Cooked to perfection and served with flair, it’s hard to compete with the buttery richness and occasional indulgence of roast beef tenderloin for a special dinner. Roast beef tenderloin, served with a cognac Dijon sauce. It's simply fantastic.
Recently a friend called and asked how to prepare one. It’s more of a method than a recipe. Once you try this, you won’t need a recipe either.
- Beef tenderloin (preferably a center cut piece)
- Ground black pepper
- Olive oil
Where to Buy
When purchasing beef tenderloin, I buy from the best butcher around and am never disappointed. Where I don’t buy is at a discount grocer or big warehouse store. You might spend a little more, but you can be assured of the quality. In the bigger picture it’s probably only a few dollars difference.
Not only will a good butcher trim the meat for you (so you have less work to do), they will usually cut exactly the piece you want. The guys at my favorite butcher’s counter know me well; a relationship that definitely has its benefits.
What to Buy, How to Trim
When purchasing beef tenderloin I always ask for a center cut, figuring 8 ounces per person of uncooked weight. If there is any silverskin (tendon) left, ask for it to be trimmed or do it yourself with a sharp knife. To see how, click here to link to my pork tenderloin post. It’s the same technique.
- Kitchen twin
- A heavy pan (cast iron skillet, stainless steel skillet or saute pan)
- Rimmed baking sheet
- Wire cooling rack
- Digital thermometer
First, be sure that your beef is at room temperature. Let it sit out for about an hour if it has been in the refrigerator. You want the chill off for even roasting. Tie the beef, notes below.
Next, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. In preparation for roasting your tenderloin, cover a quarter sheet or half sheet rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place a wire rack on top. Heat the pan over medium-high heat.
Rub the beef with a little olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and ground black pepper.
Place beef in the hot pan and sear on all sides and both ends, turning as a rich brown crust is achieved. Turn your ventilation system on as searing can create a lot of smoke and steam.
Tying the Beef
Second, tying your meat helps it to keep its shape and roast evenly. You can tie it with individual pieces of butchers string or tie it with one long piece, whichever is easiest for you. After tying, rub sparingly with a little olive oil then season liberally with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and granulated garlic.
When the roast is seared, transfer beef to the wire rack on the baking sheet and finish in the oven. This helps for fast, even roasting. Set the pan aside to make a pan sauce. Don’t wash it!
Roast until beef is done for your taste preference, testing with a meat thermometer. A digital one is easy to read. Temperatures are listed in the recipe below for rare through medium. Test at about 18 minutes and continue until your ideal temperature is achieved.
There are many factors involved in timing such as how long the meat was seared and the thickness of the piece. Just watch it as you don’t want to over cook this beautiful piece of meat.
Remove the roast beef from the oven and allow to rest about 15-20 (covered with foil) minutes so all of the juices re-absorb throughout the meat. If you slice it right away you will have a dry roast as all of the savory juices will drain away.
The temperature will continue to rise while it rests. After resting, remove the twine, slice and enjoy.
Cognac Dijon Sauce
For a quick and easy pan sauce, start with cognac and creme fraiche or cream. The inspiration for the sauce recipe is from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook Around My French Table. I add a little fresh chopped tarragon and a little good Dijon mustard for my version of classic French bistro flavors.
Horseradish Cream Sauce Option
Make a horseradish cream sauce by whipping and creme fraiche together and adding a however much horseradish you like. Season with salt and white pepper. The recipe is in this post.
How to Serve
Roast beef tenderloin is beautifully served on a platter with the slices slightly overlapping, allowing guests to choose their own pieces. Of course you can serve several slices on each plate.
Try this easy, classic side dishes:
- Mashed potatoes
- Cauliflower puree (low carb option)
- Scalloped potatoes (aka potato gratin)
- Green beans almandine
- A terrific salad
Since it's an expensive cut of meat, I reserve it for holidays: Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, Christmas, New Years Eve or other special occasions. You’ll have a main dish sure to please all the beef lovers in your family.
Leftovers work for breakfast with eggs or in a sandwich for lunch.
Other Elegant Recipes
Tenderloin of Beef with Cognac Dijon Sauce
- Kitchen twine
- Digital thermometer
- 1 pound beef tenderloin preferably center cut, trimmed of all silverskin
- ½ teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
- ½ teaspoon Ground black pepper
- ½ - 1 teaspoon Granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil
Cognac-Dijon Cream Sauce
- ⅓ cup cognac or brandy
- ½ cup creme fraiche
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme or tarragon
- Remove the beef from the refrigerator and allow to stand on the counter for 45-60 minutes to get the chill off. You will get better roasting results. Tie the tenderloin with kitchen twine at about 1″ intervals to help maintain it’s shape and roast evenly. Liberally sprinkle all sides with kosher salt, pepper and if using, granulated garlic. Rub with olive oil. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil, top with a wire rack and set aside. Place a heavy skillet or fry pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is very hot, place the beef in the pan and sear on all sides, turning when a nice brown crust forms. After sides are seared, turn briefly on the ends to sear them as well. Place beef on the wire rack and set the pan aside. DO NOT WASH IT.
- Place seared beef on the wire rack in the oven and roast until the beef reaches an internal temperature of 125 degrees for rare or 130-135 for medium-rare and 140-145 for medium with a digital thermometer. Test at about 18-20 minutes and roast longer if needed. When I do a 1 ½ pound piece in my convection oven it takes about 18 minutes. Timing will depend on how long you sear the meat and your oven.
- Remove beef from the oven and allow to rest in a warm place for 15-20 minutes. This gives you time to make a sauce or finish up your side dishes. Remove the twine, slice and enjoy.
Cognac-Dijon Cream Sauce
- Using the pan in which you seared the beef tenderloin, return the pan to medium heat. Pour off any fat, leaving the browned bits of meat.
- Off the heat, add the cognac then return pan to the heat and stir, scraping up the browned bits stuck to the bottom. This is called deglazing the pan. Allow the cognac to cook down for a minute or two, then whisk in creme fraiche. When it is smooth, add the Dijon and tarragon. Taste and adjust the flavors with salt and pepper if needed, but it may not need a thing.