Wednesday, January 02, 2008


...for tomorrow, we Diet. And that is exactly what will be necessary after the Holiday Excesses we have enjoyed in the closing hours of 2007. Shall I tell you all about it? Why the hell not?

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I have, more and more, become New Year’s Eve homebodies these past few years. Rather than deal with the usual assortment of Road-Morons, we’ll prepare a feast at home to share with friends and - if we are so fortunate as to have them in town - family.

This year, we had a modest gathering, Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm having remained in their respective hometowns. Eight of us sat down to table, and as we digested our New Year’s Eve meal, two more couples joined us to watch the ball drop and to toast the incoming year.

What did we eat? you may ask. And I will answer.

Tenderloin and Friends
Beef Tenderloin, flanked by Parsnip-Pear Purée, Horseradish Sauce, Fart Balls Brussels sprouts, and Tennessee ’Taters.

Nothing says “Festive!” like a whole tenderloin of beef. We picked up a goodly-sized tenderloin at Costco, my favorite place to buy Serious Protein. By way of preparation, I used a razor-sharp boning knife to remove the fat and silverskin, and then trussed Mr. Meat up into a more-or-less cylindrical shape with butcher’s twine.

Beef Tenderloin
Beef tenderloin, ready for the oven.

I decided to use a trick I had learned from Houston Steve, coating the meat with a dry rub consisting of dried chanterelle mushrooms (reduced to a powder in the food processor), kosher salt, and black pepper. As the meat roasts, its juices combine with the dried mushrooms to produce an intensely flavored crust. To get a good sear on the meat, I started it off in a 500°F oven, then dropped the oven temp to 350°F and cooked that bad boy until the interior hit 135°F. Hooray for the electronic temperature probe!

A buttery slice of Roast Beef practically cries out for a good horseradish sauce. I used an old Silver Palate recipe that combines white horseradish, mayo, Dijon and coarse-grained mustards, cayenne, tarragon cider vinegar, chopped red onion, and grated Granny Smith apple.

But when it comes to a fine cut of beef, you can’t beat the Classics...and so I also worked up a Madeira Sauce in the French tradition. It’s a simple process (hah!), requiring only about 10-12 hours of cooking time. All you do is:
  • Roast 5-8 lbs of beef bones until nice and brown.

  • Stick the roasted bones in a stock pot and cover with about 6 quarts of water. Add a bay leaf or two, 10-20 whole peppercorns, a couple of sliced, peeled garlic cloves, and ten parsley stems. Bring up to a boil, then drop it down to a gentle simmer for five hours. Skim occasionally.

  • Cut a couple of carrots and celery ribs into chunks. Peel a yellow onion and cut into inch-thick chunks. Roast until nicely caramelized, then add four ounces (2/3 can) of tomato paste, and roast until the tomato paste begins to caramelize. Add all this to the simmering bones after about three hours. Deglaze the roasting pan with a little water and add to the stock pot, too.

  • Remove from heat, strain out the solids, and chill. Use an ice bath to chill the pot quickly before putting in the fridge overnight. The next morning, scrape off the layer of congealed beef grease from the top of the stock. Set aside.

  • Make a medium-brown roux with about 4 ounces of all-purpose flour and ~2 ounces of vegetable oil. Reserve.

  • Chop up another yellow onion, a couple of carrots and a couple of celery ribs into chunks. Put the onion into a Dutch oven or large saucepan with a tablespoon or so of hot vegetable oil and brown over medium-high heat, then add the carrots and celery. When the vegetables are nicely caramelized, add in the remaining 2 ounces (1/3 can) tomato paste. Let this caramelize in the pan, then add the roux and heat well.

  • Add in about half of the stock (about 2 quarts). Mix well, making sure that you work out any lumps. Add a bay leaf, 10 whole peppercorns, a couple of sliced, peeled garlic cloves, and ten parsley stems. Bring up to a simmer. Let the Sauce Espagnole (that’s what this stuff is) simmer for 2-3 hours, skimming the surface periodically. Strain and reserve.

  • Now you’re ready to make a Demi-Glace. Take equal amounts of Sauce Espagnole and beef stock. Put the stock in a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and reduce by one-third.

  • Add the Sauce Espagnole to the reduced stock and bring up to a simmer with the pot off-center on the flame. Cook it down until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon. Strain.

  • Take a cup of dry Madeira, add a sliced shallot, a sprig of fresh thyme, and a few cracked peppercorns. Simmer until reduced to about two ounces. Strain and add to a pint of the demi-glace. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve, adding more Madeira to taste.

  • Just before serving, stir in a tablespoon of softened butter, if desired.
Or, you could dispense with all this bullshit and just open a can of Franco-American beef gravy...but it wouldn’t be the same.

Makings for Sauce Espagnole
Makings for Sauce Espagnole.

As if all this were not enough, we also had a fine green salad and a Parsnip-Pear Purée that Laura Belle prepared, a pile of Tennessee ’Taters that I fixed according to Eric’s method, roasted asparagus spears, and sautéed fart balls Brussels sprouts. Plenty of goodies by way of Appetizers, too: meat balls in the Famous Heinz Chili Sauce / Grape Jelly Goo; a serious Cheese Platter; bleu cheese-stuffed olives, eggplant caponata, and more.

Honk if you love Cheeses. Clockwise from upper left: Green Hill from Sweet Grass Dairy, aged Gouda, Camembert, Appleby English Cheddar.

Two bottles of chilled Voovy Clickit awaited their fate, but as it happens, our friends brought several bottles of bubbly as well. We enjoyed, in lieu of the Widow Clicquot’s Orange Label, a fine 2001 Domaine Carneros “Le Rêve” and a Moët and Chandon White Star NV...both fine sparklers with which to greet a new year. JoAnn’s chocolate-covered strawberries were a perfect counterpoint.

Voovy Clickit
Voovy Clickit.

Oh, and did I mention Margaritas? Laura Belle brought her new Margarita machine, which proved to be a huge success, delivering tasty frozen Margaritas unto the thirsty masses. Except for me. I had a brace of Pomegranate Pile Drivers instead, “the Drink that Gets You Loaded and Unloaded at the Same Time.”

Good food. Good friends. Good conversation. Demented antics with the Wii machine. All in all, an excellent way to kick 2007 to the curb and welcome Civil Year 2008.

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