Ah, "luxury: anything which
pleases the senses, is not necessary for life, and is also costly or difficult
to obtain, an expensive rarity." You know, I think we'd all like to live a life
of luxury at least every now and then. You know, hop to Paris for lunch on your
AB: [looks out the jet's window, to his
pilot off screen] Myles, the sun's in my eyes again! Let's just dine in Tangier
Of course, luxury means
different things to different people especially when it comes to food. For some,
it's Beluga caviar, maybe chocolate is the thing that does it, or maybe lobster
is your ideal. But for me, these are all nice. But they're not filet. Ah, filet,
as in filet mignon, cut from the rarest, tender-est bit of Bos taurus.
This is the tenderloin, kids. Every gram a feast for the senses and utterly
unique in flavor and in texture. Ask anyone who has dined in a top drawer
steakhouse and they will tell you the truth; ounce for ounce, this is about ...
of plane, knocks on door] Hey, who's in
... as good and expensive as food gets.
PILOT: [opens the cabin door from the
outside which is now, obviously, on the ground and climbs aboard]
Of course, the good news is that the filet or
tenderloin can be that rare thing, an affordable luxury.
PILOT: What are you doing in my airplane?
AB: Your airplane? Why ... Oh, you're
right. Mine's got leather, not pleather. Oh well, honest mistake. [laughs
PILOT: Whatever. I'm calling security.
Looks like we won't be eating
out in Paris or Tangier, but that's okay. We don't need them. We've got ...
["Good Eats" theme plays]
[AB walks in, dragging a life-size model cow]
AB: Come on.
AB: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Settle down.
AB: Stay. Good cow.
So, ever wonder why tenderloin
is so gosh-darned expensive? Well, I'll tell you: location, location, location.
You see, the tenderloin is about as far from the hoof and horn as you can get
while still being on the animal. Let's take a look inside, shall we? [hooks a
cable to the middle back portion of the cow]
Here between the sirloin primal and the rib primal lies the
Fort Knox of beefery, the short loin primal.
AB: Take it up, boys. [the middle third of
the cow's back rises up] That's it, take it right up there.
Now here you see the 13th rib,
and above that the two large loin muscles which can be treated either as roasts
or cut into New York strip steaks. If you look beneath these, you'll see these
kind of two meaty baseball bats. Those are the tenderloins. Now they don't
really do much of anything. They just kind of hang around under there. And
because of that, they have a very tender texture and an almost buttery kind of
Now if we leave these intact when we cut steaks from here,
we'll end up cutting Porterhouses from this [tail] end where the tenderloin is
its largest. And then from up here [the shoulder end], we will get T-bone steaks
where the tenderloin is the smallest. Of course, we can simply remove these
intact. And if we want to get our money out of filet, this is how we need to
deal with it. The trick is ... well ... one, you've got to eat every single
molecule, and two, you've got to know where to shop for it.
Costco: Atlanta, GA - 10:25 am
Behold, my friends, the
discount club, a members-only cathedral of consumerism dedicated to the vogue of
volume. Here you may often find whole, vacuum-packed tenderloins, known in the
trade as "pismos" [PSMO, pron: PIZ-mos]. That stands for "Peeled", as in of
extra fat, and "Side Meat On". That refers to a small, yet delicious piece of
meat, called the chain. We'll get into that later. Now, packers call this
[vacuum-packed tenderloin] process "wet aging" because the natural enzymes in
the meat will tenderize it over time. But the flavors created by dry aging
cannot be imitated. No matter. The real wonder of the pismo is shelf life. Kept
sealed and refrigerated, this will keep a month, easy. And to tell you the
truth, I've kept one of these bad boys for up to 18 weeks. And of course,
there's the price. Since they come like this straight from the packer and
require very little in the way of handling, per pound prices are often as much
as a third lower than the cut meat prices over in the case.
Now if you're just looking to fire up a couple of steaks on a
Saturday night, the savings may not show themselves. But, if you are ready and
willing to utilize every morsel of meat in the pismo, then this is a bargain
worthy of the title "Good Eats".
AB: [to his cart full of pismos] Come on,
[opening a bag of tenderloin
in the sink] Although proficient portioning of any piece of meat is going to
take a bit of practice, a pismo is a very, very good place to start because it
contains only a few muscles and no bones whatsoever. Now, do not pass out on me
when you see this piece of meat. This liquid is not blood, okay. It is basically
just protein-saturated water that has oozed out of the meat during its time in
the bag, but it is a little bit slippery. So I'm going to spray this down with
cold water just to clean this up a bit so it'll be easier to handle. There we
go. Now we'll just let this drain for a brief time while we contemplate the
Now, besides a carving knife which I have here, and a boning
knife which I have here, we have a nice big cutting board. And this one I only
use for raw meat which is indicated by this red mark. I've got a couple of
pieces of no-skid shelf liner underneath the board to keep it nice and stable
during surgery. And I have a couple of vessels: one is going to hold my scrap,
one is going to hold the portioned pieces. And of course, I have a nice little
side towel for my cleanliness and comfort. Let's retrieve the experiment, shall
Now there are two sides to this device. This side is where
the vertebrae or chine bones went in. That made these indentations. We actually
want to start work over on this [other] side.
Now I like to work with this facing away from me with the
large end furthest from me so that I can kind of peel everything down to the
narrow end. You should be able to do this mostly with your hands. Just get your
fingers underneath the fat and the membrane that's actually holding it to the
meat and gently peel it away. Now you may need to use your knife in a few places
where the membrane is bound to other kinds of tissue. But by and large, you
should be able to clean this thing off pretty much with just the use of your
fingers. And that's a good thing, because this meat is very easy to cut into
The next thing we've got to remove is the side muscles, also
called the chain. And you can find it by just opening up this seam with your
thumb and fingers and take your knife and just trim from the narrow end, moving
upwards. There. That should come off in one big piece. Now this piece of meat is
almost never seen on any menu. That's because it's considered a prime Scooby
snack. That is, a secret little delicacy that is saved and savored by the cooks
back in the kitchen. We will deal with this at a later date. We definitely do
not want to throw it away.
I'll turn this so you can see a little easier. I'm just going
to shave down this side just a bit. Get some of that fat off. There we go. I see
some nice marbling in that meat. It's the only side of the meat that really has
anything in the way of fat.
Now once the outer fat and chain are removed, we must face
our first true obstacle. It is the insidious barrier known as silver skin. What
exactly is silver skin? Well, give me a few minutes, and I'll attempt to
assemble a cheap, but concise illustrative model.
On average, Americans
consume 235 pounds of meat per person each year.
If you are a fan of this
program, you've probably caught references to connective tissues, specifically a
tissue called collagen; which, in the presence of water and heat, dissolves into
gelatin, the stuff that gives slow-cooked dishes like pot roast and chicken soup
their finger-licking goodness. Now, the truth is is that collagen is usually
woven into physical connective tissue with other types of proteins, some of
which we cooks don't feel so warm and fuzzy about.
For instance, besides collagen which is this blue stuff here,
there is reticulin, the stuff that holds your internal organs together. And
finally, there is elastin: elastin, which absolutely, positively, will never
dissolve during cooking. In fact, when it's cooked, it just loses its famed
elasticity, and draws up into a nasty little wad. If you have ever pulled
anything out of your mouth that felt like meat-based dental floss, that was
elastin. And as you can see, in silver skin there is a lot of elastin, so it has
got to go.
Luckily, the silver skin's toughness can be used to our
advantage. Okay, first thing you want to do is make sure that you have it all
exposed. Now you can see that the silver skin kind of tucks up under this
outside muscle here, so just turn your knife and kind of scrape that away with
the tip of your knife. There, it's more exposed. Okay.
Now, line up the tip of your boning knife so that it is
perpendicular to the grain of the silver skin and then just kind of wiggle
yourself in underneath. There. Now, get your finger inside, pull taught, and
then angle the knife just ever so slightly upward, and then slide. There. Now
when it pops out the other end, reach over, pull it taught, and slide the other
Now what is that [silver skin] good for?
THING: [holds up an unstrung tennis
Actually, tennis rackets used
to strung with elastin harvested from ... Never mind. There might be cat lovers
present. Heh, heh, heh.
Now, back under. We move into the silver skin, and repeat.
Now you may miss a couple of pieces as you go, but you can always go back for
them. It's good practice. There we go. The more you can remove, the better the
final meat is going to be. We're going to trim up just a couple of these little
pieces of fat remaining up on the head, and that is our trimmed pismo.
Of course, deciding how to portion this is kind of tough,
because this is a tenderloin, the most versatile piece of beef on earth. And it
can be cooked by any dry heat method that there is on earth. So how are we going
to cut it?
Well, technically, we don't have to. We could roast the whole
thing whole, or we could make it into smaller roasts, or we could cut it
wafer-thin, and turn it into minute steaks. But you know, I think that what I
would like to cut are what the French call tournedos. Americans usually
say "filet mignon" or "a thick steak". But to do that, this little muscle [on
the side of the tenderloin] has got to go. So I'm going to turn this so that you
can get a good look at this. I'm just going to kind of open up this seam with my
fingers, and we'll cut away this muscle. Now a lot of times in restaurants,
you'll get steaks where this is intact, and that's not really good, because
there's a good bit of gristly stuff in between these that you would end up
eating. And that's bad. [cuts it off] There. Now this is going to make a very,
very nice little roast, roast petit. We'll deal with that later.
Time to portion. This will require a good slicing knife. Now
my favorite is about 12 inches long. [It] has a very, very gentle arc to the
blade. It's got a rounded end; no need for a point on this kind of knife. And it
also has these little indentations, or cullings, down the side of the blade
which reduce friction allowing the knife to slide gracefully through the meat
with a minimum of pulling or tearing. I use this any time I'm breaking down a
really big critter. I also use it for carving roasts and what-not. It's
excellent for that. Oh, I like this kind of blade, also referred to as a granton
[pron: gruh-TON], or granton [pron: GRAN-ton] blade. I like it on slicers. But a
lot of manufacturers are starting to put them on chef's knives these days,
which, I have to confess, makes no sense to me whatsoever.
Now we'll just take off this little tip area here. That's not
a very good piece of meat, but we're not going to throw it away. We'll put it
with the chain, which we will deal with later.
Now even cooking is imperative, and even cooking is related
to even thicknesses. So before I start cutting up these good steaks, I'm going
to break out my ruler. I've got a nice stainless steel ruler. And I'm going to
lay that out, lining it up with the end of the board. There. So I can see
exactly how thick these are going to be.
I'm aiming for an inch-and-a half thick steak. But actually
my first steak, because it's from the smaller end, I'm going to cut to three
inches, okay? Because I'm actually going to butterfly it, so I'm going to double
it. So, I'm going to line up my knife here. I want to cut through just in one
direction, remember, so put the knife here, and draw through. There. To
butterfly this, find the kind of center mass, and cut almost all the way through
leaving just a little meat connected on the other side. Then you can fold it
open. That's the butterfly-ing part. Give it a little mash-down, and you've got
yourself a steak.
Now I just move my ruler down, line it up an inch and a half
lower, and the same cut straight through. There's two. Put a finger over, just
to catch that, and through. Beautiful, mouth-watering steaks. Of course, the
possibilities are still endless.
Stash your beefy treasure in the lower part of your
refrigerator, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap.
AB: [to the steaks] I'll be back. [air
kisses the meat good-bye]
Beef Wellington is named
for Arthur Wellesley,
Duke Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.
Although the contributions of
the French to cuisine are many, in my opinion nothing rivals the sauté dish
known far and wide as steak au poivre. Not only does this dish taste
great, it is a fine example of two basic skills: sautéing meat, and assembling a
pan sauce. I also like the dish personally because it features plenty of
poivre, pepper, that is.
[AB is reading a rather
large and thick book,
Although most Americans have finally replaced their Piper
nigrum shakers with grinders, we rarely grant this wee berry lead-flavor
status. After all, with its potent payload of oleoresin pyridine, this stuff can
blow your palate, not to mention your sinuses, clean off, right? Well, maybe
Anyway, we are going to need 2
tablespoons of black peppercorns for this dish, and we don't want them milled
fine. You want to just crack them. So unless your peppermill has a very, very
coarse setting, you're going to want to get Medieval on them.
places the peppercorns in a pie pan, places a cloth over the top and
bangs them with a wooden mallet]
2 Tbs. Black Peppercorns
[he sprinkles the salt over the steaks] Obviously, I like Kosher salt
for this, but you could use coarse sea salt. I wouldn't recommend plain old
A Pinch of Kosher Salt
As far as putting on the peppercorns goes, just set it on, and kind of mash down
lightly. You don't want to squish the meat, but you do want good adhesion.
Place a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat and don't even
think about using non-stick. Repeat after me: "You can't build a pan sauce on a
non-stick surface." Thank you. After considerable testing, I have come to
believe that, when it comes to pan sauces, the best pans for the job are those
composed of 18/10 stainless steel. What's that mean? Glad you asked.
Pan Factory (Animation)
The types and amounts of ingredients you use in steel—iron, carbon,
molybdenum, chromium, manganese, etc.—greatly determine the type of
steel you end up with.
Culinary stainless is usually rated as 18/8 or 18/10 stainless.
The first number refers to the amount of chromium in the recipe, and the
last number the nickel. Nickel provides shine and hardness, while
chromium provides corrosion resistance.
It does this by
mixing with oxygen in the air and creating a very thin, invisible layer of oxide
right on the surface. This barely molecule-thick envelope of gas protects the
pan from rusting and some folks, myself included, believe that this layer of
oxide may actually assist browning as do the micro-fissures present on the
surface of the seal itself.
Now strictly speaking, a
sauté is a dish that is executed in a very hot pan with a very small amount of
fat. And usually, that fat is added at the very last moment. However, I was
using regular butter and I wanted it to melt gently, not pop all over the place.
So, I put a tablespoon of butter in and let it melt as the pan heated up. And I
also added a teaspoon of olive oil—not extra virgin, just regular olive oil—to
help kind of boost the smoke point of the butter, so it wouldn't burn quite as
So we start to see that the fat is starting to color. And
when I get just a couple of wisps of smoke coming up off of the pan ... there
... I know we are ready for the meat to go in.
Now these steaks are at room temperature: very, very
important if you're going to have even cooking. If you refrigerate them
beforehand, before cooking, then you want to get them out on the counter a half
hour or so before they are supposed to go into the pan.
Now, how long should you cook them? Well of course, time and
temperature are relative. In my kitchen, on my cook top, with room temperature
steaks cut an inch and a half thick, medium-high heat, we're talking about four
minutes per side for medium rare. And your time and temperatures will vary, but
four minutes is a good place to start.
When it's time to flip your steaks, always roll them away
from you, because hot butter can hurt. And make sure that you leave a good bit
of space in between the steaks. Cook them for another four minutes.
Peppercorns were often
used as currency in the Middle Ages.
Now that the steaks are done
and are resting comfortably on a warm plate cunningly positioned over on of my
favorite multi-taskers, a heating pad, the real magic may begin.
Allow Steaks To Rest, Covered With Foil
First, we will
pour out any accumulated fat that we have here. There. Now, contemplate your
fond. This is the seed from which our mighty pan sauce will grow. Of course, to
get all those solids off the bottom of the pan, we will need a deglazing liquid.
Well, let's see. Soy sauce: too salty. Wine: eh, too thin.
Vinegar: all too acidic. Stock or broth: nice, but too watery. Of course, brandy
would be nice, especially if it is the brandy known as "cognac", from the region
of the same name in France. Now cognac is always a blended brandy. And it comes
in grades, from VS, or "Very Special", to VSOP, or "Very Superior Old Pale", to
the rare and expensive "Napoleon", which we wouldn't waste here. The regular old
VS will do just fine for this very special sauce. [looks at the cognac label] Huh,
"Bob's". Only the best.
Tenderloin once referred
to urban areas where cops
on the take could afford tenderloin instead of chuck.
[AB holds a snifter of cognac] In order for this third of a cup of cognac ... Like the glass? ... to do
its magic, this pan is going to have to be hot. So, I'm going to move this back
over high heat.
1/3 Cup Cognac
Now any time that I deglaze with a relatively high-proof beverage, I
always go through this checklist. I have a lid for putting out a small pan fire.
I have a fire extinguisher for putting out, well, the thing that I hope never
happens. I have a fire stick. And I turn the heat off. I add the alcohol, and
flame on. [lights the vapor with his fire stick] Wow, it's like a KISS concert, only you
don't bust your eardrums out. Now obviously, cognac itself is not flammable. But
when it boils, the alcohol in it aerosolizes, and of course, that is very
flammable. So I'm going to get those flames out of the way before I return this
to medium heat and get to scraping that fond. And for that, we'll use either a
wooden spoon or spatula or a metal whisk will do just fine.
I can see the fond has dissolved turning the remaining
liquid into a very dark brown and rather harsh elixir. An elixir which is, I
don't know, kind of like a car engine in search of a body. A body which will be
best-provided by cream: heavy cream, meaning cream containing between 36 and 40
percent butterfat. I can't think of any substance that can both frame and soften
pepper's bite or deliver such a velvety mouth feel. Not even velvet itself.
Now, just stir that in and bring it to a boil over
medium-high heat. And in anywhere from five to eight minutes, you're going to
have a mighty nice sauce on your hands.
1 Cup Heavy Cream
For the last couple of minutes
of cooking, you'll probably want to turn the heat all the way down to low so
that it doesn't bubble right out of the pan. Now I'm going to check this for
texture. Good. We'll check for seasoning. Mmm. Excellent. But I do think it
could just another little fresh hit of cognac. So I'll just add, hey, half a
teaspoon to a teaspoon. Stir that in. Then we will return the steaks to the
sauce. Toss to coat and we serve.
1/2 - 1 tsp. Cognac
Now that, my friends, is luxury. Well I hope that we've
inspired you to take a tenderloin home and grab a sauté pan and try your hand at
steak au poivre. And remember, you don't have to be rich to taste rich.
See you next time on "Good Eats".
[the camera floats over to the refrigerator door, zooms
through it and stops on the tenderloin container AB put in there