Sunday Suppers: Beef Tenderloin in Chianti

tree2I’ll fess up to being downright grumpy most of Saturday. I shoveled the walk three times. The wind howled on my dog walk, chilling through my Barbour jacket, down jacket, snow pants, knit hat with ear flaps, and my shearling mittens. And my nose was running, but I didn’t want to take the mittens off the get to the tissues that stocked in every coat I own.

I will stop complaining now. It’s not even officially winter. My home is warm. My daughter is delightful. I had a Friday night alone (beaux out of town and daughter at an overnight), so I could watch what I wanted. I updated software on my printer and cursed out loud and didn’t have to apologize to anyone. When that was over, I turned on the tree, made a cup of tea, and plopped onto the couch, where the dog joined me.

By Saturday night, I kicked the Grinch out of the house. I made the batter for four batches of Christmas cookies, which I will bake today. I am not sure why, since I don’t have an office to take them to. One of the drawbacks of working from home, and a situation I am working to remedy.

snowshoeThis morning, before the dog even begged, I dug my snowshoes and poles out of the container in the garage, loaded them and the dog into the car, and headed to Pleasant Ridge Park before 8 a.m. Halfway through our trek, my hat came off, my mittens off, both coats unzipped, and my mood was greatly improved. I made a pot of real coffee in the Chemex, took a shower, and figured out dinner.

I shop at McDonald’s Meats in Girard about once a month. When I’m buying whatever cut of meat took me there, I stock up on emergency dinner supplies. The meat is vacuum packed and frozen, which preserves its freshness. It also saves me from having to buy in bulk and then repackaging and freezing. Last month, I bought a couple of small beef tenderloin steaks to grill. I never got around to it, so these are the protein component for tonight’s dinner.

You typically grill or roast beef tenderloin, or wrap it in pastry (a laWellington). Since the grill is under about a foot of snow and Wellington is just too involved, I wondered about turning it into a stew. While this seems an expensive cut of meat to “stew,” is usually reserved for very tough meats that need tenderizing. But using tenderloin has a couple of advantages, as long as you don’t overcook it. First, it takes less time to cook the dish (less than an hour compared to about 3). Second, it is such a lean cut, that it benefits from being immersed in a richly flavored wine sauce.

So after a day divided between the outdoors and the oven, I’ll be glad to settle into a big bowl of Beef in Chianti tonight.

When Mother Nature gives you snow, you’ve got to strap on the snowshoes. (And dig the tenderloin out of the freezer).

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@MarnieMeadMedia.com

Print Recipe
Beef Tenderloin in Chianti
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, French, Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, French, Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Mix together 2 tablespoons flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and a pinch of thyme in a large bowl or zip-top baggie. Add beef and toss to coat. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat, cook bacon until browned and crisp. Remove bacon and set aside. Add beef in batches and cook until browned on the outside and very rare inside, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside on a platter. You may need to add oil for the second batch of the beef.
  2. Remove beef from the pan and set aside. If there is any oil/fat left, add garlic. If not, add 2 tablespoons of the oil and then the garlic. Cook until fragrant, but do not brown it. This takes about 30 seconds.
  3. Add red wine and cook on high, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Reduce for about 3 minutes, then add the beef stock, sprig of thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  4. In the same pan, saute the bacon on medium-low heat for 5 minutes, until browned and crisp. Remove the bacon and set it aside. Drain all the fat, except 2 tablespoons, from the pan. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and cook on high heat for 1 minute, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the beef stock, tomato paste, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered on medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Remove thyme sprig and bay leaf from the sauce. Add the onions and carrots and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the sauce is reduced and the vegetables are cooked.
  6. Mix together 1 tablespoon flour and butter. Stir into the sauce and simmer for about 2 minutes, so the flour is cooked through.
  7. In the meantime, if using the mushrooms, saute them in a separate pan in 1 tablespoon of oil until browned and tender, about 10 minutes.
  8. Add beef, bacon, and mushrooms to the sauce. Heat for about 5 minutes together. Turn off heat. You do not want to overcook the beef (this is not stew meat that benefits from longer cooking). This can sit for about 20 minutes before serving. The flavors will develop.
  9. Serve alone, with noodles, over mashed potatoes, or riced cauliflower.
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Fall Pairs well with Pears

The circle drive in my neighborhood looked like someone had found buried treasure and was tossing gold coins in the air this weekend. In reality, it was the small stand of birch trees that was shedding its leaves. The sun, the wind, the fall, all combined to make it look like a pirate party.

 

Each day of this fall seems more spectacular than the last. We’ve been blessed with flaming red maples that literally glow when the setting sun sets them ablaze in late afternoon. Lake Erie, one day a muddy mess of rolling whitecaps, then turns perfectly calm, allowing me to kayak on a November morning.

Mother Nature provided an escape from the ill winds that have been blowing steadily during this election season. Oh how easy it is to turn off the television or put aside the newspaper when the sky is blue and the outdoors promise one more beautiful walk. The dry crunch of the leaves soothe my nerves made raw by the shrill comments from media and politicians.

There’s nothing like coming home again to smell a house that is alive with cinnamon, cardamom and star anise, which is what was bubbling on my stovetop this weekend. It’s a delicious combination with which to poach pears.

Pears – yes I’ve heard the comments. Lots of people don’t care for the texture, which can alternately be mealy or too firm. And poached pears? As a kid, poached pears did not count as dessert. Indeed, I preferred to skip it altogether.

I still don’t get excited by a poached pear alone on a dish at the conclusion of my meal. If it is atop of a perfect creme Anglaise. Creme Anglaise is a fancy custard – basically eggs, cream, sugar, and vanilla (think really good melted French vanilla ice cream).

So what if the poached pear could go to the next level? Combine the poached pears with an almond cream, and a pastry. Pears and almonds complement each other perfectly (although you could make a plain pastry cream for those with nut allergies). Adding the pastry – in this case purchased puff pastry – adds a little crunch for a delightful textural component.

A tip about puff pastry. Traditionally, it is made with butter. This, however, is not the key ingredient in Pepperidge Farms’ puff pastry. A taste test by Serious Eats found that Pepperidge Farms works just fine if as a base for other ingredients. Dufour is the preferred puff pastry for serious enthusiasts, but you would have to mail order it. I used Wegmans’ brand, which listed butter in the ingredients. I found it a little thicker than Pepperidge Farms. It is a little pricier than PR brand, but about half that of Dufour.

There are four basic steps here. None are particularly difficult. Poaching the pears is just a matter of peeling them and then using a melon baller or grapefruit spoon to scoop out the seeds. That’s the hard part. Making the almond cream, or Creme D’amandes, is no harder than mixing cake batter. The puff pastry must be defrosted, and then you need to cut either 2 circles or into smaller circles if you are making individual tarts. Finally, you brush a little apricot jam on when the tart comes out of the oven to make it shiny and pretty.

When you finished, you will feel like you have just walked out of a fine French boulangerie.

Print Recipe
Pear Tart with Almond Cream and Puff Pastry
This will make 2 9-inch tarts.
Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
tarts
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
tarts
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. To make the almond cream: Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, almond flour, rum, vanilla, flour, and salt. Beat until creamy. Can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
  2. To poach the pears: Peel pears and cut in half. Use a grapefruit spoon or melon baller to seed and core. In a large pot, have water, sugar and spices at a simmer. Add pear halves and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until soft, but still holding their shape. Remove from heat and store in cooking liquid until ready to use.
  3. Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry on a floured surface. Use your tart pan to cut out a circle. Remove excess puff pastry and roll out so it is about 2 inches larger. Place in tart pan, carefully pressing edges into fluted sides of pan. Repeat with second piece of pastry.
  4. Dock bottom by piercing with a fork all over. Freeze for about 10 minutes. Bake in a 350 degree oven until light brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  5. In the meantime, cut pears into about 1/8-inch slice. You can leave the halves whole or break apart. I like to leave whole and use a spatula to transfer to the tart.
  6. Fill each tart with half of the almond cream. Top with pears. Sprinkle each tart with half of the sliced almonds. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven to cool on a rack.
  7. Heat almond preserves until liquid enough to brush on the tops of the tarts.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from

http://www.marthastewart.com/317920/almond-cream

http://letthebakingbeginblog.com/2014/11/french-almond-cream-pear-tart/

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