My parents both grew up in a small town in Indiana during the 1930’s. Growing up in the Heartland definitely made us a meat-and-potatoes eatin’ family. I seldom ate vegetables and didn’t learn to enjoy them until I was an adult. But there was one thing that I always ate happily, roast beef.
When I was young I had an iron deficiency and my doctors told my parents that I needed to eat as much beef as possible, as rare as I could take it. This was a huge departure from the well-done meat our whole family had always eaten up to that point. It was a very challenging transition at first but we quickly realized that we owed my doctors a huge thank you – the beef was SO much more flavorful and tender when it was cooked medium or medium-rare!
I know there are many people who choose not to eat red meat, but I am most definitely an omnivore. I have tried the low protein diets and I wind up gaining weight. My body is much healthier when I have protein at each meal. It helps keep my blood sugar from spiking and crashing, keeps me feeling full longer and I ultimately consume less.
There are a few tricks to getting the perfect results you see in restaurants and most of them can be accomplished in a regular home kitchen. The first is to properly season the beef before cooking. I like to use a dry rub (a blend of dried herbs and spices) and let the meat absorb it for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
The second important point is to bring the meat to room temperature before beginning to cook it. If you don’t take this step, the outside will be done before the center has a chance to cook properly. Pull the meat out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you want to cook – I usually leave it out about twice that long. This is especially important with large cuts like roasts.
Just before you put the meat on the heat, gently pat it dry with paper towels. Wet or damp meat cannot brown – it just steams giving you and unpleasant gray exterior. If you saw the movie “Julie and Julia” you may remember that this was the secret to the success of her Boeuf Bourguignon.
You need to have a hot but not scorching heat source to sear the outside, which seals the juices in, but not so hot that it chars it. I like to start it on high and the reduce the heat to let the center cook more gently. With large cuts I often finish them in the oven which provides a more even temperature, with heating elements on two sides.
And lastly, one of Tom Colicchio’s pet peeves, once the meat comes off the heat you must let it rest. When the meat is on the heat, the juices migrate towards the heat. Letting it rest, covered, gives the juices a chance to redistribute back into the center. If you start to carve the meat and the juices spill out all over your cutting board, you didn’t let the meat rest long enough. You can also tell if it hasn’t been given enough time to rest by looking at it. The area closest to the outer surface will be over cooked and gray while the center will be underdone. If you set it aside for 20 to 30 minutes, the meat will magically turn a perfect rosy hue, the fibers will relax and it will be perfectly cooked.
Today’s recipe makes 4 servings, but if you want to make enough to have leftovers the next day or are serving a larger crowd, you can buy a whole beef tenderloin – also call a filet mignon – and cook it in one piece. It is easier to slice thinly when it is in a large piece that struggling to cut it into slender slices.
I am also including a recipe for the most amazing onions I have ever had. This summer I received a huge box of Vidalia onions from my wonderful friend Wendy Brannen at The Vidalia Onion Committee in Vidalia, Georgia. I had fun trying out all different kinds of recipes, but this is the one that really made me sit up and take notice. And it couldn’t be any easier if we tried – just the kind of recipe I love!
The caramelized onions are absolutely delightful in these sandwiches, but if you like a sweet and tart flavor that I think really accents the beef, try these glazed onions. Vidalias are naturally much sweeter than regular onions and when you add the apricot preserves, they become just like candy. I can eat these by the spoonful. When you combine them with the creamy heat of the horseradish mayonnaise and the richness of the beef, I think this is a sandwich that Zeus himself would order!
You can also serve them open-faced on a sliced baguette, which are wonderful appetizers for your upcoming holiday parties. Lightly toast the baguette slices and top with one or two pieces of onion. Set a thin slice of beef on top of the onions and then drop a small dollop of the horseradish mayonnaise. You can garnish with a fresh cilantro leaf for a spot of bright color.
You can serve a hot roast beef dinner one night and then use the leftovers to make these sandwiches. They are just the thing after a busy day or a long work week. And of course they make fantastic picnic or tailgate treats. Il mange mes amis!
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup prepared white horseradish
- 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, divided
- 3 (1-inch-thick) beef tenderloin steaks
- 3 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 8 oz large shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
- 1 cup beef broth
- 4 large croissants, halved horizontally, lightly toasted , or 8 slices of any artisan bread
- 2 cups arugula
- Mix mayonnaise and horseradish in small bowl to blend.
- Melt 1 tbsp butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle tenderloin steaks with salt and pepper. Add steaks to skillet and cook to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Using tongs, transfer steaks to work surface.
- Melt 3 tbsp butter in same skillet over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until dark brown, about 25 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add broth; boil until juices are reduced to glaze, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute. Season mixture to taste with salt and pepper.
- Place 1 croissant bottom, cut side up, on each of 4 plates. Spread each with horseradish mayonnaise and top with 1/2 cup arugula. Thinly slice steaks and divide among croissants. Top with onion mixture. Spread remaining mayonnaise on cut side of croissant tops. Place tops on sandwiches.
- 2 medium (about 1 lb) Vidalia onions, peeled and halved lengthwise
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 4 tsp apricot preserves
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Pinch ground red pepper
- Cook the Onions: In a 9×9-inch baking pan, place prepared Vidalia onion halves. Drizzle with olive oil, turning to coat and place them cut side down. Bake, uncovered, until onions are tender, about 40 minutes. Depending on the size of your onions, this may take longer. For larger ones I would recommend you quarter them so they will cook faster and more evenly. Using a pair of tongs, transfer to a cutting board. Let sit while you prepare the glaze. Do not clean the baking pan.
- Make the Glaze: Transfer the juices from the baking pan to a small saucepan. Add the vinegar, preserves, salt and red pepper, stirring over low heat until smooth and slightly melted.
- Cut the onions into bite-sized pieces and place back in the baking pan. Pour sauce over them and toss to coat evenly. Place back in the oven and continue cooking for another 10 to 15 minutes.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. These will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week or more.