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Tender Is The Loin I

OmahaSteaks.com, Inc.

SCENE 1
Private Jet

GUEST: Pilot

    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 private plane.

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 instead, okay?

    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 ...

PILOT: [outside of plane, knocks on door] Hey, who's in there?

... 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 nervously]

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]

SCENE 2
The Farm

GUEST: Cow

[AB walks in, dragging a life-size model cow]

AB: Come on.

COW: Moo.

AB: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Settle down.

COW: Moo.

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 flavor.
    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.

SCENE 3
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, kids!

SCENE 4
The Kitchen

    [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 operating theatre.
    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 we?
    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 accidentally.
    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.

SCENE 5
The Kitchen

GUEST: Thing

    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 way.
    Now what is that [silver skin] good for?

THING: [holds up an unstrung tennis racket]

    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.

SCENE 6
The Kitchen

    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,
"Major
Culinary Contribution
of the
French"]

    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 not.
    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.

    [AB 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 table salt. 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.

SCENE 7
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.

Iron
Carbon
Molybdenum
Chromium
Manganese

    Culinary stainless is usually rated as 18/8 or 18/10 stainless.

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.

24

Cr

51.9961

28

Ni

58.6934

    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.

SCENE 8
The Kitchen

    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 easily.
    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. Let's shop.
    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.

SCENE 9
The Kitchen

    [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 previously]

The End?


Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010