Sous Vide Beef Tenderloin: Revisited

Posted by johngl

It’s always difficult when great friends move away and this one is no exception. And, since I haven’t done a beef tenderloin for a long while, it seemed a proper way to contribute to their send-off.

Before I get all sniffly regarding their departure, let’s get to it.
Seared TenderloinNaturally, this looks like your basic grilled psoas major, that main muscle of the whole tenderloin that begets fillet mignon. Sadly, it doesn’t start out looking this pretty and one misses out on all that fun associated with raising, transporting, killing, butchering, packaging, more transporting, and selling to the public. We’ll pick it after the latter.
Liberated from packagingFreshly liberated from packaging, this 5.8 lbs of beef is covered in fat and silver skin, and is generally pretty damn ugly. It gets worse.Spread it out, man!I haven’t touched it with that knife yet.

Besides the main muscle, that psoas major thing I mentioned earlier, we can see the chain (psoas minor) and wing (iliacus). With a little vigorous finger and thumb action, one can begin to break things apart without touching a blade.
Pulled apartLike so.

Looking like some horribly deformed creature from the deep, we can clearly see the individual meat parts. I treat each one differently — after I cut them apart and tidy them up a bit.Component Parts Just follow the natural muscle lines to cut them apart.

I nearly spaced mentioning the removal of the silver skin that covers about a quarter of the psoras major. Just slip the knife under and through it, tilt up the blade toward the skin, and slide the knife down the muscle. It comes off in nice strips (most of the time).
Removing silver skinYou’ll need to do this to the wing, too.

The chain…hmmm. How do I best describe this. It is such a tangled mess of sinew and meat…stringy…you just have to kinda scrape the meat off the connective tissues. It is, by far, the messiest part of this effort, but the yield is (mostly) worth it.Separated Chain meat and SinewThis is what you wind up with: slightly more sinewy bits than beef. The meat part is perfect for some beef tartare. Tartare! It looks like a hamburger with less fat.

All the sinewy and fatty bits do not get wasted!
Browned for stock!Put this stuff in a pan and sear it off! It makes a great stock base for the sauce. More on that later.

I seasoned that burger with some salt, bagged it, and gave it a sous vide bath at 131°F for 1.5 hours to pasteurize. Some might argue that this is no longer tartare, but I don’t really care.

Back to the other muscles!
Ready for a dry downThis is after a couple of days of dry aging (34°F). I salt the meat prior to placing it — uncovered — into my second fridge. You know, that one that holds all the beer, champagne, and white wine.
Day three dry agedHere it is after three days. It gets a leather-like look to it and is completely dry to the touch (a pellicle forms). While some might argue that three days isn’t much of a “dry age” (it isn’t), it’s enough to get rid of a lot of that watery drainage that doesn’t do anyone much good.

Let it go longer and it comes out like this:
All furryYou know, it gets all furry and looks like a cat.

Kidding aside, I’ve been dry aging beef between 3 and 42 days for decades now. I’ve never had an issue with mold or fur growing on it. If you want to make it more complicated by adding a wrap of cheesecloth or “humidfying” your fridge, have at it. It’s your meat, play with it as you like.

By salting the meat prior to aging (such that it is) the time allows the salt to penetrate far more deeply into the muscle.

Turning our attention to the wing for a minute…Carpaccio!This too was sous vide at 131°F. About 2.5 hours, again, just to pasteurize. Once chilled in an ice bath, I popped this little devil into the freezer for about an hour and a half. This makes slicing way easier. I also switched over to using a sushi knife for cutting.Carpiccio, pre-poundingLaying the thin slices upon a sheet of plastic and folding plastic over top, I then pounded the meat to nice and thin five-leafed flowers. Leaving them encased in their plastic coats, I placed them back into the freezer to ready them for serving.
CarpaccioTo serve, just peel the plastic off the frozen meat, add seasonings, greens, parm, and dressing. This particular dressing was a blackberry-ginger balsamic vinaigrette. Simple and tasty, this is a favorite of mine.

The tartare was seared and topped with a poached egg (sous vide at 143°F for an hour). The picture is terrible.
tartareWould I lie to you? Luckily the taste was better than what the photo might indicate.

Back to that seared meat with which I began this diatribe.

After that three-day salt-assisted dry-age, I bagged it and dropped it in a 131°F bath for 5.5 hours (again, to pasteurize). Ice-bathed and refrigerated, it was ready to travel.Bagged and taggedOn site, I debagged this sous vide dry-aged baby and got ready to sear it off. Well, I thought that was what was going to happen.
Blowing smokeThere’s a story here.

Earlier in the day, the closed BGE was shooting flames out of the chimney. I, rather stupidly, moved to lift the top. Burping the Egg, I continued to lift and was immediately engulfed in searing hot flames. My left hand suffered some minor burns and my left arm was devoid of hair, but other than that, I (and my beard) somehow survived the conflagration. As a result, I shut down the airflow through the egg. Completely.

Jump forward about an hour or so to the time we were going to sear off the tenderloin. Yep, the coals were out. Completely and most sincerely out. Hence the use of the leaf blower to jump-start the charcoal.Meat and SproutsThe tenderloin was doused in what I will call a portolaise sauce. Made with beef stock derived from browned sinewy/fatty bits, this portolaise is essentially a bordelaise made with a 20 year old ruby port instead of a Bordeaux. On the left is a deliciously savory dish of broiled Brussels Sprouts.Potatoes and rollsAnother side included scalloped sweet potatoes with Gruyere cheese. Who knew? I’ve never heard of such a thing. They were quite tasty! On the right, made from scratch dinner rolls.

It was great seeing you all and I shall miss you greatly (sniffle sniffle).

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About johngl

A bit of a wildman, John hails from the Midwest: A land of corn, cows, pigs, and a host of other healthfully meaty pursuits. Born on a dark and stormy night in late Fall, John grew up as the son of a meat cutter. There was always plenty of meat at hand. While not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, his family certainly ate well. According to his father, that was the whole point.

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