With the holidays just around the corner, festive parties and gatherings are on everyone’s list. Cooking at home for your loved ones and best mates is something that happens naturally for most. When it comes to it, we all want to be able to put on that amazing dinner party that everyone raves about. But how do we go about putting on one of those beautifully decorated and decadent dinner parties you see on Pinterest? I mean, the food alone is one of the most difficult parts. Sides and salads are doable, but what about the meat? Most people have a fear of serving meat at dinner parties as it can be quite the skill to perfect. Well, fear no more! TasteTro is here to help this holiday season. Our TasteTro chef is giving away 5 amazing tips on how to cook your meat so that it turns out perfect every time. No more nervous nail biting around whether your guests will like the main meat dish you cooked or not.
#1 – Season Your Meat in Advance: With any good meat comes a good coat of seasoning. Even if it is just salt and pepper, make sure you use a generous amount. When you go to sear the meat in the pan, a lot of the seasoning falls off. Hence why you should add more than just a pinch. Also, allow the seasoning to have time to penetrate the surface of the meat to allow for more flavor development. This is especially important when using an herb and spice rub as you want the flavors to go beyond the surface. Always pat your meat dry with paper towel first before seasoning or else you will rub off the seasoning. If there is too much moisture on the surface the meat will not sear to golden brown but rather boil itself.
For those who are a little wherry of salt, know that only 30% or less of the salt we consume comes from our home salt shaker. It is almost always the prepared foods that are the killers. Our solution to reducing sodium in your diet is to cook more from scratch at home. When choosing a salt for your TasteTro appliance, we recommend sticking to sea salt versus mined salt (table salt) as there are many more essential minerals other than just sodium. The sodium content is also not as high and more in balance with the other trace minerals it contains. From a cooking standpoint, sea salt has a much nicer flavor profile that is subtler than its opponent, mined salt.
#2 – Allow the Meat to Warm Up: Next, it is important to pull your meat out of the fridge and onto the countertop for at least one hour and up to two hours. Warming up the meat allows it to come closer to the temperature of a hot pan. This prevents the meat from getting shocked by the temperature change. If the meat gets shocked by temperature it seizes up and becomes tough. Plus, who likes eating a rare steak that is cold on the inside? Leaving your meat on the counter for up to two hours passes all safety guidelines from Health Canada and the FDA. Any longer than two hours may lead to foodborne illness.
#3 – Get a Hard Sear: Once your meat has had some time to warm up, it is time to heat up your cast iron pan. Cast iron reacts the quickest to temperature changes compared to any other cooking surface, as well as it is an excellent heat conductor. Turn your heat up to almost high. Once the pan is hot you can add a high temperature oil such as avocado, ghee, grapeseed or any animal fat. Do not use olive oil or any other low temperature oil. If an oil is brought past it’s smoke point, it becomes denatured and turning into a transfat. This will happen with low temperature oils and high heat. You will not need much oil, just enough to coat the bottom slightly. Allow the fat to melt and get hot, but not to the point where it is billowing smoke. Slowly place the meat into the pan away from you. Allow the meat to “live” in the heat (cooks use the term “live” when speaking about allowing nature to take it’s course in the cooking process). Fight any urge to wiggle, lift or flip the meat for at least a minute. This will help get that caramel colourization that we desire. Once golden, flip the meat onto a raw side and again allow it to “live” in the pan. Repeat until all sides are caramelized. This will ensure even cooking to the centre.
#4 – Finish the Cooking Process: Next, finish the cooking process in the oven. This part varies greatly, so make sure you are applying the right techniques for your desired outcome. If you are cooking a large roast then placing the meat in the oven on a low temperature (no higher than 325 degrees F) for several hours is the most desirable cooking method as it will yield a soft and juicy product. If you are cooking a thick steak then popping it into the oven at 400 degrees F for anywhere between 2-10 minutes will get you a perfectly seared and flavourful steak. To test for doneness, we recommend using a meat thermometer or the finger test for thinner cuts of meat.
The finger test is a simple way to check the doneness of your meat. Starting with less done to more done, place the top pad of your thumb and index finger together (make sure you are not flexing and your hand muscles are relaxed). Then, with your other hand feel the meaty part of your thumb (on the side of your palm). This is medium rare. Next, touch the pads of your thumb and middle finger for medium. Your ring finger and thumb for medium well and your pinky and thumb for well done. Compare the way the meat of your thumb feels to the meat you are cooking. This will give you an accurate indication of what doneness it is at.
#5 – Allow the Meat to Rest: It is so exciting to pull a perfectly cooked piece of meat out of the oven and gobble it up right away, but hold off for a few minutes! We promise it will be worth it. Allowing the meat to rest before cutting into it helps the juices absorb back into the flesh rather than leaking out onto your cutting board. Create a tent with tin foil and loosely place over the meat so that it doesn’t get cold on the surface. Allow steaks to sit for 5-10 minutes. Large roasts and whole birds can sit for 20-30 minutes (5 minutes per inch of thickness, or 10 minutes per pound).
With all of these tools in your cooking toolbox, you’ll be equipped and ready to take any holiday dinner party. It may even get you volunteering to cook the meat!
Since the holidays tend to bring out our inner foodie, we wanted to share a more detailed recipe with you. Our beef tenderloin en croute (puff pastry crusted beef tenderloin stuffed with mushrooms) recipe is sure up your game in the kitchen and is guaranteed to be a real crowd pleaser. If you are someone who is a bit more comfortable in the kitchen and who wants to explore more challenging recipes, this is the recipe for you!
Beef Tenderloin En Croute
Makes: 4 portions
Active Time: 45 minutes
Inactive Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
1 lb. beef tenderloin, whole, trimmed
1 tbsp. herbes de provence blend (use ½ of the blend here, reserve other ½)
1/2 pkg. (1 square) unrolled puff pastry, thawed*
1 tbsp. ghee/avocado oil/ tallow (beef fat)
1 egg yolk
Splash of milk
Sea salt flakes such as Maldon (optional)
1 large handful of mixed mushrooms, minced in food processor
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup heavy cream
1/8 cup dry red wine (optional)
1-2 tbsp. ghee/ butter
Remaining ½ of the herbes de provence blend
- In advance- pull the tenderloin out of the fridge. Pat it dry with a paper towel then, sprinkle ½ of the herbes de provence blend all over the meat. Allow it to warm up on the countertop for up to 2 hours.
- Just before you begin step 3, turn your oven on to 425 degrees F.
- Once the beef has tempered, heat a frying pan on medium high. Add in 1 tbsp. of a high heat oil such ghee. Place the tenderloin in the pan. Allow it to cook on this side for at least a minute without flipping or moving it. Flip the meat to the next side once the meat is a dark golden brown. Repeat for all sides, then remove the meat from the pan and move to a rack to rest. Remove the pan from the heat and reserve the pan just as it is.
- To make the mushroom duxelle- process the mushrooms as directed below in the notes. Chop the shallot and garlic.
- Heat the same pan you used for the beef on medium high heat. Add ghee/butter, then add the mushrooms. Add the remainder of the herbes de provence blend to the pan. Cook until the mushrooms begin to turn slightly golden, then add the shallots. Cook until translucent then add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute or until aromatic.
- Pour in the red wine (optional) and cook until almost evaporated. Next, add in the cream and allow it to come to a simmer. Reduce the cream until the mixture is thick and not runny (approximately 3 minutes). Remove from the heat to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, create an egg wash with 1 egg yolk and a splash of cream. Whisk until the mixture has come together.
- Pull the puff pastry out of the fridge. Dust a clean surface with all-purpose flour. Using a rolling pin, roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle that is about 1/8” thick. Compare it to the tenderloin. You should be able to wrap the pastry completely around the meat.
- Spread the duxelle across the entire surface of the pastry, stopping 1” from all edges. Lay the beef down in the centre of the pastry, on top of the duxelle. The long side of the beef should be lined up with the long side of the pastry.
- Using a pastry brush, brush egg wash on 3 of the 4 exposed edges of the pastry, omitting one long side. Then, gently pull the un-brushed side on top of the beef. Pull the other long side over the first piece of pastry you just laid down.The egg wash will glue the two pieces together. Next, brush the tops of the ends and flip them inwards to create a seal. You can crimp the edges with your fingers if desired.
- Flip the pastry over and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gently score the top of the pastry. Get creative here! Brush all exposed sides with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt flakes if desired. Bake in the oven for approximately 35 minutes or until the crust is golden and when tested with a meat thermometer, the meat comes up as 120 degrees F.
- Move the beef to a cutting board. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes, then slice. Serve with your favorite roasted potatoes and buttered veggies.
* Thaw puff pastry in the fridge the night before or morning of. Do not pull it out of the fridge until you are ready to use it.
*Place roughly sliced mushrooms into a food processor. Pulse until the pieces are small and no large pieces remain. Do not puree into a paste.