Tag Archives: Cooks Illustrated

Beef Tenderloin with Shallot Parsley Butter

Christmas dinner is all about extravagance in my house. Because it was just me and Grant this year – up in the mountains – I didn’t want to do a whole roast, but still wanted red meat. So I made my very first beef tenderloin, which turned out to be the most delicious, tender, juicy and fabulous thing I’ve ever made for Christmas.

I adapted the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. They spent $1,200 testing the expensive tenderloin cut prepared various ways, so I felt OK spending $50 (on sale!). I bought one massive tenderloin that I had to hand-trim to get the tender mid-section ready for cooking. The center cut of the loin – called “Chateaubriand” – is roughly the middle third of the whole beef loin. The other ends have more fat and connective tissue – all of which I saved to make beef bourguignon later in the week.

Cook’s Illustrated is brilliant for a couple reasons: salting the meat and letting it rest 1 hour before cooking (you can see the salt start to draw out the juices, enhancing the flavor); roasting and THEN browning on the stove top (no “gray line”); and cooking in butter (drool).

This was one of those recipes that I was nervous about the whole way through – thinking I didn’t cook it long enough or did this/that wrong. But it came out perfectly and presented a true value of quality and quantity.

Beef Tenderloin with Shallot Parsley Butter

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 beef tenderloin (2 lbs), center-cut, trimmed of fat and silver skin
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 T unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 T canola oil

Using kitchen twine, tie roast crosswise at 1 1/2 inch intervals. Sprinkle with salt and let stand at room temperature for around 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300 with oven rack in middle.

Pat roast dry with paper towels and sprinkle evenly with pepper. Spread butter all over the surface. Transfer to wire rack set in backing sheet. Roast until center of meat registers 125 degrees on your meat thermometer, flipping roast halfway through.

Heat oil in large, heavy skillet over medium-high until smoking. Place roast in and sear until well browned on all sides, 1-2 min. per side. Transfer to carving board and spread 2 T flavored butter (recipe below) over top of roast. Let rest 15 min. Remove twine and cut meat into 1/2 inch slices. Serve with remaining butter.

Shallot and parsley butter

Combine all of the below:

  • 4 T unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 T parsley, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Served simply with a side salad and roasted potatoes…almost too decadent for a quiet dinner for two…oh, who am I kidding?

We ate roughly half that night and I saved the rest for steak sandwiches the next night: crusty baguette split, then slathered with more of the shallot-parsley butter and topped with baby greens (or arugula), shaved Parm-Regg and thinly sliced steak (I gently reheated it at 200 degrees, so it was still medium-rare in the middle).
I have never had a steak sandwich so tender! Usually they are kinda hard to bite into. But this was too good.
Whew! I’m sweating just from remembering this. I highly recommend one splurge in your year – beef tenderloin at Christmas.
Enjoy, friends! xoxo
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Ciabatta Bread

Well hello again, you! Please excuse my sporadic summer blogging – what with my vacation schedule and work rolling into the busiest months, it has been difficult for me to cook, let alone blog. But here is something I baked and took on a mini-vacation for a delicious appetizer snack.

I’m no bread maker. And while this recipe turned out tasting great, especially with the toppings described later, it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. I’m blaming that on the fact that I didn’t have a spritzer for spritzing water on the bread every few minutes, as suggested. Psh, who has time for that kind of babysitting?

Here is my Cook’s Illustrated recipe for chewy ciabatta bread:

Ciabatta

Ingredients – sponge

  • 1 c. AP flour
  • 1/8 tsp instant (rapid-rise) yeast
  • 1/2 c. room-temp water

Ingredients – dough

  • 2 c. AP flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 3/4 c. room-temp water
  • 1/4 c. room-temp milk (I used whole milk)

Combine sponge ingredients in medium bowl and stir until a uniform mass forms, 1 min. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours (overnight).

Place sponge and dough ingredients in stand mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on low until roughly combined, about 1 min. Scrape down sides. Increase speed to medium-low and continue mixing until dough becomes uniform mass that collects on the paddle, 4-6 min (note: I added at least another 1/2 c. of flour because mine was still too wet). Change to dough hook and knead bread on medium until smooth and shiny, very sticky, about 10 min. Transfer to large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temp until doubled in size, 1 hr.

Spray rubber spatula with cooking spray and fold dough over on itself from the edges inward at 90-degree turns – do it a total of 8 turns around the edges. Cover again and let rise 30 min. Repeat folding, cover, let rise another 30 min. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-mid position and heat oven to 450.

Place parchment paper on 2 baking sheets. Transfer dough to floured surface and divide in half. Turn one piece cut side up and dust with flour. Press dough into rough 12×6-inch shape. Fold up the sides to the center to form a 7×4-inch loaf. Place seam-side down on parchment sheet and dust with flour. Repeat with second loaf. Cover loaves with plastic wrap and let sit at room temp. for 30 min.

(Here, CI asks you to transfer loaves to a new rimmed baking sheet, but I just put them straight into the oven). Using fingertips, poke the entire surface of each loaf to form a 10×6-inch rectangle (mine were more like blobs), then spray loaves lightly with water (which I didn’t do). Bake, spraying with water twice more during first 5 min. of baking, until crust is deep brown and center of loaf is 210 degrees (seriously?), 22-27 min. When tapped, the center of the loaf will sound hollow.

Transfer to wire racks to cool to room temperature.

There was a bit too much flour on the bottoms since I didn’t transfer the loaves to a baking stone, but I didn’t care at this point. I had been baking far too long to care.

Best way to eat this bread? Name it!

My friend Krissy is always handy with her appetizers, and this one I blatantly stole from her – ricotta mixed with scallions, basil, S&P; along with chopped tomatoes with more basil, garlic and olive oil. Can you tell we have a lot of basil on hand?

I sliced and lightly toasted my bread, along with a sprinkle of EVOO and a little S&P. Then we spooned on the ricotta and followed with the tomatoes. I love the cold creaminess of the ricotta topped with the fresh, juicy tomatoes. Then the heat of the garlic and floral loveliness of basil.

It is definitely too hot to bake bread this weekend, so we are heading to the mountains, where I will be basking (and baking?) in 70-degree temps.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Angel Food Cake

Angel food cake is never something I thought I would want to make for myself. I dislike the grocery-store variety, which is all I’d had. It’s too sweet, too spongy and needs way too much ice cream, whipped cream, syrup and sprinkles to make good.

But there is something so wonderful about whipping those egg whites until they become soft, shiny whisps of cloudlike sweetness. It looks like marshmallow fluff, but is flavored with fresh lemon, almond and vanilla. Amazing that such a light and airy batter can become a standing cake. But so it does, and each bite is like a bit of cotton candy dissolving on your tongue – soft, delicate, gentle and full of flavor.

I absolutely will make this again – for the next party or potluck. Using my new vintage tube pan…

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.

Angel Food Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. cake flour
  • 12 egg whites
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 and adjust rack to bottom half. Line bottom of a tube pan with parchment paper but do not grease.

Whisk 3/4 c. sugar and flour together in medium bowl.

In stand mixer, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low until foamy, 1 min. Increase mixer to medium-high and whip until whites are soft, cloudlike mounds, about 1 min. Gradually whip in salt and remaining 3/4 c. sugar, 1 T at a time. Continue to whip until whites are shiny and form soft peaks, 1-3 min.

By hand, whisk lemon juice and extracts into whipped whites. Sift 1/4 c. flour mixture over the top of the whites and fold to combine. Repeat with remaining flour mixture, 1/4 c. at a time, being careful not to over-mix.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Wipe and drops of batter off the sides and lightly tap pan on table to settle the batter.

Bake cake until golden brown on top and it springs back when pressed firmly, 50-60 min.

Invert pan over large funnel or bottle and let cool completely upside down, 2-3 hours. Do not turn too early! It will collapse if you do.

Run small knife around the edge to loosen. Gently tap pan upside down to release the cake. Peel off parchment, turn cake right-side up and place on serving platter.

Spoon crushed berries on top, or whipped cream and chocolate syrup, ice cream, whatever you want…

We had ours with fresh blackberries from the farmers’ market. I crushed a few to make a simple sauce and tumbled the other dark jewels over the thick slices. The tart fruit melts well with the sweet cake.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Baked Goat Cheese Salad

Baked (or, more often, fried) goat cheese salads are something I frequently order at restaurants, but never pulled off correctly at home. I usually tried to pan-fry the disks of lemony goat cheese, which resulted in them falling apart and burning in places. Then I looked through one of my old Cooks Illustrated magazines and found their perfect recipe for baked goat cheese salad.

Aha, you have to freeze the goat cheese before baking (or frying) it. And I must say that the baking method is much easier, less mess and more tasty than anything fried on your stove top (or Fry Daddy).

I adapted the recipe based on what I had at home and used a salad dressing I had left over from this recipe. I added dried cranberries and some pumpkin seeds that Grant had roasted with sesame and soy. Quite a tasty combination!

Baked Goat Cheese Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. plain bread crumbs
  • 1 T chopped fresh thyme
  • Black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 4-5 oz. goat cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T dijon mustard
  • Salad mix (arugula is preferable)
  • Your favorite vinaigrette dressing
  • 1/4 c. roasted pumpkin seeds (or any seed or nut you like)
  • 1/4 c. dried cranberries (or other fruit)
  • EVOO

Preheat oven to 475.

Cut goat cheese into 1/4-inch disks and roll disks into balls. Set aside. Whisk eggs with dijon in a small bowl. Set aside. Mix bread crumbs with thyme, large pinch of salt and 10 cracks of black pepper in a small bowl and set aside.

Drop cheese balls into egg, then roll in bread crumbs. Flatten balls into disks, then place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cheese balls. Place prepared goat cheese in freezer for 30 min. (I only did it for like 15 min., and it worked fine)

When goat cheese is cold and firm, brush all over with olive oil and bake until crust is lightly golden brown and cheese is slightly soft, 7-9 min.

Meanwhile, toss salad mix with vinaigrette and sprinkle seeds and cranberries all over.

When cheese is done, delicately remove to paper towels, then place on top of salad. The crust will be thin and crisp, perfectly holding the soft cheese inside. I love the lemony thyme flavoring the cheese.

This was a deliciously light Friday dinner for us, perfect after a week of eating heavy foods.

Enjoy as a meal or as a great starter salad when you have company over. The goat cheese keeps well and you can just pan-fry it to heat it up the next day. Best served warm, of course, so the cheese can spread all over the salad.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo