Saturday, December 24, 2011

Center Cut Beef Tenderloin - Pepper-Crusted Oven and Sous Vide Versions

It's a classic holiday dish that is simple to prepare and will 'wow' your dinner guests.  It is not however inexpensive, so this treat should be saved for your most important events.

Julian's Sous Vide Beef Tenderloin served in thick slices. 
Because this cut of meat is so tender and rich, pairing it with a pepper crust makes for the perfect balance.  For the sous vide version, it marries quite nicely with a fig sauce, which you can also do ahead and finish with any pan drippings just after the meat comes out of the oven.

If you are looking for my grill roasted version, check out this recipe.

Meat Selection:  I generally suggest a 3 or so pound center-cut beef tenderloin.  There are three main sections of a whole tenderloin: the butt, the center-cut, and the tail.  The center-cut is the part used for steaks (fillet mignon) as the diameter of the meat remains relatively consistent. This is also the cut used for Chateaubriand and Beef Wellington.  If you get an entire tenderloin, you can use the entire piece for your holiday dinner, but the size at either end will be inconsistent with the center portions.  This isn't so much an issue with the butt end, but the other end tapers off into a tail.  You can tuck the tail under for roasting and use this portion for children. Or you can cut it off and save it for a very tender and delicious beef stroganoff, as I usually do.  If you get just the center-cut from your butcher it will generally be trimmed of its fat and silver skin.  However, whole tenderloins may be sold as unpeeled (the fat and silver skin remains), peeled (the fat is removed, but silver skin remains) or as "PSMOs" (it is peeled, silver skin removed, and side muscle left on.) While it is the most expensive, if you are given and option take the PSMO version as this not only will save you work, an experienced hand at this trimming task will ensure you get all of the meat and a better presentation.  Finally, a note about meat grades.  I usually try to buy meat that has been graded as 'prime'.  However, if you can only find 'choice' it will also be excellent.

Preparing the peppercorn crust for the oven roasted version.
Oven Roasted Version:  Cover two heavy duty baking sheets/trays or shallow roasting pans in aluminum foil and spray them with food release.  Unwrap, rinse and dry the tenderloin.  Trim away any portions you will not be cooking at this time. Trim fat/silver skin if necessary.  With butchers twine, tie the roast in 4 equally spaced positions to keep it compact.  (At this stage the roast can be wrapped with plastic and refrigerated for several days if necessary.) 

Place the tenderloin on one of the roasting trays.  Mix together:  1/4 cup Dijon mustard, 1 Tablespoon olive oil, 2 cloves of finely crushed garlic.  Spread evenly over the top and sides of the tenderloin.  Turn over and spread the remainder on the bottom of the meat.  Mix together 1 1/2 Tablespoons of course salt, 3 tablespoons of coarsely ground black pepper and a pinch of paprika.  Season the bottom side and then turn onto a clean space on the roasting tray and season the top and sides.  Transfer the coated meat to the clean roasting tray.  At this point, you can cover with foil and refrigerate until ready for roasting but not more than 4-6 hours ahead.

Preheat the oven to 450F.  Roast about 35 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the middle of the thickest part of the tenderloin registers 135F.  Remove from the oven and tent with foil and allow the meat to rest for 15 minutes while you finish the sauce. Meat temperature will continue to slowly rise during resting another five degrees, to about 140F degrees. This is the ideal temperature for a nice pink, tender beef but that is not bloody on the plate.

Whole tenderloin trimmed down to the center cut (shown at bottom.)
Save the delicious other pieces for other meals.
Sous Vide Version: Unwrap, rinse and dry the tenderloin.  Trim away any portions you will not be cooking at this time (as shown above). Trim fat/silver skin if necessary. With butchers twine, tie the roast in 3-4 equally spaced positions to keep it compact. (At this stage the roast can be wrapped with plastic and refrigerated for several days if necessary.)

Set up your sous vide equipment and preheat the water to 140F degrees. Heat a heavy skillet over high heat with 1 tablespoon of canola oil until shimmering. Brown the tenderloin on all sides, 3-4 minutes total. Toss in 4-6 cloves of peeled whole garlic cloves and brown quickly. Set the skillet aside and do not clean the pan. Place the roast in a heavy-duty vacuum bag and add the garlic and a few springs of rosemary. Seal the bag and vacuum out the air so the roast will stay down in the water. Cook the roast in the water for 90-120 minutes.

Approximately 15 minutes prior to serving, remove the roast from the water and the bag. Save the drippings in the bag. Reheat the skillet to very hot and once again brown the roast on all sides, 2-3 minutes to provide a shallow crust. Remove the roast to a cutting board and let rest. Add the liquid from the sous vide bag to the skillet and cook 1-2 minutes to reduce. Add your fig sauce (below) to this pan to warm.

Carving:  The roast can be served in steak-sized portions (1+ inches thick) or sliced into 1/2" slices and plated 2 to 3 slices per person.

Fig Sauce

1 tablespoon salted butter
1/4 cup chopped red onion
6 fresh ripe figs, stems removed, chopped
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup red wine or port wine for a sweeter sauce

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saut√© until soft and translucent. Add the figs and cook a minute or two until they start to break down. Stir in the honey, wine and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes until reduced and thickened. Add the thyme leaves and check seasoning. You can do this all ahead and let sit on the stove top to cool. Strain through a sieve. Mix with roasting pan or sous vide drippings. Spoon over carved tenderloin slices after plating.

Roasted version sliced thinner. 

From my kitchen to yours,  Happy Holidays!

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