Dazzle them with tenderloin

The beef cut gives the cook a chance to show off and feed a large group

Staff WriterDecember 22, 2010 

  • Bring meat to room temperature before cooking. This will take about 45 minutes.

    Pat beef dry before seasoning to ensure a good sear.

    Season meat with a dry rub of seven parts brown sugar to one part kosher salt plus any seasonings that will complement the sauce, such as black pepper, rosemary or thyme.

    Use a meat thermometer to test doneness. Cook until 120 to 125 degrees for rare, 130 to 140 degrees for medium rare, 145 to 150 degrees for medium. Remember that the meat's temperature will rise another 5 degrees while resting.

    After the meat is cooked but before it's cut, let it rest for 10 minutes. This allows the juices to be reabsorbed into the meat.

    To make a brandy cream sauce, deglaze the roasting pan with 1/2 cup brandy. Pour liquid from the roasting pan into a saucepan, add 2 cups beef stock and reduce to 1/4 cup. Add 3 cups heavy cream and reduce over low heat until sauce is thick but still easily poured. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and serve.

    To make a rosemary sauce, deglaze the roasting pan with 1/2 cup beef stock. Pour liquid from roasting pan into a saucepan; add four cups of demi-glace, available at specialty food stores, 1 sprig of rosemary, four tablespoons honey and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Reduce over low heat until the sauce is thicker but still pourable. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and serve with the beef.

    Source: Paul Malcolm, a chef instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte.

  • The platter, bowl and linens in the photos were provided courtesy of A Southern Season, a gourmet foods and housewares store in Chapel Hill. The platter, $126, and the bowl, $38, are from Vietri's Bellezza collection.

  • Cooks have two options. Buy the whole tenderloin untrimmed for less money per pound and trim it, or pay more per pound to have the butcher trim it and save time. For the uncertain or time-pressed cook, trimmed is probably better.

    If you plan to do it yourself, don't worry. It will take 30 minutes, and these instructions and the video link below will help guide you. You will need a flexible boning knife and a large cutting board.

    Once you remove the tenderloin from the plastic, you will see a long hunk of meat that tapers down its length. One end is considerably thicker and called the butt end. The other is called the tail end.

    There will be a chain of meat and fat on one side. You can pull or cut that away from the loin. This can later be trimmed of fat and cut into chunks to use in stews or stir-fries.

    Next, trim the excess fat from the tenderloin. Then tackle the silverskin, a thin membrane that runs the length of the tenderloin. Shimmy the knife under the silverskin and then run the knife blade along the skin to remove it.

    If making beef Wellington, you will want the center 8 inches of the loin, which will all be about the same thickness.

    If you are cooking the entire loin, you need to make it all about the same thickness so it will cook evenly. Johnson & Wales cooking instructor Paul Malcolm does this: About 5 inches from the tail end, he makes an incision that goes about three-fourths of the way through the meat. He then folds that over and ties the tail end to the loin. Malcolm also suggests using kitchen string to truss the loin to make it more compact, which will ensure even cooking.

For a Christmas feast, cooks need a main course that will please a crowd and allow for the display of some culinary prowess.

Beef tenderloin fits that bill. This most tender cut of beef is large enough to feed a roomful of relatives, can cater to guests who like their beef at varying degrees of doneness and is a blank slate for seasoning and cooking styles.

"It's a great entertaining piece of meat," says Paul Malcolm, a chef instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte. Restaurateur Giorgios Bakatsias, who owns Georges Brasserie in Charlotte, Vin Rouge in Durham and seven other restaurants, agrees: "The beef tenderloin is versatile."

This time of year, whole tenderloins are on sale for a little as $8 to $10 a pound, but cooks will have to trim away the fat and silverskin. Trimmed tenderloins can cost up to $27 a pound (and the cook won't get those lovely scraps that can be turned into stews and stir fries) but are ready to cook. Figure a third to a half-pound per guest, depending upon appetites and the rest of the holiday spread.

Roasted tenderloin can be sliced to order so each guest gets the portion and doneness he or she wants. It can be plated in the kitchen or set on a buffet to let guests serve themselves. And it lends itself to different preparations:

We offer a recipe for the show-stopping beef Wellington from award-winning author James Peterson's new cookbook, "Meat: A Kitchen Education." In this recipe, the chateaubriand - the loin's most prized cut - is wrapped in puff pastry. A layer of sautéed mushrooms is tucked between the beef and the pastry, soaking up the meat's juices while keeping the pastry crisp.

For a simpler approach, we offer author Pam Anderson's "The Perfect Recipe" technique for searing and then roasting the tenderloin, which is key to creating great texture. The roasted tenderloin can be served with Anderson's recipe for red-wine thyme pan sauce, Bakatsias' caramelized onion butter or a more traditional creamy horseradish sauce.

With beef tenderloin as the star of the feast, dinner guests will surely be merry.

andrea.weigl@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4848

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