Beef cut pleases lovers of meat

January 17, 2001|By Bev Bennett | Bev Bennett,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

If you're a meat lover, you know that a dinner at a steak restaurant is a rare treat. You'll be seduced by steak cuts with a quality that you probably won't see in your supermarket. Prime meat is usually reserved for food service.

But what are you to do when you crave a hunk of meat in the comfort of your kitchen?

My solution is opt for beef tenderloin. It doesn't have to be prime to be tender. I ask the butcher for 1-inch-thick slices. A balsamic-vinegar marinade and blast of heat are the secrets for getting the best flavor from this meat. High temperatures caramelize the outside surface. The meat's exterior is browned and sweet while the center is still quivering.

During the summer, I use a hot outdoor grill; during the winter, I use an enamel-on-cast-iron skillet on top of the stove. The advantage to the stove-top method is that you can deglaze the pan with balsamic vinegar and beef broth and have a light sauce.

Pan-Seared Filet Mignon

Makes 2 servings

2 beef tenderloin fillets, cut 1-inch thick (about 5 ounces each)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for pan

balsamic vinegar

1 large garlic clove, split

1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

beef broth, optional

Place beef in shallow dish. Pour on 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Turn to coat both sides. Set aside at room temperature 30 minutes, turning once.

Remove meat and discard marinade. Rub both sides of beef with garlic. Place pepper on plate and press beef into pepper to coat. Season with salt.

Brush grill pan with oil. Heat on stove top 2 minutes over high heat or until pan is very hot. Arrange beef on pan and cook 4 minutes per side for medium rare. If desired, add 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons beef broth to grill pan and stir up browned bits. Add another 1 or 2 tablespoons beef broth and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened and vinegar taste is not noticeable, about 2 minutes. Serve sauce on side.

Note: This technique does cause smoking. Make sure you have kitchen exhaust fan on.

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