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Like the Grinch, You Can Carve the Roast Beast©
Kathy's Christmas Beef Tenderloin
It's Christmas Eve and the anticipation level at our house is "about a 9 on the tension scale, Rube." The gifts are all wrapped, the stockings are all hung by the chimney with care (or they would be if we had a chimney), the cookies have all been baked and decorated, and the table is set for dinner tonight. I'm in the midst of my last minute preparations, looking forward to my family and guests arriving. When they do, I can take a deep breath, relax to the sound of carols playing in the background, have a glass of wine and an hors d'oeuvre, and enjoy my guests. I don't have nearly as many guests as I used to, but the idea is not about the numbers. It's all about the family and friends that are as much a part of my family as my relatives, which gather from year to year to celebrate Christmas together.
It's times like this I wish I had continued playing the piano so that I could play Christmas Carols. I have always had this vision of everyone gathered around my piano singing "Silent Night" and "Jingle Bells." But that is one of those things you don't think about when you're twelve years old and want to give up piano lessons. This year it doesn't matter because we'll have my Granddaughter, Whitney who is 13, and her Sister, Tara who is 11, playing Christmas Carols in a duet on their violin and flute, respectively. They are both very musically talented young ladies. I'm very excited to hear them play as they have been practicing Christmas Carols since September when we bought the sheet music from the neighborhood Music Store. Whitney also plays all the Percussion instruments in her school's Concert Band as well as Keyboard, and Tara has mastered the flute just since school started here in August. She is a natural and is following in the steps of her Grandmother (or so I tell her)!
I'm sad that my youngest Son and his Wife can't be here to join us; but they live across the country and are very busy with their own lives. We will miss them greatly. I know that they are enjoying their own Christmas celebration, however, and that makes me feel better. My oldest Son and his Wife are here, as are their other two children, Zak and Jordan. Zak flew in from Ohio earlier this week. He's finishing school in May, and we're never sure whether this will be his last time at home for the holidays. We are all grateful that he is here and enjoying the time that he is able to spend with us. His Brother, Jordan and Jordan's fiancee, "Sweet Dee," will be here with their almost 2-year old daughter. It will be wonderful to have a toddler in the house for Christmas since it's been almost ten years since that has happened.
The most wonderful part of the evening is not the gifts, the singing, the wine, the hors d' oeuvres, or the fantastic dinner that I will be serving later. It's the loving relationships between our families. After all the craziness of the evening has died down and the other guests have gone home, we will all sit outside on the lanai telling family stories, with only the multi-colored twinkle lights and the stars illuminating the midnight sky. This is our favorite time of Christmas Eve. The stories range from when I was young to when my sons were growing up, to when my oldest Son and Daughter-in-Law were newlyweds, to my Grandchildren's earliest recollections. Every one has a story, and sometimes we hear things that have been kept secrets for years. Other times, the same story is told from year to year, but it is as appreciated the latest time as it was the first time it was told. Some of the anecdotes are funny or sometimes they are sentimental and everyone cries. The best ones are the goofy things we all do, and when told to the group, everyone laughs so hard that they cry. Every year I tell them the story about one Christmas when I was a little girl and found myself in hot water. And because it's Christmas Eve, it's an appropriate time to tell it to you.
The first thing you have to know about me is that I was a pretty stubborn, persistent and mischievous little girl who would stretch the truth in order to stay out of trouble. I would go to lengths so that I could get my own way, and I wasn't really good at waiting for things. I learned a good lesson this particular year, however, and it has remained with me ever since. When I was about 10 or 11 (about two years after learning the devastating news that there was no Santa Claus), I figured that since my Parents were just buying the gifts anyhow, it made no difference whether I opened them early or waited until Christmas to find out what they were. Our house was pretty similar in structure to the others in the neighborhood; It had gray wood-shingles and was one-and-a-half stories with a dormer on the second floor. My oldest Sister, Marie, and I shared the only bedroom on the second floor of the house. Under the sloping eaves of the roof on one side was the attic and on the other side was storage closets. I think I've told you before that when we baked Christmas Cookies in December, my Mother kept them in the attic where it was cool, so they would stay fresher longer. Well, my Parents also kept the wrapped Christmas presents in the attic. Apparently they thought they were safe from tampering hands because they were wrapped.
This particular day in December I came home from school and no one was home. Now this was an unusual occurrence having three Sisters and a Mother who did not work outside the home. But I didn't give a whole lot of thought to that fact. I was more interested in the fact that the gifts in the attic were unattended. So I proceeded to climb the stairs and enter the attic, using the utmost care and proceeding with the utmost caution on the chance that someone might come home. It was unlikely that my two younger Sisters would come upstairs as they weren't usually allowed in the "older girls' room," but there was always a chance my oldest Sister (and bedroom-mate) would find me and blow the whistle on my mischief. She had a habit of doing that. Fortunately that did not happen. I continued on, and found the gifts that had my name on them. Very, very, very carefully, I peeled the tape away from the wrapping paper (without tearing any of the paper, I might add), and opened each of the presents. There were the books I'd asked for, the records, new shoes, and so on. I even got the specific turquoise and white dress that I wasn't sure I would get. So my pleading had paid off after all! I very, very, very carefully re-taped the packages. I knew I couldn't peel off the old tape and replace it with new without tearing the paper, and if the paper on all my gifts was torn, it would be evident they had been tapered with. Before leaving the attic, I chose a few cookies from the fifteen gross or so we had stored up there, and then left to attend to my homework. Still no one was home. Mission accomplished! I had outsmarted everyone, I thought to myself smugly.
The next few weeks went by and the Christmas preparations continued. We continued baking cookies, we all wrapped presents, and we finished school before the holidays. Nothing had changed. Every evening when my Mother came back from the attic where she had given the Fruitcake its daily dousing of rum or brandy, or whatever liquor she was using that year, I held my breath. She never said anything, so I assumed I was safe. On Christmas Eve we prepared like we always did to go to my Father's Parents for the evening. Once again, after we all loaded into the car, my Mother forgot her purse, her gloves, the dish she was taking or whatever, and we all waited for her to retrieve it. By then I knew that she was really turning on the Christmas Tree lights and putting the gifts under the tree so that it would look like Santa had been there when we got home. (I still had two younger sisters, and one of them must have still believed.) So, we went to my Grandparents' home for all the festivities with all my cousins and my Father's family. I still remember having kind of a let-down feeling after we got there. I already knew what I was getting. My Sisters were all so excited, and I wasn't really excited at all. There was nothing to anticipate. I can recall my Mother asking me if I was feeling sick since I didn't seem as energetic as usual. When we drove by our house on our way from my Grandparents' home to the Church for Midnight Mass, my youngest Sister asked if we thought Santa had come yet. He has for me, I thought. I sat through Mass, all the while feeling worse and worse. Finally, it was time to go home and open gifts. For the first time in my young life, I was anxious for the night to end.
When we got home, we all went in and hung our coats in the front closet, then we girls went to our rooms and changed into our pajamas. My Father prepared his annual Christmas Eve Eggnog and my Mother escaped to the attic to make up a plate of Christmas Cookies for our gift-opening tradition. I was dreading going downstairs to our recreation room where our big Christmas Tree was located. I dreaded opening the gifts like I'd never dreaded anything before. What was the point? I already knew what they were. I took my time, and when I heard Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas" from the record player in the basement, I knew I had no choice. "Come on Kathy," my Father called, "you're going to miss everything!" I had to go downstairs and act surprised when I opened my gifts. I can't remember ever having a larger lump in my stomach up to that point in my life. I was the last one to descend the stairs, and everyone was sitting around the tree by the time I made my appearance. I sat down in the only empty chair, and everyone looked at me. What? I thought. I looked from face to face. Then I looked at the gifts under the tree. The tape on the wrapping paper of about one-quarter of the gifts had popped and the wrapping paper was sticking straight up. The gifts had come unwrapped. But only mine! Apparently, the heat from the lights on the tree (remember, at that time it was still those big, nightlight sized colored lights) had heated the tape (which had already been peeled back once) during the time we were at my Grandparents' home and at church, and now it wasn't sticking at all! "Look at that," I said nonchalantly, acting like nothing was wrong. Everyone was still staring at me. Maybe if I acted surprised, they would think it was just bad tape. "HHHMMMMM, I've never seen that happen before," I tried again. But the jig was up. I hadn’t gotten away with it after all. The looks on everyone's face said it all.
My Parents never reprimanded me for my little caper, though. They later said that I was embarrassed enough to learn my lesson. And in fact I learned more than one lesson that day. I learned it's no fun knowing ahead of time what "Santa" is bringing. There was no anticipation, no excitement; the magic of Christmas Eve just wasn't there for me that year. I had gone through several weeks of fear, worrying that I would be caught. And even when it appeared on the outside that I'd gotten away with my stunt, my conscience was working on me. I didn't feel good inside about the whole thing. Never again would I try to find out what a gift was ahead of time. It just wasn't worth it. Every Christmas after that, while I was still living at home, I was teased about the year the faulty tape was on just my gifts. That was the punishment that was inflicted year, after year, after year. The final thing I learned was that that tape had either malfunctioned (that's my story and I'm sticking to it), or it wasn't made to be sealed, then unsealed, then sealed again. It was too bad that I didn't have a Research & Development instinct to take this knowledge and develop it further. Perhaps then I would have discovered the glue that goes on sticky-notes, and I'd be living in Paradise watching the palm trees sway, sipping a fruity rum drink and enjoying early retirement! Oh wait! I am living in Paradise. . . .
I am going to go finish my preparations before the doorbell starts ringing. Tonight we're having a few of the recipes I've already given you this month. As usual, we're having Caramelized Brie with Almonds and Apples, and Red & Green Christmas Salad (see earlier posts). I'm also making our traditional Christmas Roast Beef Tenderloin with a Garlic, Scallion and Dijon Sauce, Mushrooms sautéed in Garlic Butter and White Wine, Roasted Potatoes, Fresh Roasted Asparagus and Glazed Carrots. I'm sharing my recipe for the Beef Tenderloin with you today since this is our favorite Christmas Eve protein. It's so simple you can have it all ready to slide in the oven about 50 minutes before serving time, and basically not give it a thought again for 20 minutes. In fact, since it's really better to bring it to room temperature before placing it in the oven, you can enjoy a glass of wine and a few appetizers while you enjoy your guests. I prepare a sauce with it that I mix together earlier in the day. That way, all I have to do after the first 20 minutes of roasting is pour the sauce over the top of the tenderloin and slide it back in the oven for another 15-25 minutes. Then I take it out, let it rest and voilá! A self-made sauce that is wonderful over the beef, the mushrooms, or the potatoes. Try this recipe when you'd like a carefree way to fix Beef Tenderloin. It's great when you're having guests and don't want a lot of fuss. I guarantee it will melt in your mouth, and everyone will love it. And the best part is that on Christmas Eve like the Grinch, you yourself can carve the Roast Beast! My Best Wishes to all of you for a very safe, Merry Christmas, and to all a Good Night!
©2012, 2013 You Yourself Can Carve the Roast Beast, by Kathy Striggow
This article may not be reproduced or reprinted in whole or in part without the express written permission of the author.
Kathy's Christmas Beef Tenderloin
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Roasting Time: 35-45 minutes
For the Beef
2-1/2 lb. to 3-1/2 lb. Beef Tenderloin, trimmed and all silver removed
¼ cup Unsalted Butter, at room temperature, NOT melted
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Freshly Ground Black Pepper
For the Sauce¹
¼ cup Scallions with green tops included, chopped
2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
2 Tbsp. cup Soy Sauce
2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
3 Tbsp. Flour
1 can (14 oz.) Beef Broth
Black Pepper, freshly ground
For the Beef
1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
2. Spread the tenderloin with the softened butter. Mix together the garlic powder, salt and papper and coat all sides.
3. Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
4. Remove the tenderloin from the oven and pour the sauce over the top.
5. Return to the oven for another 15-25 minutes (depending on the degree of doneness you prefer), basting occasionally with the sauce and juices that have collected in the bottom of the pan.
6. Additional baking time for rare is approximately 15 minutes, 20 minutes for medium-rare, and 25 minutes for medium-well.
7. Remove from oven. Cover lightly with aluminum foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes.
8. When ready to serve, carve into ¾ to 1-inch slices and overlap slices on a warm serving platter, then drizzle with sauce (make sure the platter is warm or the beef will cool too quickly).
9. Either surround the beef with sautéed mushrooms, roasted potatoes and some fresh sprigs of rosemary, or garnish with cherry tomatoes, fresh chives or rosemary.
For the Sauce²
1. In a medium sauté pan, sauté the scallions in the 2 Tbsp. butter until soft, not browned.
2. Whisk in the soy sauce and Dijon mustard.
3. Add the Flour to the beef broth and whisk to remove any lumps.
4. Reduce the heat and slowly add the flour mixture to the pan, whisking to incorporate and to prevent the mixture from clumping.
5. Continue slowly whisking until fully incorporated and the mixture has reached the simmering point.
6. Continue simmering until the sauce begins to thicken. The sauce should reach a consistency between an au jus and gravy. Keep the sauce on the burner on low until it's time to pour it over the tenderloin OR
7. if you are making it ahead of time, remove it from the heat and set aside until you put the roast into the oven the first time. Warm it to simmering and pour it over the tenderloin the first time you take it out of the oven.
8. Remove the tenderloin, turn off the oven, and return the sauce in the pan to the oven where you can keep it warm until serving time.
9. The sauce may be served over the tenderloin, mashed or roasted potatoes, or any side appropriate for a beef sauce.
¹I always double the recipe for the sauce because I don't think a single recipe gives you enough sauce to have over the roast, potatoes and mushrooms I make as accompaniments. If you're serving with mashed potatoes definitely double the sauce recipe.
²This sauce can be made earlier in the day and reheated, or you can make it right after you put the tenderloin into the oven for the first time. Because I would rather be tossing the salad, pouring the wine or tending to those other last minute preparations before placing the meal on the table, I always make it ahead. There is no difference in the taste either way.
©2012 You Yourself Can Carve the Roast Beast, by Kathy Striggow
©2012 You Yourself Can Carve the Roast Beast and Kathy's Christmas Beef Tenderloin by Kathy Striggow