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Feed a crowd simply and cheaply with beef tenderloin

Beef tenderlocan be served cold warm or hot won’t break bank. Best all: it’s real crowd-pleaser. | Matthew Mead~AP

Beef tenderloin can be served cold, warm or hot and won’t break the bank. Best of all: it’s a real crowd-pleaser. | Matthew Mead~AP

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Updated: January 22, 2012 8:01AM

They key to a great holiday party is a relaxed host. And that is easier than it sounds. All it takes is a little planning.

When I entertain, I make sure that all the food can be prepared and served or set out on a buffet with very little effort. At the very most, I include only one menu item that has to be cooked just before serving.

For that reason, I find beef tenderloin to be my entertaining slam dunk! Everyone loves beef tenderloin and it is good served chilled, at room temperature or warm. If you are serving it chilled or at room temperature, it can be made the day before, making it even more convenient.

It also is economical because you can slice it thin and get 20 to 25 portions out of a single tenderloin. If you like, you can splurge and buy prime tenderloin. Or if you plan in advance you can employ my trick and “wet age” it yourself in the refrigerator, resulting in a tenderloin with great depth of flavor.

Home wet-aging is effortless and especially handy because you can buy the tenderloin when it is on sale and save it for a future party or parties. Make sure you purchase a tenderloin that has been shrink-sealed (no air in the packaging). Once the meat is exposed to air, you have to cook it or it will go bad.

But in airtight packaging, you can let the meat “age” in your refrigerator for up to six weeks. Many restaurants do this and you can really tell the difference in the end product.

I place a couple of tenderloins in the back of my meat drawer and turn them every couple of days. I then schedule an alert on my calendar for two, four and six weeks to remind me that they are in my refrigerator waiting to be cooked.

If I am feeling ambitious, I smoke the tenderloins with a combination of pecan and cherry wood and serve them chilled the next day. If I don’t have that much time, I sear them on the outdoor grill or a stovetop grill pan and finish roasting them with indirect heat, either in the grill or in the oven.

The key to a perfect beef tenderloin is to season it simply and not overcook it. I take the meat out when the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees and let it rest for a minimum of 15 minutes, the longer the better so that the juices redistribute and every slice is rosy pink with a soft, tender and buttery texture.

Beef tenderloin itself is a crowd pleaser, but I always have a couple of options to dress it up. My favorite is this very simple but light and tangy horseradish cream. I make it just before my guests arrive and set it out with the meat and a small selection of dinner rolls. Pumpernickel is my favorite, but seeded hard rolls, soft brioche and/or a crusty baguette also are good choices. Your guests can make their own sandwiches or eat the tenderloin simply with a dollop of the fluffy horseradish cream.


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