Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Roasted Beef Tenderloin with French Onion Au Jus

In all my years of cooking and eating beef, one of the cuts that I have rarely used is the whole beef tenderloin.  This cut is readily available, more often in warehouse stores and grocery stores.  It is the cut that, once properly butchered, produces the filet mignon.  In my humble opinion, the filet mignon is one of the most overrated cuts of beef.  As it turns out, I am not the only one who shares that opinion.  I almost never order it in restaurants and have never made it at home. 

Nevertheless, I have a personal goal of trying to cook all cuts of beef.  I wanted to go beyond the prime rib roast, strip steaks and sirloin steaks.  I have been looking for recipes that use other cuts of meat, such as the the beef flank and even the beef tenderloin.  A few weeks back, my beautiful Angel bought a whole tenderloin.  I now had my opportunity to cook with the meat.  I searched the Internet and came across a recipe for a roasted tenderloin with French Onion au Jus.  The combination of beef with an onion soup immediately appealed to me so I printed out the recipe and was ready to cook a delicious meal.  

However, I needed to learn a lot before I could do anything with the meat.  One cannot (or should not) throw a whole tenderloin in the oven and expect a good meal to come out of it.  The whole tenderloin needed to be butchered first.  The butchery required the breakdown of the tenderloin into its three principal parts: the psoas major, psoas minor and the iliacus.  The psoas major is the major muscle of the tenderloin, from which the filet mignon can be cut.  The psoas minor is also referred to as the "chain muscle."  It is a thin strip of beef that could be used in other recipes, such as a Philadelphia Cheesesteak or a stir fry.  The iliacus is known as the "wing" muscle. The actual process of butchering the tenderloin can be found at the 350 Degree Oven.  The website goes a little further than I needed to go, showing one how to cut filet mignon steaks.  That will be saved for another recipe.  

I needed to keep the psoas major and the iliacus whole in order to roast the beef.  The recipe calls for an interesting twist: putting the sliced onions at the bottom of the roasting pan and put the roast on top of the onions.  This is a great idea because not only does it allow the water in the onions to help prevent burning at the bottom of the pan, but it also allows the onions to be flavored with the juices of the roast.  I think I will be using that technique more often, and then use the onions in an au jus, or, as an alternative, to flavor a gravy or other sauce.    

One final note, any good French onion soup -- or, in this case, a French onion au jus -- requires a good wine.  My go-to wine in this context is usually a Cotes du Rhone, because, in my opinion, that wine is the most complementary one for an onion soup.  Truthfully, a wide range of red wines will work, as long as the wine is not too bold. 

Recipe Adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Serves many

Ingredients (for the tenderloin):
1 whole beef tenderloin, broken down into 
     Psoas major, psoas minor and iliacus
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves minced finely
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon pink peppercorns

Ingredients (for the au jus):
4 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 cup low sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 sprigs fresh thyme

1.  Prepare the tenderloin.  Break down the tenderloin into its three parts the psosas major (the large central muscle), the psoas minor (the chain) and the iliacus (the bulb of meat at the nose end).  Season the main muscle of the tenderloin, along with the iliacus with the salt and pepper (both black and pink peppercorns), as well as the garlic and fresh thyme  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night. 

2.  Roast the tenderloin.   Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.  Arrange the onions in a large oven safe skillet.  Place the beef over the onions.  Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the top of the beef.  Transfer to the oven and roast until the beef registers 120 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit for medium rare, about 35 to 45 minutes, depending upon the size of the roast. Remove the beef from the skillet to a serving plate and cover with foil.  The meat should rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. 

3.  Prepare the onion au jus.   Meanwhile, set the skillet with the onion over medium heat.  Add 6 tablespoons of butter and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are deep golden in color and caramelized, about 5 or 10 minutes.  Add the wine, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce and thyme.   Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.  Remove the thyme sprigs.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4.  Plate the dish.  Slice the beef and serve with the French onion au jus on the side.


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