Chateaubriand Recipe For Two
Chateaubriand. The name is synonymous with luxury and haute cuisine. But, what is Chateaubriand, exactly? Contrary to popular belief Chateaubriand is not a cut of meat. Rather, it is a method of preparation, or a recipe. Apocryphally, the dish, like so many other famous dishes – Quiche Lorraine, Pavlova, Peach Melba, Crepes Suzette, was named in honor of the vicomte Francois-Ren de Chateaubriand, a politician, ambassador and the founder of Romanticism in French literature.
Chateaubriand is traditionally made from a thick center cut of beef tenderloin. The cut weighs about 12 oz, and it is generally intended to serve two. This makes it a perfect, albeit expensive, meal to share at an intimate New Year’s dinner for two. Originally, the two ends of the tenderloin were cut off the main portion and roasted in the oven along with the Chateaubriand, to protect the thicker cut from burning. The two end pieces would burn and were discarded, leaving the Chateaubriand a perfectly medium-rare. And people wonder why the peasants revolted!
As with most recipes, there are many variations on Chateaubriand preparation. When I think of Chateaubriand, I think of a lovely, thick piece of tenderloin roasted to a perfect medium rare and served with a demi-glace enriched wine sauce. You can certainly vary this to suit your taste.
When you go to your butcher, you most likely will not be able to find a Chateaubriand roast waiting for you in the display case. You will have to ask to have one cut for you. You can consider purchasing a whole, vacuum-packed tenderloin, but this is quite the investment. Tell your butcher that you want to serve Chateaubriand, and ask for a large, 1-pound thick steak (or small roast) cut from the center of the tenderloin. For your ease of preparation at home, ask him to remove the chain meat and the silver skin from the roast.
For those of you who are do-it-yourselves types, you can purchase the roast untrimmed and trim it yourself. If you have a sharp knife, the silver skin is fairly easy to remove, as is the attached chain meat. You can save the chain meat for making Beef Stroganoff or a stir-fry. You might even grind it up in a food processor and make a tasty hamburger.
1 thick, center cut tenderloin steak, approximately 1 pound
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 shallot, minced
4 oz. full-bodied red wine
4 oz. demi glace
1-tablespoon butter, softened
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon
Whole tarragon leaves, for garnish
How To Prepare At Home
Preheat your oven to 375º F.
Liberally sprinkle salt and pepper on the steak.
Preheat an oven-safe heavy skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Depending on your stove, this could take 4 or 5 minutes. I set a timer to make sure I'm not rushing.
Add the butter and oil to the pan. When the butter stops foaming, sear the meat on all sides until well browned. Place the meat in the hot pan, and do not move it for at least 2 minutes. With tongs, turn the meat and continue searing. If the meat sticks to the pan, leave it for another few seconds. When the sear is complete, the meat will release on its own, so be gentle and patient. Keep an eye on the heat, you may need to adjust it up or down to maintain a good "sizzle ' without burning the meat.
Remove the meat from the pan, and place an oven-safe rack in the cooking pan. Put the meat on the rack and roast in the oven until the meat has reached an internal temperature of 125º F. Use a probe thermometer so you don't have to keep opening the oven. Alternately, check the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer after ten or twelve minutes. Remove from the oven. Put the meat on a warmed platter to rest for about 15 minutes. The temperature will continue to rise, and your meat will be a perfect medium rare.
While the meat is resting, prepare the sauce. You should have plenty of oil/butter left in the cooking pan. Place the pan over medium heat - careful, it has been in the oven. Make sure you have an oven mitt, because the handle can burn you. Add the minced shallot and saute until translucent, but not browned.
Add the red wine. Turn the heat up to medium high and reduce by half. Add the demi-glace to the pan and reduce for a couple of minutes until the mixture is somewhat syrupy. Taste for seasonings, and add salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in the minced tarragon and remove from the heat. Swirl in the softened butter right before serving. This will help to further thicken the sauce and impart a lovely sheen.
For a classic presentation, slice your Chateaubriand in half diagonally and serve on warmed plates with the sauce spooned over. Garnish with some fresh tarragon leaves. The traditional accompaniment to Chateaubriand is Chateau potatoes, but you may serve it with any side dishes you like. Steamed or sauteed vegetables make a light and colorful foil to the rich main dish.
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