I couldn’t wait until Friday for Valentine’s Day dinner after finding a nice, small beef tenderloin at the market. We prefer beef tenderloin over prime rib to make at home. The flavor is good if properly seasoned, it is tender and buttery if cooked right, and it is usually available in smaller sizes. While it is more expensive than prime rib, there is less waste and no bones. But, I do love to sneak off by myself with a meaty prime rib beef bone from time to time. For home cooking, we mostly stick with beef tenderloin.
Now, here’s my beef (pun intended) about beef tenderloin. It is pricey. I think when paying $13.99 per pound, the meat should be ready to cook when purchased. But alas, it is not. I always have to do some trimming on beef tenderloin. If I buy a whole beef tenderloin in a cryovac package, I expect to have to do the work myself. When it is being sold for top dollar as a beef tenderloin roast, I shouldn’t have to do a thing. But, I do, so here goes.
Here is the beef tenderloin as I received it. Still intact is the silverskin, a rubbery piece of connective tissue similar to a thick rubber band. No one wants to eat that. The piece called the chain, the fatty sinewy piece in the bottom of the picture, needs to be removed as well.
The first thing I do is remove the silver skin. Using a sharp knife, which I don’t have, slip it under the silverskin and lift up until you can grab hold with one hand.
Slide your knife under the silverskin while pulling it up slightly with the other hand. Grab it with a paper towel if it is too slippery. Cut along the length of the tenderloin until the strip is removed. Repeat to remove the adjacent pieces. If you angle your knife towards the silverskin, it is easier to remove it without losing any of the meat along with it.
Here is the tenderloin with the silverskin removed. Now it is time to remove the chain. The easiest way to do it is to pull it off in one piece with your hands. It should come away fairly easily from the tenderloin. You may want to do a little extra trimming of the tenderloin once the chain is removed. There is a little useable meat in the chain, but not much in a small piece of tenderloin like this one. I roast it in the same pan with the tenderloin to get the benefit of the fat in the chain. Then I cut up the good stuff and let Tucker have a little feast as well. Here is the meat with the silverskin removed and the chain still attached.
Here is my finished tenderloin with the silverskin and chain removed. It is tied and ready for cooking. Tenderloin is tied because it naturally tapers at one end. If left to cook this way, one end will be like shoe leather before the other gets done. Fold over the small end and tie the whole thing with butcher’s twine. As you can see in the picture, there is quite a bit of waste at $13.99 per pound. The most economical way is to buy a whole beef tenderloin and trim it yourself. The reduced price for buying it this way compensates for the waste. If I ever get a good sharp filet knife, I may start doing this myself. We buy a lot of filet minion.
On to the preparation and cooking.
I made a wet rub of 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 TBS freshly ground pepper, 1 TBS Dijon mustard, 3 clover pressed garlic, and 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary.
I slathered it all over the sides and ends of the meat and let it marinade in a glass loaf pan, at room temperature for about an hour. Don’t refrigerate it. Cold tenderloin will take longer to cook. If you plan to marinate it longer than an hour, do put it in the refrigerator please. It can be done up to a day ahead of time and refrigerated. Do let it come to room temperature before cooking though.
Things got a bit hectic at this point and I didn’t have time for pictures. I heated a heavy skillet on high heat with just enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Using tongs, I placed the beef into the hot skillet and browned all sides and ends quickly. Stay right there and turn it until every surface is nicely crusted. You aren’t cooking the meat with this step, just searing the outside. Do not cook the meat in the loaf pan. It should be roasted uncovered, on a baking sheet. I used an electric roaster on 425 degrees with the lid on, but you can certainly use your oven. After 10 minutes I reduced the heat to 375 degrees and cooked until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part read 136 degrees. I removed the beef from the roaster, covered it loosely with foil, and let it rest for 20 minutes while I finished preparing the side dishes. Save the pan juices in a small saucepan to heat and pour over the beef when serving. While not traditional with beef tenderloin, a nice horseradish sour cream sauce is always welcome at my table, even on Valentine’s Day.
About the side dishes.
On the same shopping trip, I found the most beautiful artichoke I had ever seen. Along with being beautiful, it was big enough for two. It would be the perfect accompaniment to the beef tenderloin.
I trimmed the artichoke by cutting off the warp tip with kitchen shears. I them sliced it in half, removed the hairy part and most of the small leaves, exposing the artichoke heart. I soaked the trimmed artichoke halves in lemon water until time to cook. I steamed them until almost done in salted lemon water. I removed them from the steamer and allowed them to drain completely. I brushed the edges with olive oil, sprinkled on kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and finished them on my indoor grill. You could do this on your gas grill outside or inside on a hot grill pan on the stove. The smokey flavor and nice grill marks are what you are looking for. I served mine with roasted red pepper aioli. To make the sauce I added a couple of jarred roasted red pepper purée to a half cup mayonnaise and squeezed in a little lemon. Red-Pepper-Hating Michael loved it!
I also made Duchess Potatoes. These are an old school potato recipe that goes back to our mothers’ time. It is still good today and a welcome change of pace for the humble potato. Recipes abound online but I basically just peeled, cubed and boiled two russet potatoes. I drained them completely, added butter , cream, and egg yolks, salt, and whipped them with a hand mixer. They key to getting them to turn out right is not to add too much liquid. They are then piped onto a buttered baking tray with a piping bag and a large star tip. I them popped them into the freezer for a half hour. I drizzled melted butter over them before baking until the peaks are lightly golden brown.
I served my Valentine’s Day dinner for two with an artisan Mediterranean style bread with kalamata olives. Each side complemented the meat perfectly.
We may have been a couple of days early, but why wait to savor this? Happy Valentine’s Day!