There may be flashier roasts than the beef tenderloin, but few are as effortless—and you'll still get oohs and ahhs when you present that gorgeous, juicy piece of meat at the center of your holiday table.
It's no wonder that the cut is prized and pricey: The meat lives up to its "tender" designation, because the muscle itself gets very little use (it sits below the ribs). And in case you didn't know, the smaller end of the tenderloin is what's sliced into filet mignon.
But because there's so little fat on the outside to protect it, tenderloin should be treated carefully. Remember when you had to carry around an egg for a week in junior high? Think of your loin roast like that—something to be coddled.
Okay, maybe it's not quite that fragile, but there are a few tricks to keep in mind to achieve beef perfection. Read on, then get our recipe.
Frank Ottomanelli of NYC's Ottomanelli & Sons ties a tenderloin
Show off your wrapping skills. Tying the roast at one-and-a-half-inch intervals ensures even cooking. It's easier than wrapping a present (seriously).
'Tis the seasoning. Dry off your roast, salt it all over and press in rosemary leaves, paper-thin slices of garlic and thyme sprigs. Then, let it hang out: An hour-long rest lets the salt absorb into the meat, and allows the roast to come to room temperature. Before it goes into the oven, brush off those herbs and garlic; the point here is to perfume the meat, and those delicate leaves will burn in the oven anyway. Season it with pepper, and you're good to go.
Warning: Searing may result in a lump of coal. Again, there's no external layer of fat to protect the roast, so searing before you roast may give it that unappetizing ring of gray around the outside. And no one wants a tough, stringy piece of meat on their holiday plate.
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You don't want your oven hot enough to burn a yule log. You want to cook this bad boy on low heat to make sure the meat doesn't get dry. And be sure to place the roast on a wire rack on top of a sheet pan—the extra space underneath translates to increased airflow and more even cooking. Once the meat is cooked and has rested for about 20 minutes, cut it into rosy slices and serve.
Let it snow. The finishing touches: a dollop or two of luxurious chive and lemon cream, and paper-thin shavings of fresh horseradish that are so delicate, they resemble flower petals. Trust us, these little details will give your guests a meat-cute to remember.
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