From the Kitchen – port peppercorn sauce and a petit beef tenderloin filet

steakAlthough we’ve wandered a bit off of the South Beach diet lately, we are doing pretty well in keeping any new weight from being added back on.   It does help us to weigh ourselves every day, just to keep an eye on things.  We also got back some lab reports and everything is better, including cholesterol (your mileage may vary).

One of the things we started when losing weight is buying a whole beef tenderloin, doing a little butchering ourselves, and keeping easy to cook filets in the freezer. I did a stint in the meat department of a fancy grocery store and gained the skill of being able to take apart a tenderloin e.g. removing the silverskin, and knowing how the multiple muscles run to get the best result (I also became a good hand at discombobulating a whole chicken. Get a set of kitchen scissors, but a sharp knife also works fine). Out of a whole tenderloin, I generally get around a pound of inedible scraps, a pound or two of scraps I can use in stirfry or stroganoff, and, depending on the size of the tenderloin, 10-13 nice filets.

The steaks were simply cooked at high heat in butter. I do like mine “Pittsburgh style”, very brown on the outside and damn near raw otherwise.   We often use cast iron but a heavy non-stick frying pan also works if you pay attention.

The side was a baked potato, done a la the Joy of Cooking method (slick potatoes with oil or butter, then 40O F for 20-30 minutes, then pierce and put in for another 20-30 minutes). We didn’t have sour cream but we did have a nice purchased tzatziki from Cedar’s (a little more dill in it than I generally put in my own but not bad at all).

The sauce is something I’ve been wanting to try for years. When I was in college, I went to a nice restaurant in the Shadyside area of Pittsburgh called Pasta Piatto (or at least I think that was the name). They had this steak absolutely crusted with coarsely crushed black peppercorns with this fabulous slightly sweet red wine sauce on it. I spent an entire month’s allowance (for extra things I might need at college) on this. I also learned that one should make sure that one’s hosts are indeed going to pay for your dinner rather than assuming it.

There are quite a number of versions of this on the internet. This is my take on it:

Port and black pepper sauce

1 ½ cup of beef stock (I used Better than Bouillon. Incidentally, their sipping broth recipes are great for hangovers)

1 cup port + 2 tablespoons (I used Taylor’s ruby port. It’s a brand from the Finger Lakes area of New York state. I would not use anything like a port from Portugal or something long aged in this. Put that in your glass.)

½ cup of old vine zinfandel (I used Bota Box)

1 tsp sugar

3 tablespoons of minced onion (most recipies will call for a shallot. I can’t tell the difference inn flavor)

3 tablespoons of butter, total.

A pinch of rosemary leaves, either lightly broken in your hand if dry or run a knife a couple of times through if fresh. (it’s strong so don’t use much)

2-3 tablespoons of coarsely crushed black peppercorns (I used the Tellicherry ones from Penzey’s)

Melt 2 tbsp of butter and cook onions and rosemary until the onions are starting to turn transparent. Add beef stock, 1 cup of port, sugar, zinfandel, and two-thirds of the peppercorns. Bring to boil and turn down to simmer. You want this to get to the thickness of at least heavy cream, so it’ll take a while. I kept an eye on it by setting my timer to 10 minutes increments until it got close. When it gets to the thickness recommended, add in the last third of the peppercorns, the last two tablespoons of port, allow a few minute to drive off the alcohol.  Finish off with the last tablespoon of butter mixed into the sauce off the heat. Spoon over steak.

I am *very* fond of black pepper and port, so the addition of the fresh at the end of the cooking process amps up the flavors for me.

As you’ll note above, we’ve branched into more expensive boxed wine. The Bota Box old vine zinfandel is a nice wine, more acidic than a cab or merlot, and that’s why I added a bit to the sauce to brighten it. We also have recently tried the pinot noir from Vin Vault and that was also good too. My palate isn’t terribly refined, and I like what I like. We do keep on trying some French wines but they always seem so thin to us. Perhaps someone can recommend something we can try.

That’s all. Eat and drink well!

PS Just got a couple of boxes of Thai ingredients so be on the lookout for recipes from southeast Asia in the future.  That’s my new winter project.

And a word to any new readers.  My posts are often my opinions about politics and religion. I’m an atheist and pragmatic progressive.  If you choose to subscribe and don’t want to read those, avoid anything titled “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation”.  You’ve been warned.  You can also check out my little cookbook here.

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