These are tough economic times for any wallet, especially when the pain falls around the holidays. My brother-in-law, Jack Bagby, is fond of the phrase "Everybody's broke; we're just broke at different levels." In this climate, no truer words could be spoken. All of our holiday traditions will probably be tempered this year, including the food. However, the gatherings that take place at a holiday table are as important as the rest of the hoopla -- in many ways, more important. Here's a way to save money and still look like a million.
Beef has become the centerpiece for many of us this time of year. Fortunately, the grocery stores will help us, with sales on standing rib roasts and whole tenderloins. I'm a big tenderloin fan, because it is impressive and easy to serve, and its lack of fat allows it to be served hot or at room temperature, a plus during the holidays.
The butcher can "peel" the tenderloin for you, which includes removing the "silver skin." Make sure the butcher understands that you want a 3- to 4-pound center cut roast out of this hunk of meat for the main holiday meal. Tell him to save the "chain," that small side ropelike piece. The "head" can usually be cut into two steaks. There will be more trimmings from the small end of the tenderloin; I usually ask for them whole. OK, from this hunk of meat we get one meal -- the roast; a small intimate steak dinner for two; and we can cube up the rest for a wonderful Beef Bourgogne to warm the nights of January, or throw them in a crock-pot for Italian Beef sandwiches for the Super Bowl party. Divide the beef and freeze. (Those new vacuum pumps are great.) You will have at least three meals to enjoy, probably more, with the leftovers.
Now with the roast, let's gild the lily by aging it. Take a rimmed baking pan and place a flat rack in it. Wrap the roast in three layers of cheesecloth, and place in your fridge for three days. Make sure your refrigerator is 40 degrees or lower. Remove the roast, unwrap it, then re-wrap it with the same cloth. Refrigerate for another four days, and you have aged beef with a nice, intense flavor. Then you will further make the beast festive with a stuffing that also serves a bit as a vegetable. Grilling also adds flavor, but it roasts in the oven nicely. The roast is elegant -- with its green core of spinach, raisins and bacon -- and yummy.