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The Beef Tenderloin Test


ejernigan
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I'm a culinary student and have been assigned beef tenderloin as the protein for my final practical exam. There are no rules here other than I must serve 6 to 8 oz of beef with a protein, starch, veg and sauce. I'm hopeful that someone out there has some new (or classical) ideas for this generally boring piece of beef.

I've been thinking Wellington, perusing Escoffier for tornedos options, and thinking about serving it with a béarnaise... I just can't get excited about this cut.

Any brainstorming would be appreciated.

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Most of the classical variations are with different sauces and/or additions like a slice of fois gras or truffle.

It can also be wrapped in bacon or another fat and roasted.

Could be interesting to try something Wellington in form (i.e., with a crust of some sort and a pate or forcemeat), but with a different set of flavors maybe from another national tradition.

If the meat is of excellent quality, it can be carpaccio.

The filet is not immune from stir-fry treatments or marination or being broiled on skewers.

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I just can't get excited about this cut.

Most of your future patrons love this cut, as do I. Tenderloin is a decent test of a cook. It can be screwed up and benefits from a sauce of some sort...which you have to design.

Perhaps you've heard too much of the "fat carries the flavor" mantra. It does, but is that a reason to avoid lean meats like fish or tenderloin?

My advice...sous vide it and sear. Make a onion based sauce and serve with delicate fried onions on top.

Edited by gfweb (log)
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Could be interesting to try something Wellington in form (i.e., with a crust of some sort and a pate or forcemeat), but with a different set of flavors maybe from another national tradition.

This makes me think...a Bahn Mi Wellingon? Thanks.

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I'd say a final test in culinary school is all about the fundamentals, I dont think you should go out of the box on this one. When I attended there were a lot of students that were trying to run before they could walk. Your original idea of the meat, starch, veg and sauce is what I think you should stick with. Pulling off a perfectly cooked and seasoned piece of beef, buttery potatoes and crisp yet tender blanched veg with a spot-on béarnaise would impress and please anyone. The only recommendation if you go that route is to make sure there's a good balance of vinegar in the base of the sauce, you want to show you can cut through the rich flavors on the plate even though even the sauce itself is butter/egg based.

Good luck!

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I got sick of Wellington and bearnaise in the '80s, so not sure I agree this is the way to go, but tenderloin is certainly versatile and as long as what you do is perfectly cooked, I'd say to branch out. Don't know your location: does it suggest anything regional? Tenderloin is great with Southwest treatments a la Flay. Last Christmas, when I couldn't get veal for schnitzel but had already made the fresh breadcrumbs, I bought tenderloin and made a kind of "chicken-fried steaks," or maybe more like steak persillade (a little seasoned mustard, coated with parslied crumbs--honestly, it was the best meal I ever had, served with homemade pasta (already planned for the schnitzel) and veggie. Weird but good. No sauce, but you could make a little beurre blanc.

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I'm far away from culinary school expertise, and I've never eaten one, but to me this whole beef wellington thing seems rather boring. Never even heard about it 'till Hell's Kitchen on TV and I doubt I'd ever order it.

That aside, a nice sauce with fresh wild mushrooms comes to mind at this season. Also something nice with winter root veggies, roasted babies, or a sauce. If the meat is of top quality, maybe just sear the outside and then serve ultra thin slices raw (carpaccio style)?

Foie Gras sounds great in there too, I'm wondering if the meat could be wrapped in duck skin that gets crispy, instead of the cliche bacon? Or - if that's not possible - make "duck skin fries" to layer on top and a foie gras sauce?

Or new baby potatoes, very buttery (maybe cooked in butter?), the meat rare with a good sear (Sous Vide?) sliced nicely, a bit of compound butter melting on it and a nice crunchy salad?

Or something with beans? A sauce, or some nice heirloom beans on the side. I love beans.

Baby carrots also come to mind, maybe glazed with maple syrup? A bit of pepper for zing.

Surf and turf if some nice seafood is in season where you are? Crab season just started here in NorCal, I could imagine some fun things in that direction.

Or more rustic things, cooked over wood fire or chunk charcoal, maybe even right on the coals? An Argentine cowboy twist in a way. With a piping hot cup of coffee :-)

Green beans, beets, all those yummy winter things come to mind. And eggs.

Just throwing out some ideas, no idea if they'd work or work in a school environment. I'd also spend some time in the school library and on google~~

Good luck, let us know what you end up making!

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

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I agree with Scotty Boy...don't try to do too much for your practical. I think that the idea would be to demonstrate fundamental cooking skills rather than blow the teacher out of the water with some fancy smancy preparation.

Tenderloin is what it is...not outstanding flavor compared to some other cuts, but thats not the appeal really.

Some words of advice:

I would sear rather than grill, that way you have a chance to develop a crust and some texture and avoid the "mush" factor.

Make sure you rest, I'm sure you know that.

A full fat sauce like a bernaise is traditional because it will add some fattiness to the beef, but it's also nowadays considered very old school..not that thats bad. You could do a variation maybe like a brown butter bernaise or hollandaise, which adds a great nutty complexity that pairs well with beef.

Some sort of red wine sauce would also be very good, and if you could get your hands on some bone marrow you could incorporate that into the sauce for a bordelaise or, simply, roast some marrow, or make a compound marrow butter.

I think you should stay away from sous vide...not that there is anything wrong with it as a cooking method (I personally love it and use it quite a bit) but it probably won't demonstrate to your instructor that you can cook a piece of beef other than set the temp on a dial. If you even have access to that equipment at your school.

Seriously man, just don't over think or over do it. I am like Scotty in that I saw students try to do things in school for practicals and such that they just weren't ready to do. A lot of stuff they tried to do sounded great but the execution was lacking. Concentrate on proper cooking technique (properly cooking green veg, potatoes, etc) and seasoning will set you much further ahead than the majority of your peers. You'd be surprised (or maybe you wouldn't) how many students let go of the fundamentals in the guise of creativity.

Good luck, let us know how it goes.

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If I were in your position I'd be overjoyed at being assigned beef tenderloin for my final exam. Granted it's not as beefy-flavorful as, say, a serious dry-aged ribeye, but it's still tasty while providing a more blank canvas for your sauce, so to speak. Plus it's an easy prep and relatively easy to cook properly. If you're using pre-cut portions, you can do a very quick sear, then set them aside until you're ready to put them in a low oven to finish. If you're cooking a whole tenderloin (don't forget to remove the silverskin!), it takes nicely to a mushroom-based stuffing.

If your instructor values classic sauces, a perfect béarnaise would be ideal. As you probably know, you can hold it in a warmed Thermos-type bottle. A port-based sauce also works nicely with this cut. (Cook shallots in butter; add port, red wine and rosemary sprig; reduce; strain. Just before serving, reheat, add a bit of demi-glace and salt/pepper to taste, then swirl in more butter.)

Edited by Alex (log)

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Who supplies the tenderloin? If the School does, find out if you can cut a whole tenderloin for a classic Chateaubriand and then learn the technique which involves using the head of the tenderloin, fashioning into a large cylinder by wrapping cloth around the meat and using a pounder and then tieing.

If you supply the tenderloin, find a source for dry aged USDA Prime which although more costly will help your judges. Good luck.-Dick

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Ravioli.

No, wait, I'm not out of my mind:

If you think about it, wrapping cubes of the (marinated or otherwise seasoned) beef in the ravioli format is a variation on Beef Wellington (and gives you your starch; you needn't confine yourself to wheat flour, either).

You could include other traditional components, or variations of them; you could poach them in a very reduced, deeply flavoured broth (depending on how elastic the definition of 'sauce' is, you might be able to use the reductin as a sauce).

Something humble, but not too familiar, for a vegetable (some crucifer or bean, perhaps) would make a nice contrast to the central, 'luxury' ingredient.

(If nothing else, you now know my plans for the next beef tenderloin I get my hands on.)

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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In my humble opinion, if you can't get excited about this cut, then you've already failed. One of the most divine food experiences of my life involved this cut.

Please, do tell us. I'm all about divine food experiences.

Nothing complex. Seasoned filet seared briefly but aggressively on very high heat. Then finished in the oven to a perfect med rare. Bites dipped into a hollandaise like a fondue. The fat lacking in the tenderloin cut is more than made up for in thickened butter (with a little built in acid). The contrasting harmony between the 'clean' taste of the meat and the enrobing of the sauce is, IMHO, astounding.

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If the school was paying for it I'd go for tournedos Rossini--presented in a more modern fashion, of course--with a colourful medley of vegetables, all turned beautifully and cooked perfectly.

Chris Taylor

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I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

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I'd make a separate Yorkshire pud or popovers, rather than Wellington. Port sauce. Tornedos of sunroots (jeruselum artichokes), roasted with golden beets; or steamed with herb butter. Quick pickle of carrots, radishes and cukes on the side. Or arugula.

Karen Dar Woon

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My favorite preparation for beef tenderloin is a nice thick steak, well-wrapped in some really good ham (I usually use our spicy Capicola) or sometimes prosciutto, pan-seared, finished in the oven and served on a Blue Cheese sauce (basically a cream reduction with lots of the cheese) I use my own goats milk blue now but Gorgonzola works really well too.

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I'd make a separate Yorkshire pud or popovers, rather than Wellington. Port sauce. Tornedos of sunroots (jeruselum artichokes), roasted with golden beets; or steamed with herb butter. Quick pickle of carrots, radishes and cukes on the side. Or arugula.

this sounds wonderful. you're making me very hungry!

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It's funny, I wonder if tenderloin isn't actually the most under-appreciated cut of beef among "serious" food-lovers these days. I hear it disparaged a lot, but well-prepared it can be very nice.

Possibly. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever had a tenderloin before. I never buy it and I never order it if I'm out. I might have had one at a wedding at some point.

PS: I am a guy.

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Practice Round 1:

2 1/2 in filet (~8 oz) salt and pepper, seered and topped with whole butter finished in the oven to barely mid rare.

Bordalaise (without the marrow)

Popover filled with diced shallot, garlic, wild mushroom, and parsley

Belgin endive braised in a malt vinegar and veal stock reduction.

I had it eaten before I thought to take a picture,it was pretty tasty.

Thanks again for all the great feedback!

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