Feeding a crowd on a day with lots of anticipation and expectations can be a seriously stressful day for any host. When trying to figure out the Christmas dinner menu at my table I tried to keep this in mind. Visions of me standing over a pot stirring, while my guests leisurely sipped champagne and ate canapes swirled in my head. Along with the mathematical feat of using only one oven and timing multiple dishes. My mother (partner in Christmas crime) and I started discussing this meal no later than the week after Thanksgiving. Sounds crazy, but for two women that love to cook and were excited to cook together, it was a joy. We came up with this lovely, easy and delicious dinner that I will absolutely be repeating. The meat was delicious, the sides so great, and this sauce is a knockout. I had some help from my guests with an appetizer and salad and dessert was made the day before. This Christmas I spent some time in the kitchen, but even more time with my guests enjoying the champagne with them.
Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Shallots, Bacon and Port
Adapted from: Bon Appetit December 1997
1 1/2 pounds large shallots (about 24) halved lengthwise, peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
6 cups beef stock
1 1/2 cups tawny Port
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2- 3 to 3 1/4 pound beef tenderloins (large ends), trimmed (ask your butcher to do this for you)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
7 good bacon slices, chopped (If it is not the thick stuff, use more)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Toss shallots with oil, salt and pepper and place on baking sheet. Roast until shallots are deep brown (but not burned) and very tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
Boil stock and port in large saucepan until reduced to 3 3/4 cups, about 30 minutes (this took longer for us). Whisk in tomato paste. (Shallots and stock mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately, chill)
Pat beef dry; sprinkle with thyme salt and pepper (be generous, I used more than listed). In large roasting pan set over medium heat, saute bacon until golden, about 4 minutes. using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels. Add beef to pan; brown on all side over medium high heat, about 7 minutes. Transfer pan to oven; roast beef until meat thermometer inserted into center registers 125 degrees for medium rare, about 45 minutes. Transfer beef to platter. Tent loosely with foil. (If you would like to some meat that is more cooked than others for your guests, simply but one roast in first, then add the one after a bit. I put one in 15 minutes before the other so I had some medium and medium well pieces)
Spoon fat off top of pan drippings in roasting pan. Place roasting pan over high heat. Add stock mixture and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits. Transfer to medium saucepan; bring to a simmer. Mix 3 tablespoons butter and flour in small bowl to form a paste; whisk into broth mixture and simmer until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Whisk in 3 tablespoons butter; Stir in roasted shallots and reserved bacon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut beef into 1/2 inch slices. Spoon sauce over or use a gravy boat for the table to serve.
(For timing of our meal, after we finished the sauce and the meat was resting, we had our salad course. When done with that course, we sliced the meat and placed everything on platters/serving bowls to serve at the table)
Sauteed Green Beans and Cherry Tomatoes
4 servings (I doubled for 9 and it was all eaten)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 lb thin french green beans, trimmed
1/2 cup of water
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Heat one teaspoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add green beans and saute until beginning to sear in spots, 2 to 3 minutes. Add water, cover, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes for tender-crisp. Push beans to the side, add remaining 1 teaspoon of oil and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, stir everything together and cook until tomatoes begin to break down, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. (Timing wise, I finished this before we sat down and kept it warm in the oven)
Roasted Truffle Fingerling Potatoes
2 lbs rinsed fingerling potatoes (also called Russian banana)
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
3 oz. truffle butter (look in your market by the butter, specialty food stores carry it now and Whole Foods)
Optional herb: chive or parsley
Toss potatoes with oil, salt and pepper to coat and spread into a single layer on baking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes until fork tender. Place hot potatoes in serving bowl and toss with truffle butter just before serving. Toss with a handful of chopped herbs of your choice or none at all.
(timing wise I had these finishing to roast in the oven and then tossed with butter in serving dish after the salad course)
This was my longest post to date, but I hope that this meal finds itself on your table in 2010. A quick tip to cooking any meal for company is to work your way back from the time you want to eat. Example for what I did is: Eat at 5:45, means at 5:15 I need to be making the sauce, beans and the potatoes should be in the oven roasting, this means that the meat needs to be in around 4:15, so I will begin searing it at 4. Once you wrap your head around all the timing, it is a piece of cake and a lot less overwhelming. No one likes to see the host sweat, so don't! It will all turn out amazing. I hope this meal finds itself on your table in 2010. Happy New Year to all the F&A fans!