Well, the snow has mostly melted, the roads are clear again, and Harriet and I are back in business with the beef tenderloin. Since we're doing this on a Sunday now, and since Harriet's brought a Costco-sized piece of meat, it doesn't seem right to make it for just us two, so I've invited Ryan and Adinah over to share in the spoils of our meat-trimming and tying lessons. And why not throw in a few more dishes while I'm at it? I've got a deadline to make!
How to Trim a Beef Tenderloin (p. 118)
I have to be honest with you. I'm not sure what the hell I did to trim this meat. I read Martha's instructions, and they seemed coherent. Until I opened the package.
The piece of meat that came out of the package bore little resemblance to the description in this lesson. Perhaps Costco sells beef tenderloin with another piece of meat attached. There was a gigantic slab of meat on one end of this tenderloin that neither Harriet nor I could identify.
No matter. I just kept trimming and cutting and cutting and trimming until it looked like a beef tenderloin. It's pretty self-evident what there is to do here. The meat almost guides you, itself. In a couple of cases, there were flaps that looked like they wanted to be trimmed off, but if you followed the fissure, it was clear that the tenderloin would be split in two had we taken that trim there.
The big mystery was that bonus brisket-sized piece of meat, probably almost two pounds, which I trimmed away and is now in my freezer. I'm pretty sure it wasn't meant to be part of the tenderloin, but I can't help wondering if I hacked off the best part.
Home-butchering can be a very economical endeavor. This was a roughly six pound piece of meat to start, costing about $45 at $7.50/lb, which is quite inexpensive when compared to most meat sellers. I think I trimmed away about one pound of waste, froze a beautiful, lean, 1.5 pound piece of mystery meat, and cooked a 3.5 pound tenderloin. I'm guessing that if I bought that 3.5 pound tenderloin already trimmed, it would probably cost at least $40, if not more.
All told, I think I did a nice job with the trimming. And even though I didn't really feel like I was following Martha's directions, per se, Harriet wants me to give myself an A for a job well done, so I will.
Martha: A (?)
How to Tie a Roast (p. 119)
This was fun. It reminded me of that game you play as kids where you wrap string around your fingers and pass string shapes back and forth. Only in this lesson, you play it with a big piece of raw meat instead of your friend.
It's kind of amazing how easy it is to do this tying technique, which looks so professional and is so effective. It takes about a minute or two to figure it out, and then it's smooth sailing. Look at my beautiful roast!!
FYI, I tucked the ends under on both sides, since I somehow ended up with a piece of meat that tapered on both ends....
Clams in Herbed Broth (p. 219)
People are funny about clams, aren't they? It's taken me a little while to assemble a group of people who were all happy to eat clams.
I've never bought clams before, and since I was picking them up a day early, I had to do a little research on how to store them overnight. (They're still alive, and if you leave them in the plastic bag from the market, they'll probably suffocate and die, which doesn't make for good eats.)
Turns out the best thing to do is to clean them and put them in a bowl with damp paper towels on top, which is what I did with very good results. Out of three dozen clams, one two of mine didn't open.
This dish is pretty easy. You make an herb-loaded oil using mounds of parsley, basil, dill and chives, food-processed with olive oil. Then you boil up some fish fumet (smelly!) and throw the clams in to steam. Since I wanted to serve mine with pasta, I boiled up some linguini on the side. Then I plated the linguini and clams, while I finished the broth.
To do that, you strain the liquid (to remove sand), then bring it to a boil again, and add butter and that herb oil. Then ladle it over the clams and pasta and serve!
As my guests remarked, there are a lot of flavor levels going on here. I attribute this to a few things. First of all, fresh herbs are always loaded with flavor. Second, home-made broths pack a great flavor punch. And lastly, clams. Nuff said.
This was fun, easy, and delicious, and while I'm not a clam lover, I'd do this again. The only thing I might want to add is some garlic....
Dill-Lemon Butter (p. 167)
My last compound butter! Since I had dill in the house, I thought I'd crank this out. What a great idea! It tasted fab on the beautiful Italian bread that Ryan brought. A slather of flavored butter, then a dip in the herb broth? Perfect!
I don't know if I'd use this butter outside of a seafood-based meal, but in the right setting, it's super nice!
I used this recipe to cook the beef tenderloin, and I have to say, it worked like gangbusters. Having made a pair of tenderloins before, I already knew that this is a magical cut of meat to cook. Easy and failsafe. Really, the only thing you need is a thermometer, and as long as you take the meat out when it hits 135°, you're golden. It's rare and unbelievably tender. Flawless.
Until we eat again....