Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Capital Gains (Kona-Crusted Tenderloin, Caramelized Shallot Butter)

This post is also available as an article in the 4/25/2012 Williamsport Sun Gazette.

A few years ago, on a trip to New York, we stopped in at the local Capital Grille. Not the most adventurous choice, given the location, but the visit definitely paid off. Upon this fateful evening, between oysters and dry martinis, I first discovered Kona-crusted steak with caramelized shallot butter, and another love affair was born.

Where have you been all my life?
This combination of flavors is truly amazing. Since the steak is being grilled, anyway, the coffee crust gives it a deeper, darker, richer roasted flavor. This bold move is the main feature and could be wonderful all on its own, but the grace note that is the shallot butter elevates it to level bordering upon transcendent. I knew I had to try and recreate the recipe.

Pictured: the recipe (more or less)
In the end, it proved surprisingly simple. Just dredge the meat in a mixture of freshly ground coffee, cracked pepper, and sea salt, then sear in the juices. About half an hour of low, slow heat on the stove-top turns the tiny shallot ribbons into gleaming golden-brown threads. Then, all you have to do is whip the shallots into some butter. Pair it with grilled veggies and potatoes, maybe your favorite red wine (or a good martini), and dinner is good to go.

You also get your own fireworks display
This meal is easy enough to make under the broiler, in a cast iron skillet, or a grill pan but, just in time for summer, charcoal grilling is what truly lets it sing. When it comes to the great grilling debate, I must say that I am unabashedly in favor of the coals. A charcoal chimney has glowing embers ready for you in no time and it imparts a nuanced, smoky, hardwood flavor that supersedes propane, lighter fluid, and briquettes by several orders of magnitude. Of course, you can prepare it however you like. I won't judge.

I'll leave the discrimination to your tastebuds
Kona-crusted tenderloin with caramelized shallot butter

Similar to your eggs, milk, and cream in baking, meat always cooks better if you allow it to come to room temperature, first. Cold meat tends to seize up on the grill and you're likely to overdo the outside before finishing the center. A quick rest once they're off the grill is just as important, too: this lets the juices redistribute into the meat.

2 beef tenderloins, about 4-6 oz each (substitute other cuts, if you wish, but cook times will vary)
1/2 c ground Kona coffee
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly cracked pepper

For the shallot butter:
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots, halved length-wise, then thinly sliced to ribbons
4 tbs butter, softened

If using a charcoal grill, the first step is to get your coals going in the charcoal chimney, so they're red and glowing by the time you want to cook. Remove the steaks from the refrigerator and allow them to begin to come to room temperature.

Phase 1
Warm the oil over medium heat in a heavy skillet and toss the shallots, stirring often, until golden brown and deeply caramelized, about 15-30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

An eye-opening aroma

While shallots cook, mix the coffee, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish and dredge the steaks on all sides, thoroughly coating them with the coffee rub.

Man's (2nd) best friend
Turn out the glowing embers into your grill and position the steaks to receive relatively medium heat, close to but not directly above the coals. Grill on one side, without touching or turning, for about 4 minutes. Flip the steaks and grill 3-4 minutes more. An instant thermometer should read a minimum of 120 degrees.

Remove the steaks to a warmed, heavy dish and tent closely with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Solid gold

Combine the cooled shallots and the softened butter with a fork or whisk, aiming for even incorporation. The more this is whipped, the more air you can incorporate,yielding a lighter and fluffier finished product.

Plate your steaks and top with a generous dollop of the caramelized shallot butter. Serves 2.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

The grilled vegetables are a nice accompaniment.