A substantial change in dining is happening in a very unlikely place. The days of stale pretzels and old beer are transforming into fine dining at large format sporting venues. Great leaders in this vastly improved food movement are the New York Mets and its owners, Jeff and Scott Wilpon. They have revolutionized the food experience at baseball games by partnering with Aramark to offer amazing dishes from Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack and Dave Pasternack’s Catch of the Day, among others. The Wilpons had been eating our meat at restaurants for years and were big fans of our product. In 2012, they asked my cousin Mark and me if we had something that they were missing in their lineup, namely a steak sandwich. From Meat: Everything You Need to Know.
My dad had taught me how to make his favorite steak sandwich when I was a kid. We always made it with skirt steak, which is our favorite beef cut, but I quickly realized that I couldn’t use this meat for customers because it was too chewy. The last thing I wanted was for someone to take a bite out of our sandwich and have a big piece of meat come out and slap him or her in the chin. I needed something you could bite straight through so I got the idea of using filet mignon. Customers went wild for the sandwiches. We wound up selling more than ten thousand in the last four weeks of the season.
Yet, the most amazing thing about this new milestone for our business was to be able to take my dad to see the stand. He looked up at that big, beautiful sign that read “Pat LaFrieda.” His name. His father’s name. My name. My son’s name. All lit up. My dad cried. He loved it. Seeing his pride was a real gift.
Makes 4 Sandwiches
4 tablespoons canola or another neutral-flavored oil plus more as needed
2 large sweet yellow onions or Spanish onions, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
6 ounces thinly sliced Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup beef stock or Demi-Glace
1½ teaspoons balsamic glaze
12 (½-inch-thick) medallions tenderloin (about 1½ pounds)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon turbinado sugar or light brown sugar
4 demi-baguettes (or 6-inch) segments of a long baguette
1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat until it slides easily in the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally so they don’t stick to the pan, until they are soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Spread the onions out over the surface of the pan. Remove from the heat and lay the cheese on top of the onions, letting it melt.
2. To make a jus, in a small saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the balsamic glaze. Cover the pan to keep the jus warm.
3. Season the meat on both sides with the salt and sugar.
4. In another large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over high heat. Add half the tenderloin medallions, or as many as will fit in a single layer, and sear them until they are caramelized, 1 to 1½ minutes per side. Cook the remaining medallions in the same way, adding more oil and letting it get hot before adding the meat to the pan.
5. Meanwhile, without opening them, toast the baguettes so the outsides, top and bottom, are hot and crispy. Halve the baguettes horizontally, leaving them hinged on one side.
6. To assemble the sandwiches, lay 3 medallions on the bottom of each baguette. Top with the onions and cheese, dividing them evenly among the sandwiches. Drizzle ¼ cup of the jus on the inside top half of each baguette. Close up the sandwiches and you’re good to go.