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Eric Akis: Beef tenderloin roast makes a perfect holiday meal for two

If you’re looking for a special meal to serve your partner this holiday season, a beef tenderloin roast for two would be a luxurious option. Particularly when served with a spectacular sauce.
Beef tenderloin roast for two served with vegetables and rich marchand de vin sauce. ERIC AKIS

If you’re looking for a special meal to serve your partner this holiday season, a beef tenderloin roast for two would be a luxurious option. Particularly when served with a spectacular sauce.

Beef tenderloin is an oblong strip of meat located in the loin of the cow. It is thick at one end, gradually narrowing to a point at the other end. It is often cut into steaks, but can also be cut into roasts, such as the 454 gram one I used in my recipe.

Butcher shops and grocery stores with in-store butchery departments will cut a roast that size for you. But it might be best to call ahead and order one in advance and let the butcher know you would like it cut from the centre or thick end of the tenderloin, not the narrow end.

It’s called tenderloin because it’s the most tender cut of beef. It’s also the most expensive, which is why you don’t want to waste that investment by overcooking it. That’s why you should always use an instant-read meat thermometer to gauge doneness. A rare roast is done at 120 F to 125 F; medium-rare will be 125 F to 130 F. The meat in today’s photo was cooked to 125 F. Remember that the meat will continue to cook when you let it rest before slicing.

Beef tenderloin is fairly lean and has a milder taste than bolder tasting, more fat marbled cuts, such as rib-eye roast. That’s why I like to serve it with a rich, flavour enhancing sauce, such as the marchand de vin sauce I spooned on the roast today.

Marchand de vin is French for “wine merchant.” It’s a classic French sauce fantastic to serve with beef roasts and steaks. It’s made with reduced, intensely flavoured beef stock, red wine, shallots and thyme. I thickened the sauce by whisking in beurre manié (pronounced “burr mahn-YAY”), a roux-like mix of butter and flour.

I served the beef with mashed potatoes flavoured with nuggets of tangy blue cheese, snap-top carrots and tiny Brussels sprouts. You’ll find a recipe for the potatoes below.

As for the other vegetables, I prepared them by boiling them separately until just tender, drained them well, cooled them in ice-cold water, and then drained them well again. I then set the carrots and Brussels sprouts in a small baking pan and drizzled and sprinkled them with some good olive oil, salt and pepper. When the beef came out of the oven and was resting before I sliced it, I popped the vegetables into the hot oven 10 minutes to warm them up. You can get the vegetables oven-ready many hours in advance. Keep refrigerated until ready to reheat.

Beef Tenderloin Roast for Two with Marchand de Vin Sauce

Tender, seared and roasted beef is sliced and served with a decadent wine sauce.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: Depends on desired doneness (see Note 1)
Makes: two servings

4 cups salt-free store-bought or homemade beef stock or broth (see Note 2)

1 Tbsp+ 2 tsp soft butter (divided)

2 tsp all purpose flour

3 Tbsp finely chopped shallot

1/2 tsp minced garlic

1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or other rich red wine

1/4 to 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme, or pinch or two dried thyme

2 tsp vegetable oil

1 (1 pound/454 gram) beef tenderloin roast

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place stock (or broth) in a small pot, set over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and reduce to 1 cup. Remove pot from the heat. Measure the reduced stock (or broth) to ensure you have 1 cup. If you have more than that, simmer it a while longer until you do. Or, if you’ve reduced it too much, top up with water until you have 1 cup.

Make beurre manié by combining 1 Tbsp of the butter and 2 tsp flour in a small bowl until thoroughly combined.

Place remaining 2 tsp butter in a second small pot set over medium to medium-high heat. When melted, add the shallots and garlic and cook 60 to 90 seconds. Add the wine and thyme and simmer until wine has reduced by half. Add the 1 cup of reduced stock (or broth) to the pot and bring to a simmer. While whisking, slowly mix in the beurre manié, adding small amounts each time so that lumps don’t form in the sauce. Return to a simmer, and simmer until this marchand de vin sauce is lightly thickened, about two minutes. Remove sauce from the heat, cover and set it aside for now (see Eric’s options).

To cook beef, preheat oven to 400 F. Pour the oil into an ovenproof skillet set over medium-high heat (see Eric’s options). When the oil is hot, season the beef with salt and pepper, place in the skillet and sear on all sides.

Place the skillet in the oven and roast beef about 20 to 25 minutes for rare to medium-rare beef, and 25 to 28 minutes for medium-rare to medium (see Note). Transfer the beef to a plate, tent with foil and let rest 10 minutes.

While beef rests, remove excess oil from the skillet and set over medium heat. Pour in the marchand de vin sauce and bring to a simmer. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper, as needed, and then keep warm on low heat.

When beef has rested, slice it, arrange on a serving platter and drizzle with some of the sauce. Serve the remaining sauce in a sauceboat alongside.

Note 1: The surest way to gauge beef doneness is to use an instant-read meat thermometer, inserted into the centre of the thickest part of the roast. A rare roast is done at 120 F to 125 F; medium-rare will be 125 F to 130 F; and medium will be 135 F to 140 F. Remember that the meat will continue to cook when you let it rest before slicing.

Note 2: If using store-bought stock, don’t be tempted to use a salted one. It will significantly reduce and concentrate in this recipe and become even more so.

Eric’s options: You can make the marchand de vin sauce many hours before needed. After you’ve made it, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate until ready to reheat in the pan you cooked the beef in. If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet, sear the beef in a regular skillet, and then transfer to a small roasting pan and finish cooking it there.

Mashed Potatoes for Two with Blue Cheese and Parsley

Yellow-flesh potatoes are simmered, mashed and richly flavoured with nuggets of tangy blue cheese.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 18 to 20 minutes
Makes: two servings

1 1/4 lbs (about 4 medium) yellow-flesh potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 Tbsp butter, melted (see Note)

1/4 cup warm milk

• salt and white pepper, to taste

1/4 cup (about 40 to 50 grams) blue cheese, pulled into small nuggets

1 to 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Place potatoes in a small to medium pot and cover with a generous amount of cold water. Set pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat until water is just simmering (small bubbles should just break on the surface). Simmer potatoes until very tender, about 18 to 20 minutes.

Drain potatoes well, then use a potato masher to thoroughly mash them. Vigorously beat in the butter and milk. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper; mix in parsley. Now gently mix in the cheese and serve.

Note: You can melt the butter and warm the milk together in a bowl in the microwave or in a small pot on the stove.

Eric’s options: You can make the potatoes many hours before needed. If you do, after preparing them, transfer the potatoes to a serving dish and cool to room temperature. Now cover and refrigerate them, until ready to reheat in the microwave and serve with the beef.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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