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Insert Tenderloin Pun Here

2012 July 25
by Gayle

Alton Brown already took the best tenderloin pun so you will have to make your own jokes, Dear Readers. Meanwhile, I am getting straight down to meaty business (vegetarians, you’re going to want to skip this one…).

It’s kind of an odd thing, I suppose, for a blog focused on cooking for two people at a time — and in a small space — to suddenly extol the virtues of bulk shopping warehouse clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club, but hear me out. Sure, buying mayonnaise by the vat is silly if there are only two of you and not everyone has the space to store that many rolls of paper towels, even if it is a great deal, but there are still solid reasons for a two-person household to spring for a membership at the biggest of the big-box retailers.

And the greatest of them all is the tenderloin.

Specifically, the PSMO (Peeled, Silver Skin, Side Muscle On) Tenderloin. Filet Mignon that would normally cost you around $18 to $20 per pound to cook at home (and let’s not even think about restaurant prices!) goes down to around $10 per pound if you are willing to do a little extra work.

For me, this a no-brainer. Especially if you’re like us at The Kitchenette where we don’t eat steak at home very often but when we do, we want a great cut.

Now, I’m no butcher but I (and all 10 of my fingers, thankyouverymuch) am here to tell you that you don’t have to be a butcher to save some money and break down this beast down by yourself at home. Patience and sharp knives are all that is required, other than a membership to one of the aforementioned discount clubs.

Not only am I going to do my best to break down the breaking down for you below, I’ll also be sharing recipes with you under the “tenderloin” tag as Mr. Kitchenette and I cook our way through the cuts we end up with.

So, let’s get started…

First, get thee to Costco and pick yourself out a good slab of meat. They sell both “side muscle on” and “side muscle off,” so read your labels carefully, as the whole point of this is to buy the considerably cheaper side muscle ON, not the already-cleaned up, more expensive one with the side muscle off. Other than the label, look for bright red muscle that is firm to the touch.

Once you’ve got it home, cut open the plastic, rinse off the meat, pat it dry with paper towels and prep your butchering surface. I like to use a cut-open plastic garbage bag like a tablecloth in addition to getting out my biggest cutting board. You’ll also want a long slicing knife and either a little paring knife or a thin-bladed, flexible fillet knife for removing the silverskin. You may also want to set up a receptacle for the bits that are trash/inedible (I generally just make a pile and then gather them into the plastic bag to dispose of them).

Locate the chain, the long, somewhat jaggedy piece of muscle that runs the length of the tenderloin. Using your fingers, gently separate the chain from the fatter, smoother tenderloin muscle as much as possible. Use a knife to remove it the rest of of the way with a few short cuts and set it aside for freezing.

Trim off any excess fat and remove the rest of the membrane, which should peel off easily using just your fingers. The tougher shiny stuff left is the silverskin.

Slide the tip of your knife under a strip of silverskin about 1/2 inch wide. Tilt the edge of the knife slightly upward, and using your free hand to keep the silverskin taut, gently slide the knife down the tenderloin, pulling/slicing away the silverskin while avoiding cutting into the meat. Keep at it until you’ve removed all the silverskin — be patient and don’t try to take off too much at once; this is the most tedious part of the whole process.

Trim away any bits of fat that may be left on either side at this point. One end of the tenderloin should be tapered and the other will have a sort of oval or football-shaped lobe I call the “head roast” (I’ve seen others call it a “butt roast” and, incorrectly, chateaubriand).

Gently pull off the head roast with your fingers, using your knife only if really necessary — it should come off easily, though you may find a little more silverskin underneath. You should now have three pieces of meat — the tenderloin itself, the chain and the head roast. The chain and head roast can be cleaned up a little bit more if you think they need it (removing connective tissue or lingering fat and membrane) and wrapped up for freezing.

Now it’s down to just cutting up the main tenderloin. Using your slicing knife and long, single strokes, trim off the tapered end piece. This won’t make for much of a steak, but we’ll chop it up it for carpaccio or tartare or something later, so wrap that up and label it.

The next piece in is closer to steak-tastic-ness. Cut it twice as thick as you plan on cutting the other filets and butterfly it by cutting it crosswise, three-quarters of the way through. Open at its hinge like a book so the cut ends face up; you can tie it together with kitchen twine or wrap a rasher of bacon around the outside to hold it together if you want (I generally do neither).

Cut a series of steaks all about the same thickness (I like about 1 1/2 to 2 inches, depending on how big around the tenderloin is) and a couple of roast-sized chunks, one of which should be about the thickness of two filets/weigh about 1 pound.

You should be left with:

the head roast
one 1-lb-ish chateaubriand roast
four filet mignon steaks (one of which is butterflied)
an odd end bit for carpaccio or tartare (or you can throw this in with the chain if you’re not into the raw meat thing)
the chain
[and a small “discard” pile]

You could also just cut a whole mess of filet mignon if that’s what you’re into, or go with three to four tenderloin roasts, but I’ll be offering an occasional series of recipes for two using these cuts.

Woohoo! Nicely done, my thrifty meat lovers!

Stay tuned for some tenderloin recipes as Mr. K and I cook our way through our freezer stash!


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