce. Cool to room temperature.

Transfer the shallot and garlic to a bowl, add the butter and use a fork to mash and combine. Add the stilton and stir to combine. Divide the Stilton Butter in two pieces, transfer to sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper, roll into logs about 1-inch in diameter and refrigerate until firm. Remove from the refrigerator when you are ready to grill the steaks and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds.

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Five Years Ago – New Potato Salad with Gorgonzola
Six Years Ago – Spicy Hoisin Wings
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Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What have you learned from your father? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

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