Thursday, April 4, 2024

Weekly Cooking Report April 4: Pepper-Crusted Beef Tenderloin

 I know That you're reading that and thinking "he's crazy, I can't cook that!" but the secret to beef tenderloin in that it is crazy easy to cook. It's also crazy expensive, so that makes it a sometimes thing - find it on sale and freeze it until the big family gatherings. 

So grocery wise you're going to need the tenderloin (about 6 lbs), and that takes some prep. You can pay a butcher to do it for you, but its easier than you think, so you can watch a butcher teach you to do it here. Obviously he makes it look easy, but I've done it as well and I'm far from a professional. 

So here's the secret - set an oven to 300F, put a cooling rack in a cookie sheet, lay the tenderloin on that, stick a probe thermometer in and cook it until it hits 120, 125F and you're done. That's it. it will taste great. Stop worrying. Everything else is accompaniment.

Now, the accompaniment in this case is cracked peppercorns. This requires a little work. You're gong to need: 
4 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
9 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup coarsely cracked black peppercorns
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

A lot of which you likely have around the house but some you're probably going to need to buy. 

So the salt, sugar and baking soda get mixed together in a bowl and set aside. 

The take the peppercorns and put them in a ziplock bag, get all the air out and seal it. Place that on hard surface - countertop, marble board, that sort of thing - and roll a rolling pin or, more likely, a full wine bottle, back and forth over it. Youll hear them crack and pop as they split. This will take a few minutes effort, but a peppermill won't give you a course enough grind for this. 

Put 2/3rd of the olive oil (6 Tbs) in a saucepan with the cracked peppercorns and heat it on low for about 15, 20 minutes. The recipe I'm pulling this from calls for 7-10 minutes after it comes to simmer, which also takes 7-10 minutes. You won't hurt anything with, say, a 15 minute time. Just keep the oil from coming to a full boil. Then use a strainer (lined with paper towels if it's not a fine mesh) to get the peppercorns out, and put them in with the remaining 3 Tbs of olive oil. (You might a use for the pepper infused oil later, but it's not here.)

Add the orange zest and the nutmeg to the peppercorn/olive oil mix. 

Now rub the salt/sugar/baking powder mix all over the top of the tenderloin until the salt disappears and the meat gets a little wet and sticky. Once you have that, fold the smaller thinner end of the tenderloin on itself so then meat has kind of a consistent size and put it on the cooling rack/cookie sheet rig. Press the peppercorn mixture onto the meat, covering the top and sides. The recipe I follow calls for tying the tenderloin with butchers twine at the folded lower end so it keeps its shape while cooking but I don't know it's needed. Insert the probe thermometer and chuck it in the oven. 

Once its at temp, pull it out and let it rest on the cutting board for 30 minutes. During that time you can do what I did and put halved baby potatoes and chopped broccoli (both mixed with 2tsp of olive oil and 1 tsp salt) on the hot cookie sheet and leave it in the 300F oven. Everything should be good to go at the end of the rest. (300F is a bit low for these normally, but 30 minutes is a bit long, so it works out, especially if you halved the potatoes for more surface area and the cookie sheet is hot.)

Carve and serve to a grateful and potentially amazed family. 

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