17 May 2009

Where's the beef?

I'm nothing if not a hypocrite.  Not two posts after extolling the virtues of doing fabulous things to cheap cuts of meat, I'm cooking a beef tenderloin on the grill.  I love the flavor that smoke imparts on a piece of meat.  It's really something that you can't imitate in any other way.  But as a beginner, it may seem like a huge commitment to spend 10 hours smoking a brisket.  Will it turn out?  How do you keep the fire under control?  Will it turn out like shoe leather?  Or will you end up with a perfectly done brisket, falling apart with a gentle touch, slightly spicy, moist and smoky?

Easier to start with a cut of meat that's more forgiving, and that's less of a time commitment.  You really have to screw up pretty badly to make a bad tenderloin.  The better the cut of meat, the harder it is to screw up.

The recipe for this tenderloin is modified from the Simply Elegant Beef Tenderloin in my BBQ bible Smoke & Spice by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.  It's a fantastic book, and if you're only interested in owning one book for doing BBQ, this is the one.  Alright, the ingredient list:
1 head garlic
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 lb beef tenderloin
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
beef stock
Start by soaking a few pieces of hickory wood in a bowl of water.  Next, crush the head of garlic into individual cloves and toast them in a medium-hot dry pan until they turn brown and smell good.  Pull them out of the pan, cut one end off the clove and squeeze the garlic out of the clove into a bowl.  Mash the cloves up with a fork into a disgusting, yummy smelling mess with the salt.  Dry off the tenderloin with a paper towel, then rub that yummy garlicky-salty mess all over your beef tenderloin.  Massage it in there.

Next, take the black and white peppercorns and grind them into a coarse mess of peppery goodness.  This, you will also massage into into the meat.

When you're done, fire up the grill by whatever your favorite method is, get the grill to a decent 200°F.  When the grill is close to ready, heat the oil in a pan and brown the meat in the hot pan on all sides.

You'll want to eat it now.  Don't.  It's not ready.  It'll be better when you're done. 

Put it on the grill.  You want the fire to be on one side of the grill and the meat on the other side so that the meat never sees direct heat again for the rest of the cook.  Now here's the only tricky part.  Keep the fire going enough to keep the temperature around 200°F.  But don't open the lid too much, cause you'll let the heat out.  But you have to add charcoal to keep the fire up.  But don't open the lid.  Well, you get the picture.  Those few times you open the grill to add some charcoal, toss in a couple of the wet hickory chunks on the fire and slather the beef with a bit of beef stock.  Best to make good use of the times you open it.  After an hour and a half or so, check the internal temperature of the meat, and pull the meat off when it's 140-145°F for medium-rare.  It'll look something like this:

DON'T EAT IT YET!  If you cut into it now, the juices will run all over and make a disgusting mess on your cutting board.  Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.  

We served it with white rice and steamed broccoli and a nice shiraz.  Nothing fancy.  The flavor of this beef tenderloin was really nice.  Peppery, smokey with just a touch of garlic.  Even the pink parts had absorbed some of the smoke flavor, and the peppery rub on the outside comes off as you carve it, spreading it into the rest of the meat.  Delicious!  

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