Poaching a tenderloin of beef is a marvelous way to emphasize its velvety texture
2-pound chunk of beef tenderloin of even thickness (preferably cut from the chateaubriand section)
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper plus more to taste
1 teaspoon salt
10 cups dark beef stock
1 1/2 pounds leeks, split, washed, and cut into coarse chunks
1/2 pound carrots, cut into coarse chunks
1 pound onions, cut into coarse chunks
1/2 pound white turnips, peeled and cut into coarse chunks
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1/4 cup brandy
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup coarsely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
2/3 cup crème fraîche
1 egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
fresh chives for garnish
1. Prepare the beef: Trim the tenderloin of all fat and sinew, then tie it with a string at 1-inch intervals to keep the round shape. Coat the meat with freshly ground white pepper and salt. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.
2. Prepare the poaching liquid: Place the beef stock in an oval Dutch oven, one that will hold the tenderloin snugly. Add the leeks, carrots, onions, turnips, black peppercorns, brandy, and cloves. Bring to a boil, then simmer gently for 2 hours.
3. When ready to cook, make sure that the poaching liquid is at a very gentle simmer. Lower the tenderloin into it, and picking up the poaching vegetables from the liquid with a slotted spoon, strew them over the beef. Cook until very rare, about 20 minutes. Remove tenderloin from the liquid, returning any vegetables to the pot.* Let stand for 5 minutes before carving.
4. While the beef is poaching, prepare the sauce: In a small, heavy saucepan cook the white wine, shallots, and a tablespoon of whole white peppercorns over moderately high heat until the wine is reduced to about 4 teaspoons. Place the créme fraîche and egg yolk in a bowl, whisk together, and slowly strain in the white wine reduction. Pour créme fraîche mixture into the saucepan, and cook over very gentle heat until the egg yolk thickens the sauce slightly. Add the grated nutmeg, and season to taste with salt and ground white pepper.
5. When ready to serve, slice the beef and divide among 4 dinner plates. Pour the sauce over and around the beef. Crack coarsely the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of whole white peppercorns and strew them over the beef. Garnish with the chives. Serve immediately.
Yes, we were amazed too when we came across this dish at a restaurant in Mainz, Germany. But poaching a tenderloin of beef is a marvelous way to emphasize its velvety texture -- just as long as you don't poach it past rareness. Serve our version of this wonderful, surprising, Germanic dish on a cold winter night, with a garnish of poached root vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, and celery root. Serves 4