Tenderloin For Two
While a traditional beef tenderloin is rarely seen as a dainty meal for two, a loin can actually be an economical answer to restaurant quality fare – served up right in your own kitchen. Arguably one of the best cuts of meat, a tenderloin – butchered in the right way – can provide several luxury meals at the fraction of the cost of one night out.
Here’s how to get the most out of your beef tenderloin:
When hunting for a tenderloin, your best buy is going to be the Peeled – Side Meat On (PSMO) variety found in many discount club stores. A PSMO beef tenderloin is vacuumed packed and is much cheaper than the pre-butchered plastic wrapped cuts in your grocer’s freezer. (In some cases as much as a third of the price.)
Once you’ve got your meat home it will take a little bit of time to prep the loin before it’s ready to cut and portion. This, unfortunately is the price you pay for getting the less expensive PSMO tenderloin instead of the pre-trimmed butcher’s choice. On the bright side however, our friend and culinary genius, Alton Brown, offers up this great advice for butchering your tenderloin and choosing which cut is right for your main course.
With the loin trimmed, cleaned and ready to cut you’re left with a plethora of menu options that include Filet Mignon, thin-cut (minute) steaks, traditional roast tenderloin, decadent ChateauBriand and don’t forget the chain meat and the trimmings. These make incredible stroganoffs, elegant tacos, tasty steak sandwiches, or braise them for a memorable stew. Size-up the tenderloin on your cutting board and (with knife in hand) butcher the large loin into your preferred cuts.
This is actually where the value of buying the whole tenderloin comes into play. While any one of these cuts will suffice for tonight, the rest of the loin can be wrapped refrigerated or frozen until your next stay-at-home date. Just make sure you’re storing the meat you intend to eat soon (within 3-5 days) below 37°F, and other cuts you’d like to save for much later in the freezer at 0°F. It’s always a good idea to label your wrapped meat with a time and date stamp to help you remember when they were prepped and stored.
A smaller end cut (no more than 24 ounces) will work perfectly for a Chateaubriand. This is a lover’s meal that can be made in less than an hour, and be remembered much longer. Here’s how we do it:
Let the meat temper at room temperature for about an hour. Season it with coarse salt and ground pepper. Then we like an herb rub. Try rosemary with a bit of thyme and marjoram, or crushed garlic and parsley. Set the mini roast on a rack over a cookie sheet and slow-roast at 275°F in the center of the oven until the internal temperature reaches 115°F (or higher depending on your preferred level of doneness). A cut this small should only take about 30 minutes. But don’t go by the timer, use a temperature reading! Remove the meat from the oven.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet. Add a small dab of butter. When the oil is just starting to smoke, introduce the meat. Using tongs, turn the meat to evenly brown on all sides and the ends. This should take just a few minutes for the whole process so don’t walk away and leave it in the pan! When browned, remove the meat and cover with foil. Let it rest for 10 to 12 minutes.
While the meat is resting, deglaze your skillet and make a delectable pan sauce by adding heavy cream. Or, skip the sauce and quickly saute some mushrooms with a bit of onion in the same pan. Mustard sauce, blue cheese sprinkles, béarnaise or herbed butter are all great finish choices.
With care, your Tenderloin for Two will be evenly cooked throughout to a romantic shade of pink or red. The tempering before the cook, the low oven temperature, and the quick pan searing; all contribute to the elimination of a wide gray band of overcooked meat. The peak temperature reached during the rest will be your final measure of doneness. We shoot for something between 125°F and 130°F for a flavorful medium rare. Pick your favorite temperature from our Chef Recommended Chart. Here’s the good news, if you really prefer medium well, the tenderloin will still be tender.
So, while a discussion of money isn’t romantic, the bottom line is that an affordable $13 to $18 in meat cost (for a roast this size) will deliver a meal that would well exceed $100 in a restaurant. However, the real reason to try a Tenderloin for Two is the luxury experience of a melt-in-your-mouth main course that will be remembered!