Sunday, November 09, 2008


That Cookbook Thing II - Tournedos Sautés Chasseur

I don't know about you, but I cannot keep all the various cuts of meat straight. It has been most confusing keeping track of what one calls a particular cut in New Zealand and what one calls the same thing in the US. It is even more confusing when translating the same cut from another language - I need to check a few references (first, the one in the language/country from which I have found the recipe source) before finding a synonymous cut in New Zealand. It really does my head in. Perhaps this is because I'm easy when it comes to meat - no pun intended. If I see oxtail, I think of braising; if I see sirloin, I think of frying (in all its sanguineous glory, please). I have neither an allegiance to a selection of meat nor to a method of cooking. Today's choice selection, tournedos, ensured that I checked a few references before embarking on a the recipe selected for That Cookbook Thing II.

And so the research question: What is tournedos? Because today's post reflects a selection of meat recipes from Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck's first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, it is best to see how Child et al. describe it. Better than verbal description alone, the ladies provide a cross-section diagram of a whole filet of beef. Tournedos is located in the T-bone steak section, which is towards the lower back, as opposed to the shoulder/rump. The T-bone is divided into two sections: tournedos (next to the filet steak of the porterhouse cut) and filet mignon (at the extremity of the rib end of the steak). This is clear enough, but another source, Martha Stewart, says that filet mignon and tournedos are the same thing in America. This conflicts with Julia Child's lesson, which is directed to an American audience. New Zealand Beef tells you that one side of the T-bone flesh is the tenderloin, agreeing with Child et al., one part of this is the tournedos. My head hurts already, but I think we're there...

The commonality of all these descriptions is the rib end of the beef steak (but not its extremity, which is the filet mignon), no matter whom you listen to. Armed with this basic understanding of steak, I trotted off to my butcher par excellence, the wonderful guys at Seaview Meats, and ordered: "Tournedos, or whatever one is calling it today. I would like six healthy portions of it, and all I know is that it is not the filet mignon but the the other bit of the T-bone's tenderloin." Exhibit A, this post's opening photograph, is what I got.

As you can see, it is not as marbeled as the filet steak (cut from the mid-section - aka Porterhouse), but it is indeed tender. The lack of marbling is an excuse to fry the steak with strips of pork fat.

The following recipe serves 6.

Tournedos Sautés Chasseur
(from Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck's first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

6 rounds of bread, thinly sliced, crust removed (I used one of spelt and flax seed)
4 tablespoons clarified butter
250g/ 1/2lb fresh mushrooms, whole or quartered if big
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
2 tablespoons oil, divided use
2 tablespoons minced shallots
6 tournedos, each bundled in a strip of gorgeous fat
1/2 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup brandy (or Madeira), mixed with 1 tablespoon cornstarch (or arrowroot)
1 1/2 tablespoons parsley, minced

1) Sauté the rounds of bread in the clarified butter, lightly browned on each side. Re-heat at 180 C/350 F immediately before serving.
2) Sauté mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil.
3) Stir in shallots and cook over medium-low heat for two minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then set aside.
4) Heat up 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in sauté pan over medium-high heat. When butter foams, sauté the tournedos to your preference, then immediately remove from heat. Season the tournedos and plate each one on a separate piece of browned bread. Keep warm while the following sauce is prepared.
5) Remove fat from the sauté pan in which your prepared the steaks, add stock and tomato paste. Boil fiercely, scraping up the browned bits (the fond) and cooking juices.
6) When the liquid is reduced to but 2-3 tablespoons, add brandy and starch mixture. Boil until alcohol has evaporated and sauce has thickened.
7) Add sautéed mushrooms, simmer to blend the flavours and taste for seasoning.
8) Spread mushrooms over the steaks.
9) Sprinkle parsley over the dish.

Ms. Child recommends that the dish is served with whole-roasted tomatoes, artichoke hearts prepared in butter, or potato balls sautéed in butter. I roasted tomatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme. I also served the dish with sautéed bok choy, which is not French at all, but I like to serve red meat with greens. You, of course, will do as you please.

Even though the dish serves 6, I had two tournedos. I was feeling very greedy but regretted it soon after. One really is enough if one wants dessert afterwards (besides, one supposedly shouldn't consume more meat than the size of one's palm). In terms of repeatability, the tournedos, truthfully, are very simply prepared. I will marinate them next time. The mushrooms work well in the sauce, but it is too tomato heavy, really. Less tomato paste and perhaps some herbs will liven it up next time. As seems to be the case with all the recipes attempted for That Cookbook Thing II, Mastering the Art of French Cooking provides the willing cook with wonderful foundational material from which one can spring forth with personal additions and twists.

Please visit the posts of my friends in the blogging community who have also tried this dish as part of That Cookbook Thing II: Mike at Mel's Diner, Sara at I Like to Cook, Ruth at Once Upon A Feast, and Deborah at What's In My Kitchen?.

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Shaun, I haven't made my version yet, but I'm sure it will be tasty.

As to cuts of meat and their truly does hurt my head some days. Armed with various cookbooks and the internet, I still find I often have to do "eenie, meenie, miney, mo"....
Looks great! Can't wait to try this.
how odd, i didn't find this overly tomato-y. maybe a county difference?
Shaun, yeah, I too cannot keep up. There are certain parts of the Caribbean also that the meat is not precut and labelled so you just have to point to what you want :)
Hi Shaun,
Funny, we were just having this meaty discussion the other day. The confusion extends to offal - not the true nasty bits, rather the tougher cuts that normally end up in mince but taste wonderful when braised - and some of the things that are readily available in NZ are, in North America (if available at all), generally called something else. Luckily, my local butcher is quite resourceful.
I also wholly agree with red meat and greens, we always have some seasonal shade of green be it steamed spinach, sautéed cavolo nero or a dandelion salad.. From a dietary/nutritional perspective, it works too.
Looking delicious as usual.
Ruth ~ At least with all the cookery books and internet information at our fingertips, we can point to to the part of the animal from which we want to eat. Most savvy butchers then know to ask what you're wanting to do with it. This usually tells you if you have ordered the correct part. I love my local butchers.

Sara ~ I guess it depends on the strength of the tomato paste. I know mine is very strong, but 1 tablespoon was just right with this dish - for me, anyway.

Cynthia ~ As I said above to Ruth, I like the idea of just pointing to the bit I want/think I want. It makes life easier when purchasing, but not afterwards when guests thank you for cooking and you need to tell them what they ate.

Mary ~ So good to see you here again. I also have a resourceful and knowledgable butcher that I seek for advice and best quality meat. It is interesting one can eat almost every part (organs included) of beef. I'm not sure that I want to do that, of course, but in a pinch, we need know what we can eat and what to do with it.





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