The ins and outs of buying, cooking and serving a whole juicy tenderloin

Ask the Chef

Sunday Gourmet

March 21, 2004|By Jim Coleman and Candace Hagan | Jim Coleman and Candace Hagan,Knight Ridder / Tribune

I am having a dinner party and want to cook a whole tenderloin to slice for serving. What is the best way to cook it and at what temperature? I would like to serve it medium-rare to medium.

Even though tenderloin is expensive, you are definitely serving something that everyone will love. Before we start with how to cook it, let's go buy that wonderful piece of beef.

Now, the assumption is that you are willing to drop about 80 bucks for a 5 1/2 - to 6 1/2 -pound whole tenderloin, but when you consider that that averages about $5.50-$6.50 a person, it's not too bad. If you can find a meat market that primarily sells to restaurants but also to individuals, you will find a better price and probably better quality as well.

Speaking of quality, the best you can buy (and, of course, the most expensive) is prime USDA-labeled beef. If you can't find prime, look for USDA choice, which should be available most places and still will have that wonderful tenderness.

Do not believe, however, that all tenderloin is the same and it doesn't matter what you buy.

As for cooking our prize, the first thing you need to do is make certain the piece of beef is uniformly shaped so that it will cook evenly. The best way of doing this is to have it tied, and with the amount you are spending you can probably get the butcher to do it for you.

If not, just get some string and tie up your tenderloin every few inches, both horizontally and vertically, making sure you tuck the thinnest end under so the roast is the same thickness overall.

Now we're ready to cook, and what really works best is to sear the meat before it is roasted. To accomplish this, you need a great big pan -- a roasting pan would work, as would a Dutch oven or a large skillet.

Pat your tenderloin dry with paper towels, heat a little oil in your pan until it is almost smoking, and sear the meat until it is golden-brown all over. After it is seared, you can season it. You could mix some good mustard with a little dried thyme and oregano and, of course, salt and pepper, then rub the mixture all over the roast.

For the schedule-crunched host, the roast can be prepared to this point ahead of time and refrigerated until you're ready to pop it in the oven.

You can roast a tenderloin in a 400-degree oven in a roasting pan outfitted with a rack.

You should cook it until a meat thermometer reaches 125 degrees. Then the key is to let your roast rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing it. After that, all you have to do is sit back and accept all the compliments that you deserve.

I'm looking for a recipe for veal saltimbocca. My husband loves it, and I would like to make it for his birthday.

The first question is, does your husband deserve something as special as veal saltimbocca? Why don't you give him a little test? Ask him if he can spell it, or what it means. if he's right, he gets the veal. (Fyi: Saltimbocca translates to "jump into the mouth," because the dish is so good that that's what you want it to do.)

Besides veal, all good saltimbocca recipes have prosciutto and sage. Wine is also a featured ingredient, but different recipes call for various kinds. Sometimes it is made with white wine, sometimes marsala, and often both are used. Cream is occasionally used in this dish, but not always.

Just so you wouldn't have to make up your mind, and because your hubby deserves a treat for being such a good guy, here's a recipe that uses all three.

Jim Coleman is the executive chef at the Rittenhouse Hotel, Philadelphia, the author of three cookbooks and the host of two nationally syndicated cooking shows -- "A Chef's Table" on National Public Radio and "Flavors of America" on Public Broadcasting Service. His wife, writer Candace Hagan, is a food writer.

Birthday Saltimbocca

2 ounces flour

salt to taste

4 veal scaloppine slices (3 to 4 ounces each)

4 prosciutto slices, approximately 3 ounces total

4 leaves fresh sage

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

pepper to taste

1/4 cup white wine

2 tablespoons marsala wine

3 tablespoons heavy cream

Put the flour on a large plate and mix it with a pinch of salt. Dredge the veal slices in the flour until they are well covered on both sides. Shake away the excess flour. Place a slice of prosciutto and a leaf of sage on each piece of meat. Secure the three together with a toothpick. Don't roll the meat; just weave the toothpick through it so the three items will stay together while cooking.

Put the oil and butter in a large frying pan and turn the heat to medium-high. When the butter and oil are hot, place the meat in the pan, add salt and pepper, and saute gently on both sides until light-brown. Remove the meat and keep warm.

To the same pan, add the white wine, marsala and cream, turn the heat to high, and allow this mixture to reduce by two-thirds. Place the veal on individual plates, cover with the sauce and serve warm.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.