Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Using Beef Tenderloin "Trim"

My busy season with work started off with a bang last week. Unfortunately, this means that I haven't had too
much time to devote to my blog. So that regular readers won't wonder if I have dropped off the planet, today I thought I would squeeze in a quick post about a meal I made recently with beef tenderloin trimmings.

A little over a year ago I posted a description of how to clean, trim and portion a whole beef tenderloin. I pointed out that when you trim a tenderloin there are invariably a few small, odd shaped pieces that remain after the whole has been reduced to steaks and roasts. Since tenderloin is expensive—and there is nothing "wrong" with these pieces other than that they are oddly sized—I try and make a habit of using them for weeknight/informal family meals.

Last Saturday I trimmed a whole small tenderloin for roasting. Besides the fat, sinew and "chain", the trimmings produced a small chunk, a thin strip of the head and the thin tail piece. The total weight of all of this useable "trim" was just over half a pound—which in my world is a perfect amount of meat for two portions. I know that at first glance these pieces may not look like a typical "steak",

tenderloin pieces, resting with "deglazings" poured over

but when cooked properly, sliced and fanned on the plate, they look fine—and as I'm sure you can imagine, they tasted great.

I didn't do anything special or difficult when I cooked these pieces—I rarely do for a simple meal at home. Just season the meat with salt and pepper and sear on all sides in a little bit of oil in a hot sauté pan. Sometimes, for large/thick pieces of meat, I will transfer the sauté pan to a hot oven to finish the cooking process there. But on this particular occasion, because the pieces were so small and thin, I finished them on the stove by reducing the heat, adding a pat of butter and continuing to cook, turning the pieces occasionally, until they reached the "doneness" that I prefer. As you can see, I prefer rare/mid-rare...which only takes a few moments. I deglazed the pan with water—but if you have stock or wine on hand, that would be fine too. Rather than turn these "deglazings" into a sauce, I simply poured them over the resting meat. Then when I sliced and served the meat, I poured the resting juices and deglazings over all.

To go with our tenderloin, I served some buttered Brussels sprouts and Butternut squash roasted with red onions and sage. I think I mentioned in a previous post that I always keep Brussels sprouts on hand during the late fall and winter months. Serving them was an obvious choice—particularly since I had a chunk of squash that I wanted to use up. Brussels sprouts and winter squash make excellent partners.

The butternut squash is from a recipe by Maria Helms Sinskey that ran in Food & Wine several years ago. You can find it here. I followed it almost exactly...except that I didn't prepare the browned butter or fry the sage separately. Instead, I just tossed the sage in with the onion, squash, olive oil and brown sugar and roasted everything together. The sage leaves become crispy in the oven and obligingly break into smaller pieces every time the squash and onions are stirred.

This simple meal of pan-seared tenderloin and vegetables came together very quickly—making it perfect for a busy day. And for us, since we don't tend to eat a lot of meat, the presence of the tenderloin gave our meal a nice, special occasion air.

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