This month’s Savuer (October 2011) features a poignant article by Hunter Lewis about time he spent with his grandfather at a fishing camp in North Carolina called Seniard Creek Farms. It is a memory piece, about men and memories and traditions and the passage of time, aptly named The Boys’ Club. It is a touching story about the author and formative time he spent with this man who filled a father figure void in his life. One can never underestimate the importance of time spent with other generations doing things such as hunting or fishing, and it has little to do with getting food. Yet food is central to all of these exercises. Lewis writes with tenderness about “a bunch of gray-haired men in the living room, drinking whiskey and practicing the high art of BS.”
I get that. Depending upon your upbringing, as a girl there are a few precious years before you are actually considered one of the women, when you catch a glimpse of these sancta. My childhood is speckled with visits to dark little hunting cabins that smelled of cigar smoke and bourbon and Bud. I know my brother had much more of a view of these ceremonious gatherings than I did. I also now know from the other side of the bridge of time that the women didn’t necessarily feel left out, but rather were more irritated by the pile of laundry and feathers and fins that came home with the men than the few days spent without them. Feminist education aside, I don’t begrudge men these places and times, though. Envy isn’t always a negative thing. Roles get all switched up in these camps and obstinate old farts who never lifted a finger in the kitchen at home can turn into hellacious camp cooks (Floyd Dean, my dad’s dad would be a prime example). Corn meal battered fish for dinner and biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Men do not eat poorly when left to their own devices, at least not the ones I know, and knew.
But, the article is worth reading, and best of all, it contains a wonderful and simple recipe for beef tenderloin. If you have twine, a cast iron skillet, an oven, plus a bit of garlic and rosemary, you are on the road to a wonderful company meal. Two pounds of beef can feed a lot of people and is not as expensive as it seems when you consider the relative costs of eating out these days. I will keep coming back to this recipe, I believe. This time, I used far less garlic and rosemary than suggested, but next time I will use the full amount listed below in the recipe. I craved more of the seasoned coating.
1 (2 pound) beef tenderloin
¼ cup canola oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. Tie the beef with twine to help with even cooking. Rub the beef with 2 tablespoons of the canola oil, the rosemary and the garlic. Season liberally with Kosher salt and pepper, and allow the beef to sit at room temperature for an hour.
2. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and add the remaining canola oil. Place the tenderloin in the skillet and brown it on all sides for a total of about seven minutes.
3. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook it until an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the tenderloin indicates 125 degrees for medium-rare. The beef will continue to cook once you take it out of the oven. Beware of going past 125 to 128, especially since the tapered ends will be close to medium at this point.
4. Remove the tenderloin from the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes, tented with foil. When you are ready to slice it, remove the twine and slice the meat into ½” slices. Serve with any accumulated juices from the cutting board drizzled on top.
I served this with a very simple roasted potato dish which I will share in the next recipe. This beef is divine. And there is truly no leftover better than cold beef sprinkled with a little salt (except maybe leftover apple pie).
Beef tenderloin is expensive. I’ll give you that. However, recently I took my family to a local burger place and four meals with milkshakes (you have to get a milkshake, right?) was $45. And the burgers, utterly forgettable. So, I can get approximately one pound of hamburger meat (and milkshakes, which makes it almost worth it) for $45 dollars. Or, for $10 dollars more, I can buy over 2 pounds of the best beef I can get in Dallas. Hmmmm? I think I’d rather eat cereal at home on burger night and go ahead and buy the tenderloin every once in a while. And, this was a bus-your-own-table joint so I didn’t even get the emotional surge of watching someone else take the dishes away, which, as you know, I factor into the cost of any meal.
I think sometimes I not only get hung up on the price of tenderloin, but I also get intimidated, because if you mess it up it is an awful lot of expensive meat going down the tubes. And, it seems like…and only “seems” like a big undertaking. But, it is not. In fact, I would argue that there are few things easier to prepare. But, my caveat is this, I use a meat thermometer. I have a twenty dollar job from Williams Sonoma that I have had for years. You put it in the roast and a little cord comes out of the oven and plugs into a tiny little digital box about the size of a half of a deck of cards. I cruise by the oven every few minutes to see how things are progressing and, at least in theory, can pull it from the oven the moment it says 125 degrees. I say in theory, because I let this one get to 128 as I was chasing a ninja around the house trying to get him to turn back into a little boy and set the table. These things happen. And a $50 piece of meat is always one ninja away from ruin, so I implore you to invest in one of these gizmos. Some people just “know” when meat is done, and I am not one of those people. I know it is too done when I smell the smoke.