Published November 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.
Tenderloin with a crunchy peppercorn crust sounds ideal—but not when it cracks off the roast or has a flavor so spicy that it overpowers the beef.
It's easy to get the peppercorns onto a beef roast—but hard to keep them there. And even worse, the peppercorns’ crunch is wimpy, while their heat is pungent and lingering.
We wanted to create a crunchy crust that stayed put but was not punishingly spicy.
In order to create a rough surface that the peppercorns could cling to, we rubbed the meat with a sandpaper-like mixture of salt and baking soda.
Now that we had a tacky surface, we focused on tempering the peppercorns’ bite. Mixing a bit of sugar into the salt rub not only lessened tasters’ perception of heat but also enhanced the pepper’s more subtle flavors, thus lending more complexity. We also simmered the cracked pepper in oil, which lent a pleasant spiciness without generating any off-flavors or negatively affecting appearance.
But in addition to mellowing the peppercorns’ heat, the oil also drew out the nuanced piney and floral flavors that contributed much to making the dish so good. Looking for a way to restore these flavors, we discovered that three of the main flavor compounds in peppercorns are also found in orange zest and nutmeg. We tried adding both to the peppercorn rub. Sure enough, they restored the balance of flavors that made the crust taste more floral and peppery.
For a final flourish, we developed two fruit-based sauces to go along with the beef.list of recipes