"Châteaubriand" is sometimes considered a cut of meat, specifically a thick steak cut from the center of the tenderloin. But in fact, Châteaubriand is a real recipe, named after Vicomté Francois de Châteaubriand who was a 19th century French statesman, writer and epicure. Vicomté de Châteaubriand helped usher in the Romantic movement in the years following the French Revolution, but his legacy extends well beyond literature and politics and into the kitchen. It was at the Vicomte's behest that a chef named Montmireil experimented with cooking techniques for beef tenderloin. Some folks claim that the name also reflects the quality of cattle raised in the town of Châteaubriand in the Loire-Atlantique.

Châteaubriand is cut from a six-pound tenderloin, seasoned lightly and cooked simply, then typically served with a rich bearnaise sauce. It may sometimes be accompanied by roasted potatoes. It's a classic dish, full of flavor, and yet very easy to make. It has to be one of my all-time favorites that I can rarely afford. When preparing this at home, make certain you purchase only a top quality (preferably Prime) beef tenderloin.
Serves 4

1 twenty-ounce piece of beef tenderloin, cut from large end (head)
1 tablepoon extra virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
Kosher salt

2/3 cup white-wine vinegar
1 shallot, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Coarse salt

Using a sharp knife, gently trim away the thin silvery membrane from the meat. To prepare the meat for cooking, you may choose to use the method Jacques Pepin uses; otherwise, keep the meat wrapped and chilled until about 30 minutes before cooking. You can prepare the Bearnaise Sauce while the meat is coming to room temperature.

BEARNAISE SAUCE: In a small saucepan, bring vinegar, shallot, and tarragon to a boil. Cook until liquid has reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 4 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Rinse out saucepan, and return the strained vinegar to the pan.

Add egg yolks and the 2 tablespoons water. Cook, over low heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and forms thick ribbons, 3 to 4 minutes.

Whisk in butter, one piece at a time: If sauce gets too hot (it starts to bubble), remove from heat and whisk in a piece of butter. Continue whisking until all the butter has been absorbed, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately transfer to a bowl to stop further cooking. Season with salt. Use immediately, or keep warm over a pan of barely simmering water.

CHÂTEAUBRIAND: Pepin's method for preparing the meat---Stand the meat on its wider-cut end on a solid work surface. Fold a kitchen towel lengthwise once or twice into a wide band around the upright meat like a scarf. Gather the ends of the towel, and twist to form a tight collar that will hold meat in a round shape during pounding. Grasp the towel ends securely in one hand. With the other hand, pound top of meat with a meat mallet until flattened into a large oval steak about 2 inches thick and 5 to 7 inches wide.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Heat a medium-sized stovetop grill pan over high heat until it is very hot. Rub steak with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place steak on grill pan at an angle to ridges, and cook until ridges leave clear marks, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Turn, maintaining same angle and repeat on second side. Turn again, rotating so visible grill marks are perpendicular to ridges. Cook until a crisscross is clearly marked, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Turn once more, maintaining same angle, and grill so second side has been on grill exactly as long as first side.

Then brown steak on outside edge, holding with tongs or propping against a potato, shifting meat so entire edge gets browned. Grill a total of 10 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness of steak and desired degree of doneness. Meat will be barely springy to the touch, indicating that it is still rare. Transfer the meat to a small shallow roasting pan, and place the pan in oven for 15 minutes. Remove the meat to a cutting board and allow to rest 10-12 minutes. Slice thin on a bias and place on a warm serving platter, and pour pan juices over. Serve with bearnaise sauce on the side; some can be spooned over the meat if desired.

Back to the Archives

Copyright © 2005 Carol Stevens, Shaboom's Kitchen, All Rights Reserved