Chain, Chain, Chain… (No Fools Here)
We’ve gone from probably the most fancy-pants of tenderloin eating — a little center-cut roast for two — to the humblest. If a cut like tenderloin has a humble section, it’s the chain, that weird little jagged piece of meat we removed early in the butchering process.
The chain is surprisingly tender, a great tasty tidbit that you only get to experience if you break down your own tenderloin, since it’s not exactly something you’ll see sold in stores. Which is a shame, you will think, after tasting it.
The only thing you really need to do to the chain is pound it out to an even 1/4-inch thickness between two pieces of plastic wrap (I just use a rolling pin). From there, after a little salt and pepper and two or so minutes per side on a hot grill (or grill pan) is all you’ll need.
Chain meat makes a mean Philly cheesesteak if that’s your thing and it’s great for a quick beef stir fry, where its tenderloin tenderness really shines (no barely-edible, chewy beef in your beef with broccoli when you’ve got some chain in your freezer!). But my hands-down favorite thing to make with it is a decadent sandwich with my not-yet world famous blue cheese and caramelized onion spread and an handful of arugula. Along side a cup of gazpacho, it’s my perfect late-summer picnic dinner.
After pounding it out a little, cook the meat over medium-high heat in just a touch of oil for about 2 minutes on each side. Tent it with foil for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing/chopping it into more manageable, sandwich-filling pieces. Toast your two of your favorite hoagie-style buns, slather each side with a couple of tablespoons of Kitchenette Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Spread before stuffing it full of meat and topping it off with about 1/4 cup arugula.
One chunk of chain meat will easily make two overstuffed sandwiches or three normal-sized ones. These sandwiches wrap up well for a short trip to the park for a picnic; if you’re packing them up for a longer ride, say, to the beach a few hours away, I recommend keeping everything in separate containers and assembling on-site, lest you end up suffering from soggy-bread-itis.
The blue cheese spread recipe below yields about 2 cups, which is plenty for spreading on sandwiches and scooping up with carrot sticks or chips. As tempting as it may be to buy the pre-crumbled blue cheese in a tub, try to resist and spring for a foil-wrapped wedge of something a little more moist and tangy than the dried-out commercial crumbles. I’m a big fan of our local Amish-made Maytag blue, which is zippy but not tongue-searing.
Kitchenette Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Spread
Makes about 2 cups
Well before sweet + salty was a trend (I like salted caramel but enough already!), sweet caramelized onions were getting together with slightly salty blue cheese and being awesome together. This recipe is thick enough to serve as a sandwich spread but not too overwhelming to work as a dip. It makes an awesome spread for tenderloin or roast beef sandwiches, goes great with carrot sticks and is always a hit at parties with a bag of thick-cut potato chips.
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced large
1 Tablespoon brandy
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 ounces creamy blue cheese, room temperature
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a small pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cook until deep brown and caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
Off heat, deglaze the pan with the brandy, scraping any browned bits up off the bottom of the pan. Return to low heat and stir until the liquid has evaporated, about 30 seconds to a minute. Set onions aside to cool.
Mix next four ingredients (mayo, sour cream, Worcestershire, lemon juice) together in medium bowl.
Mash in blue cheese with a large fork.
Stir in cooled onions. Adjust to taste with salt and fresh-ground black pepper. Chill for at least one hour.