I’m a sucker for things that are pint-sized. Mini personal watermelons, baby vegetables, Lego, and I especially go gaga for baby booties. They are so tiny that you can wear them on your fingers! So when I spotted kumquats in the market a few weeks ago, I impulsively grabbed a handful of them. I didn’t know what to do or how to cook them. It sat in my fridge for a week. Every time I opened the door it was just there reminding me not to forget about it.
I found many drink recipes that uses kumquats, but my mini bar at home is far from being well stocked. A few chutneys and dessert recipes sounded interesting, but what finally caught my attention was a Kumquat, Green Peppercorn, and Garlic Paste recipe from Food & Wine.
If you’re not familiar with kumquats, they resemble miniature oranges but with a more oval shape like olives. The fruit is tarter than an orange and the whole thin skinned kumquat, except for a few small seeds inside, is edible. I thought this would be my time eating kumquats, but it turns out I have been snacking on the candied form of the fruit for years. My mom would always have a bag of candied kumquats on hand during long car rides or flights to subdue motion sickness. She also used it as a bribe (successfully) to get me to finish drinking murky Chinese herbal medicine when I was sick growing up.
The combination of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce in this recipe is what really drew me to it. Both ingredients alone are already very powerful and strong in flavor. Combine that with the bright citrus flavor of kumquats and the sweetness of honey and brown sugar, you get a very flavorful and versatile marinade. Along with beef, I have also tried this on salmon and it turned out very good. I imagine it would be great on pork as well, and also as a glaze for shrimp or chicken kebabs if you puree the marinade into a smoother texture.
The original recipe called for brined green peppercorns, but since I already spent a good amount of money on fillet mignons and that was the only ingredient I was missing at home, I decided to substitute it with capers. I’m not sure if I had missed out on anything amazing by subbing the green peppercorns, but the end result of this adjustment was delicious.
The marinade is pretty easy to make, but I did experienced problems when cooking it as a marinade for salmon. Since the sauce is a mixture of ingredients with natural sugar content, it will burn when cooked under high heat for a long period of time. Cook your fish on medium to medium high heat. Most likely you won’t run into this problem when cooking it on steak, unless you enjoy eating your beef with a chewy cardboard texture.
Fillet Mignon with Kumquat & Caper Marinade
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Serving: Makes about ¾ cup
- 2 ½ oz coarsely chopped fresh kumquats (should yield about ½ cup)
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- ½ tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp capers in brine
- ½ tbsp grinded peppercorn medley or black peppercorn
- 2 large minced cloves of garlic
- ¾ tsp sea salt
- 1 minced scallion
- 1 tsp minced red chili pepper (add more if prefer spicier)
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
- ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor quickly pulse the coarsely chopped kumquats. Do not puree it. If you do not have a food processor, just finely chop them.
Place the kumquats in a small saucepan. Add the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, and honey. Stir on low medium heat until the mixture reduces to a thick paste. When it is done, it should have reduced to a bout 3 ½ tbsp. Transfer it to a medium bowl and let it cool.
In a food processor add in the capers, grinded peppercorn, garlic, ginger, red chili pepper, and salt. Pulse the ingredients until the capers are finely chopped. Do not puree the mixture. Add in the scallion and cilantro, and pulse one more time. If you do not have a food processor mixed the ingredients in a mortar and pestle. Just finely minced the scallion and coarsely chop the capers before doing so. No mortar and pestle? Finely chop all the ingredients and mix everything well together.
Add the caper mixture to the kumquat paste. Stir in the olive oil until mixed.
Spread the marinade over the fillet mignon. Reserve some of the marinade if you want to spread it over the fillet after it is cooked. You might want to smooth out the marinade by pureeing it with some olive oil. This step is optional and the steak tasted fantastic with or without a sauce. Marinate the fillet for at least 4 hours or overnight.
When the steak is done marinating, cook it on a cast iron pan or on the grill. Cook to your prefer degree of doneness and serve with vegetables on the side if desired.
The paste can be refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
This marinade can be use on a variety of meats including chicken, beef, pork, and fish. When using the marinade for fish, cook on a medium high heat. If cooked under high heat for a long period of time, the marinade can burn due to the natural sugar content in some the ingredients.