As you know we don’t eat a whole lot of red meat around here. When we do, however, you can rest assured it’s a real treat and a wonderful meal. Unless you’re a vegetarian you gotta admit this looks really good. It’s also a breeze to make.
Yes, we’re doing beef but not any old beef. We’re doing beef tenderloin. Whether it’s served at a romantic dinner for two (definitely not for Baby Lady and me because she doesn’t eat beef or any other red meat) or it’s roasted whole as the centerpiece of a festive holiday dinner, beef tenderloin is considered the classic choice for a special and sometimes over-the-top main dish. I don’t know why but it is. Consider this. Most beef eaters prefer ribeye or New York Strip for steaks. New York Strip are taken from the striploin, a cut of beef from the back of a cow immediately behind the rib and just in front of the short loin where the Porterhouse is cut. They are rather lean but with good marbling and a nice beefy flavor. They can be a touch chewy but nothing like a top or bottom sirloin which are taken from the back of the cow and wholly unrelated besides being beef. Strip steaks also have a nice fat cap that keeps them moist.
Ribeyes are full of marbling and fat. Fat is what gives beef a lot of its distinctive flavor. Because of its high fat content and marbling ribeyes are one of the richest, beefiest cut available. The fat also provides moistness. Also, given its location on the cow (on the back in front of the strip loin), it is very tender when properly prepared, i.e. don’t cook it past medium.
Tenderloin, on the other hand is the muscle that runs along the backbone. It is a nonworking muscle which means it is incredibly tender, hence, it’s name tenderloin. This is a blessing and a curse in several respects. First, tenderloin is not that flavorful a cut of meat. It is, however, perfect to pair with beautiful wine sauces, or artichoke hearts (i.e. tournedos Henry IV), oscar style (with crab and hollandaise), etc. Second, because it is so lean, you cannot overcook it. If overcooked, i.e. anything past medium, it will be dry, tough and tasteless. Last, tenderloin is also the most expensive cut of beef because it’s such a small amount of the total cow and its tenderness makes it very popular.
For my money I prefer a good ribeye steak. For roasts, I like the prime rib. To me there simply is nothing better. The problem with prime rib is that it is an exceptionally large roast. A full prime rib roast (7 bone roast) is anywhere from 22 – 26 lbs which includes the fat cap. If you buy the ribeye roll and roast it, you are still looking at 12 lbs. Of course, you can always have your butcher cut it any size you want but I prefer the bone in and a minimum of 4 bones. This is still a significant amount of meat. It’s great for a large party but not a normal family meal. You can also do an entire striploin but again it’s a lot of meat. This doesn’t mean I don’t like tenderloin because I do. It’s just rates behind the ribeye and prime rib. I guess it’s a good thing we don’t eat a lot of red meat because we avoid these difficulties. 😀
Nevertheless, I was at the market when for some reason they had a ridiculous sale on whole tenderloins. I couldn’t resist. Daniel and Quickstep had been complaining that we didn’t love them because we hadn’t had any beef in a while. I hate that when it happens. So, to appease our grown children and make them once again feel loved, I bought an entire tenderloin. Actually, I bought 2 just to make sure I got to eat some of it. Do you have any idea how much beef 2 grown men can eat??? I don’t count. 😉
So, with tenderloins in hand, I had to do something with them. I could make steak but that would be rather mundane. I did use the ends to make a beautiful beef tips dish for the boys’ lunch – I didn’t get any. 😦 Then I made this fabulous open face sandwich for Quickstep’s lunch.
Again, I didn’t get any and to make matters worse Quickstep thinks I’m starving him. 😮 Regardless, I was going to make something that I WAS going to eat (Baby Lady had a beautiful pork chop) and this is what I did.
- 3.5 lb. beef tenderloin roast, trimmed and tied
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1-1/2 tsp ground fennel seed
- 1-1/2 tsp sea salt, split, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup Mexican crema (you can use crème fraîche which is essentially the same thing but we had crema on hand)
- 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp horseradish
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
and 1 tsp sea salt
Stir to make a paste. It will look something like this.
Pat the tenderloin dry with paper towels and tie with twine. I found this part absolutely impossible to photograph without the Baby Lady so it wasn’t photographed. Unless you have a center cut tenderloin roast (which wastes a lot of meat) you must tie the tenderloin to ensure even cooking time. You want it tied about 1 inch intervals. If you don’t have time to do this, ask your butcher to do this for you but call ahead so he has time.
Now, get a heavy bottom skillet (preferably cast iron) and heat it to very hot. Add the roast to the skillet
Get a good sear all the way around.
Once seared, place in a roasting pan with a roasting rack.
Now, spoon the paste onto the roast and smear all over the surface of the meat.
It should look something like this when you’re done.
Now, put the roast in a 375 F preheated oven.
Roast until an instant- read thermometer inserted in the center reads 120 F for rare, 125 F to 130 F for medium rare, or 135 F for medium. Every piece of meat is different but it took this piece roughly 37 minutes to get to 127 F. If you don’t have one, a digital meat thermometer is a valuable investment because what took me 37 minutes may take another piece of meat 35 minutes or 40 minutes. Although you can use “general rules” it’s still somewhat hit or miss.
In the meantime while the roast is “roasting,” add the crema to a measuring cup – you can use a small mixing bowl but why mess up another bowl to wash later. It’s not like you’re in a commercial kitchen with assistants and dishwashers. Remember you gotta clean this mess up. 🙂
Next, add the dijon mustard,
and finally the remaining salt and white pepper. Whisk to combine.
Transfer the roast to a carving board (preferably with a well for collecting juices) and let it rest, uncovered, for roughly 10 minutes to let the muscles relax and the juices to reabsorb.
Now, remove the twine and slice.
We served this with some steamed broccoli with the sauce on the side. Enjoy!!