Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Frugal Splurge.....Whole Beef Tenderloin for Filet Mignon

MrMartha likes to be frugal, but sometimes one just has to be indulgent. If you are a beef lover, there are few treats better than a perfect Filet Mignon or slices from a well roasted Chateaubriand of tenderloin.

Restaurant prices for these cuts have gone through the roof....a 6 or 8 ounce filet can have a menu price of thirty dollars or more. Grocery store prices are not much better, with tenderloin running sixteen to eighteen dollars per pound

The way to enjoy this treat frugally is to purchase a whole tenderloin (preferably on sale or at a warehouse club), and do some simple home butchering. It really does not take much time to do the work on a full tenderloin, and the waste is minimal. Tenderloin freezes beautifully, just be sure to thaw very slowly in the refrigerator.

MrMartha was thrilled to find a local market featuring bagged full tenderloins at 3.99 per pound (!!!). With a 4-5 pound average weight, the packages cost fifteen to twenty dollars, a significant savings indeed. By purchasing the whole tenderloin, MrMartha ended up with six nice Filet Mignon Steaks, a smallish tied roast to serve two on a special occasion, and a nice chunk of meat from the butt (large) end which is perfect to slice or cube for an indulgent saute, or incredible Beef Stroganoff.

MrMartha cooked steaks that evening which were delicious, and wrapped and froze the rest. The KEY to remember when cooking Tenderloin or Filet steaks is that it must not be overcooked. Perfect temperature is rare to medium rare, and if it gets overcooked, it loses its silky tender texture and can get rubbery quickly. Make sure you have an accurate instant read thermometer at the ready when you cook it.

Read More for step by step instructions with photos. Don't be afraid to try this, it is really very simple, and the savings make a delicious dinner even better.

Granted, the tenderloin on sale was USDA inspected but ungraded, meaning you didn't know exactly whether it was considered prime, choice, or select (based on fat marbling of the meat) -- however, the tenderloin is one cut where that does not matter so much, as it is usually cooked with additional fat at the exterior, and is incredibly tender regardless of how much marbled fat it has.

The whole tenderloin will likely be bagged in heavy plastic, and in all honesty, it will appear distinctly unappetizing. MrMartha's photo assistant was somewhat horrified to see what the bagged contents looked like, but don't let that deter you, even the finest restaurants start with similar product.

Unwrap the Tenderloin and dry it with paper towels.
Visualize it so you can identify the narrow tip end, and the wider flap or butt end. Place the tip end facing right on your work surface.
Carefully remove the silver skin that wraps the main portion of the tenderloin by sliding a very sharp knife underneath the skin and removing it in strips, making sure you don't cut into the meat, and removing only the silver skin. Patience and care is a virtue in this step. Remove the large flap of meat that is semi attached near the base and separate it to remove any silver skin underneath.

When the main tenderloin is cleaned of the silver skin and the flap is removed from the butt end, you will have a large piece that tapers at both ends. Remove the narrowed portions from either end of the center, making the cuts at approximately the point where the tenderloin becomes "steak width"

You will now have 4 different portions of the tenderloin. The flap, the two narrow ends, and the central portion. The central portion can be sliced into Filet Steaks at your preference of thickness, generally between one and two inches thick. It can also be left intact for a whole roasted tenderloin, or you can slice out a couple of steaks, and keep the rest as a Chateaubriand style roast.

The two tapering end pieces can be placed together, thin end to thick end, and tied with string to form a lovely small roast, or diced for a beef saute. The larger single butt end piece can also be roasted whole, but is usually sliced or cubed for Beef Stroganoff or a similar dish.

MrMartha prefers to cook Filet Mignon in a pan on the stove top, finished by a brief trip in a very hot oven. Wrapping a slice of bacon around the sides of the steak and securing with string will add extra moisture while cooking, and help keep the steaks well shaped. The bacon can be discarded before serving at your preference. The steaks should be removed from the refrigerator an hour or so before serving, so they can come to near room temperature before they are cooked. Salt the steaks lightly on both sides before cooking.

The initial searing should be in a combination of oil and butter, in a hot preheated pan. Cook on one side until nicely browned, then turn and do the same with the other side. Reserve the pan juices, and keep warm. Remove the steaks to a baking rack, and place in a very hot oven (450 degrees) until your instant read thermometer says 125-130 degrees at center of the meat, for nicely rare. Timing on this will vary depending on thickness, time on the stove, and your particular oven, but will generally take from ten to twenty minutes. Watch closely and check often.

Allow your steaks to rest out of the oven for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on thickness, then serve and enjoy. MrMartha likes to saute some sliced mushrooms separately in butter, then sprinkle those on the finished Filet, and pour a bit of the pan juices over the top. Extra butter can be added to the pan juices while the steaks are finishing in the oven if you want to be really indulgent.

For a good Tenderloin Roast or Chateaubriand recipe, go HERE.
For an interesting Tenderloin Saute with Asian influence, check HERE.
A selection of links to recipes on the many variations of Beef Stroganoff HERE.