Châteaubriand: The Glory of the Grill

GRILL

by Sean Sullivan

With backyard barbecue season kicking into high gear it’s smart to give some thought to your grilling game plan. Sure, hot dogs and hamburgers can be crowd pleasers and often that’s all that anyone expects. But most likely there will be a night or two this summer when a little extra something will be appreciated. Get a good recipe or dinner plan in your head now and when the time comes you’ll pull it off with enviable flair.

Chateaubriand presentation A

Châteaubriand – the most glamorous of the grilled meats presented here with baby carrots, grilled zucchini, grilled grape tomatoes, trimmed mushroom caps and new potatoes browned in butter

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Enter Châteaubriand, the most glamorous of all the grilled meats. Can you think of anyone who wouldn’t jump at an invitation for a dinner of Châteaubriand? While everyone’s generally familiar with the concept – a filet mignon with a fancy sauce, right? — the delight of Chateaubriand lies as much in the legend and the lore as it does in the actual preparation.

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Which, by the way, is not all that hard. The component that might be new to one’s repertoire is béarnaise sauce. If you’ve made Hollandaise you can make béarnaise, and if you haven’t yet made Hollandaise, it’s probably time you learned anyway.

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Châteaubriand is a large cut of the centermost part of beef tenderloin, grilled or broiled and carved at the table. The cut of meat is non-negotiable, as is a tarragon-infused sauce, most often béarnaise, and potatoes.

Note: Flattening the meat breaks apart the grain of the meat making it more tender, and as tenderloin is already the most tender cut of all, we’re talking some seriously supple  steak.  Plus it will cook more quickly and evenly in this shape.

Note: Flattening the meat breaks apart the grain of the meat making it more tender, and as tenderloin is already the most tender cut of all, we’re talking some seriously supple steak. Plus it will cook more quickly and evenly in this shape.

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But the cut, the sauce, the potatoes are the bare minimum for authenticity. We didn’t set down this path to settle for the bare minimum, now did we? A memorable Châteaubriand of your own making calls for an ample selection of colorful vegetables neatly arranged on the serving platter or for maximum “(Gasp) It’s gorgeous!” effect.

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The presentation here includes baby carrots, grilled zucchini, grilled grape tomatoes, trimmed mushroom caps and new potatoes browned in butter. A silver sauce boat of thick béarnaise. And of course the medium-rare Châteaubriand itself, partially concealed beneath the fleur de lis crouton. (More about that in a moment.)

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The order of preparation:

1. Pre-set your serving pieces – a platter or cutting board large enough to hold the meat and all the vegetables; carving knife and fork; sauce boat.

Cutting croutons cut from white bread3-002

Make large croutons using a cookie cutter like this fleur de lis one from New Orleans

 2.   Make large croutons from nice white bread. Cut the crusts from slices of a good white bread, cut each slice into triangles. Toast in a 250° oven until golden brown.

NOTE: Biscuit or cookie cutters up the elegance factor, like this New Orleans souvenir fleur de lis cutter.

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 3.   Prepare the vegetables: trim and blanch baby carrots until al dente; rinse in cold water to stop the cooking, set aside at room temp until serving time. Use a peeler to make a stripe around red new potatoes, steam until just done, @10 minutes, set aside to rest at room temp. Slice zucchini into 3” long planks. Steam in the microwave until softened but not quite done. Remove and pat dry. Trim the stems from large mushroom caps, the slice a thin slice from the top to make a neat round flat surface. Press the point of a chef’s knife into the mushroom to make stars. Wash and dry small cherry tomatoes.

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Continually whisk the eggs while it cooks so it becomes a Béarnaise Sauce and not scrambled eggs

 4. Make the Béarnaise Recipe:  Whisk together 3 egg yolks, 2 tsp. white wine vinegar and 2 tsp. water. Place in a double boiler (the bowl set over, not in, boiling water). Whisk continuously while adding 1 stick of butter one pat at a time.  The mixture will thicken as the butter melts and emulsifies into the egg. When all the butter is incorporated and the sauces has thickened whisk in 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh tarragon. Immediately remove from heat and set the bottom of the bowl into 1” of cold water to stop the cooking. Gently stir as it cools just enough to stop cooking. It’s a sauce, not scrambled eggs.]

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5.   Final preparation takes place in both the kitchen and at the grill – having an accomplice helps.

AT THE GRILL: Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Wipe the beef dry, sprinkle with salt and pepper and lay on the hot grill. Brush the zucchini slices with olive oil and lay out on the grill. Put the small tomatoes on the perimeter of the grill (the coolest part.) Grill the beef for 2 minutes; rotate to make  an attractive grid of grill marks, cook for 2 minutes more. Flip and repeat on the other side, for a total of 6-8 minutes. Remove the meat from the grill and cover with foil, let rest for 5-10 minutes. Flip the zucchini and check on the tomatoes when you remove the meat, they will finish cooking while the meat rests. Remove when done.

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Slices with Bearnaise

6.  IN THE KITCHEN: Melt 4 T. butter in a large sauté pan until it sizzles. Add the steamed potatoes, roll them around gently and cook until lightly browned. In the last 5 minutes of cook the mushroom caps and reheat the carrots in the butter.

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7.  To serve place the meat on your serving platter, top it with a crouton and arrange the remaining croutons around it, ready to soak up the juices. Make pretty piles of the hot vegetables, transfer the béarnaise to a sauce boat and present the platter to your seated guests and bask in their admiration. Carve the meat into ½” slices and serve with a crouton and some vegetables. Pass the béarnaise.

Now’s the time to regale your guests with your new found Châteaubriand expertise:

The dish was named for François-René de Châteaubriand, an early 19th century French romantic writer and statesman who fell in and out of favor with Napoleon. His most enduring work is a 42 volume “Memories from Beyond the Grave.” As a young man he toured the then-new United States where he may or may not have met George Washington, and overall wasn’t much impressed. He was a dedicated royalist and Catholic advocate during a time when these ideals weren’t universally popular.  In fact these beliefs led to his demise.

Visit Sean at Spectacularly Delicious for:

Porterhouse Steak Diane

Beef Fondue Bourguignon

and

The King of Steaks Steak Sauce

For more on Sean Sullivan, visit his page here

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