Friday, August 2, 2013

Perfect Filet Mignon, for Cheap!

Whenever she made stew or soup, my Grandmother used to tell me, "The best cuts of meat are furthest away from the head or the hoof.  Everything else can go into the pot."  Those are pearls of wisdom, right there.  Think about it, a cow's head is big and heavy and the set of muscles used to move it around must get quite a workout.  That means they're tough, dense, and full of connective tissue (like the Brisket, or Chuck Roast for example).  The muscle in a cow that does absolutely the least amount of work is the one you want, and that's one of the two twin muscles on either side of the back, nestled up against the spine, otherwise known as, "The Tenderloins."

Looking at this picture, the only possible function these muscles could have would be to hoist both of the bovine's legs off the ground and high into the air.  With the exception of a bucking rodeo steer, I can't imagine that most cows would ever use them.  You don't see a lot of cows jumping fences (or moons) on your average ranch.

Buying a bacon wrapped Filet Mignon in a butcher shop these days can easily set you back about $20/lb.  That amazes me.  At Sam's club (or Costco), you can get a whole tenderloin for about half of that.  People get intimidated though, about spending $85 for an 8lb hunk of meat, worried that they might mess it up.  Trust me, it's super duper easy to trim one of these things.  You have two choices:

  1. If you're pressed for time, don't have a sharp filet knife, or are just plain "grossed out" over a bit of blood and fat, you can ask the nice man in the Sam's Club meat dept. to "Trim the fat and silverskin" for you.  He'll do it for free.
  2. Cut it up yourself!  If you can filet a fish, you can clean up a tenderloin.  Rinse it out, and lay it out on a cutting board.  Have a good look at what a finished one should look like, and start cutting away the bits that don't belong.  The meat will help you, naturally separating along seams where you should cut.  Be advised, it is much easier to cut/trim when it's really cold, so this is best done when you pull it right out of the fridge.  You may even want to put it into the freezer for an hour or so first, just to firm things up a bit.  The last step is to shave or filet away the bit of connective silverskin:



Cooking it is the simplest part!  Start with a whole trimmed beef tenderloin, then fold the tapered end back on itself and truss it up to make a nice roast.  You want to be sure that's it's the same thickness throughout (even cooking is essential here, and you don't want to burn the ends).  Cover with olive oil, salt, and a nice cracked peppercorn medley, then roast over charcoal, turning regularly, to an internal temperature of 120 degrees. Pull it off the fire, and let it rest under a foil tent for at least 5 minutes.  Don't skip this part!  Then slice off gorgeous medallions of Filet Mignon, as thick or as thin as you want them!  You are using an oven safe digital temperature probe, right?  It would be a shame to waste a perfectly good tenderloin roast by overcooking it...

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