For a dazzling dinner party, 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, N.C. Restaurateur Giorgios Bakatsias, who owns Georges Brasserie in Charlotte, N.C., Vin Rouge in Durham, N.C., and seven other restaurants, agrees: “The beef tenderloin is versatile.”
When on sale, whole tenderloins can be found for as 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 party spread.
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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:
In a recipe for the show-stopping beef Wellington from award-winning author James Peterson’s new cookbook, “Meat: A Kitchen Education,” the chateaubriand – the loin’s most prized cut – is wrapped in puff pastry. A layer of sauteed 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.
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. You will need a flexible boning knife and a large cutting board. Need more advice? To see a video of how to trim a whole tenderloin, go to http://bit.ly/22KSkr
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.
MORE COOKING TIPS
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.
Source: Paul Malcolm, a chef instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte.
1 center-cut beef tenderloin section, about 8 inches long and 2-1/2 pounds, trimmed of fat and silver skin
4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 pounds cremini mushrooms, finely chopped, by hand or in food processor
1 pound store-bought all-butter puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator if frozen
1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt
Season tenderloin liberally with salt and pepper and reserve at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients.
Melt butter or oil over high heat in a large sauté pan. When butter froths or oil ripples, add a large handful of mushrooms and toss and stir for about 1 minute. Continue adding mushrooms, a handful at a time, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until any liquid they release evaporates and they are nicely browned and dry. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If it has a convection feature, turn it on.
Roll the pastry out into a rectangle just large enough to enclose the tenderloin completely.
Sprinkle a sheet pan with cold water, and transfer the pastry to the pan. Spread cooled mushrooms over the pastry to within 1 inch from all edges. Place tenderloin near one long edge of the pastry, and then roll up the meat in the pastry to enclose it completely. Make sure the wrapped tenderloin is seam side down, and then seal the open ends by folding them under. Place the wrapped tenderloin on the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut a series of diagonal slashes, about 1/2 inch apart, along the top of the roll, being careful not to cut into the meat. Brush the pastry with the egg wash.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the tenderloin reads 120 degrees for rare or 125 degrees for medium-rare. (The temperature will rise 5 degrees as the roast rests.)
Transfer to a platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 20 minutes before serving. Using a sharp knife, cut into 1-inch-thick slices to serve. Yield: 8 servings
Source: From “Meat: A Kitchen Education,” by James Peterson (Ten Speed Press, 2010)
Caramelized Onion Compound Butter
Yield: 4 cups
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided, and more as needed
2 tablespoons butter, and more as needed
4 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon cognac or brandy
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt. Stir for five minutes, and then turn heat to low and continue stirring. If the pan gets too dry, add more oil. If brown bits appear on the bottom, deglaze the pan with a tablespoon or two of water. Let onions reabsorb liquid. Stir continuously until onions are a deep amber color. Remove and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add shallots and stir until golden. Set aside.
Combine onions, shallots, mustard, honey, cheese, parsley, butter, cognac or brandy, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Stir or combine until fully incorporated. Store chilled in refrigerator.
Serve a tablespoon or two with each serving of steak.
Source: From Chef Giorgios Bakatsias of Georges Brasserie in Charlotte, N.C., Vin Rouge in Durham, N.C., and seven other Triangle restaurants.
Cracked Black Pepper Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine-Thyme Pan Sauce
Yield: 8 servings
1 (4-pound) beef tenderloin roast
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or heaping 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.
Heat a heavy roasting pan large enough to accommodate the roast over two burners on medium-high for 5 minutes. While pan is heating, rub roast with oil to coat, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Add roast to pan when hot and sear until well browned, about 21/2 minutes per side, for a total of 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix broth, wine, mustard and thyme in a bowl.
Transfer roast to a platter. Pour fat out of pan and discard. Return pan to heat and add the broth mixture, stirring to scrape up browned bits from bottom. Pour liquid into a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in cornstarch to thicken sauce. Set aside.
Set a wire rack in pan and place roast on rack. Roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 130 degrees for medium-rare, or 135 degrees for medium, 40-45 minutes. Remove roast from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes. Slice and serve with reserved sauce.
Source: From “Perfect Recipes for Having People Over,” by Pam Anderson
Creamy Horseradish Sauce
Yield: 1-2/3 cups
1 6-ounce jar white horseradish, drained
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
Combine horseradish, mayonnaise, sugar and salt in small bowl.
Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Fold into horseradish mixture. Serve a dollop or two with beef.
Source: From “The Good Housekeeping Cookbook: 1,275 recipes from America’s Favorite Test Kitchen,” from the editors of Good Housekeeping Magazine (Hearst Books, 2010)