Published November 1, 2006.
Beef tenderloin is perfect holiday fare. Add a rich stuffing and you've got the ultimate main course—at least in theory.
We found three problems with stuffed tenderloin. The tenderloin's thin, tapered shape made for uneven cooking; in the time it took to develop a nice crust, the meat overcooked; and "deluxe" fillings such as lobster and chanterelles were so chunky they fell out of the meat when sliced.
We wanted a stuffed beef tenderloin with a deeply charred crust, a tender, rosy-pink interior, and an intensely flavored stuffing that stayed neatly rolled in the meat.
We solved the uneven cooking problem by selecting the right cut: we found that the almost perfectly cylindrical Châteaubriand could fit comfortably in a 12-inch skillet, roast at an even rate, and accommodate just as much stuffing in one end as the other. To prepare the meat, we used a "double-butterfly" procedure—making two cuts so the roast opened up into three parts (like a business letter)—which accommodated 50 percent more filling than we could fit in a conventionally butterflied roast. We created a suitable crust in a shortened cooking time by coating the exterior of the roast with a layer of kosher salt an hour before searing, which allowed the salt to begin to break down the protein fibers in the outermost layer of meat, dessicating it to the point that it browned quickly. We intensified the stuffing's flavor by replacing button mushrooms with earthy creminis and caramelizing our onions. The caramelized onions contributed sweetness and bound the mushrooms into a thick, slightly sticky, jam-like stuffing that stayed in place during carving. Garlic, a splash of Madeira, and a layer of baby spinach rounded out the flavors.list of recipes