Behold my father-in-law.
Son of an Italian restaurateur; a Navy cook at age 18; a restaurateur himself for almost four decades--this is a man who sees life through a filter of family and food.
A lot of food. Don't believe me? Check out Christmas dinner for 9 adults and 1 toddler:
A feast! Lovingly and thoughtfully prepared and designed to ensure that nobody goes hungry. But Don Sr.'s concern for the comfort and well-being of others doesn't just end at his own table, which is why I wasn't at all surprised when he pulled me aside during our visit and told me that he had purchased two beef tenderloins and he wanted us to take them home and wine and dine my parents for a New Year's Day dinner. Love, via food, crossing state lines.
Now, you might read that--beef tenderloin, and think, oh, the steak--because that IS what we call the steak cut from the beef tenderloin. You're thinking this:
But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about a whole beef tenderloin. Like this:
Two of them.
Obviously this calls for more than just a four-person dinner party, don't you think? And exploring the recipes in the Gourmet Cookbook, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to make Beef Tenderloin with Bordelaise Sauce.
So apparently Bordelaise Sauce is a French classic--a quick look at the ingredients and you can see it calls for the usual suspects in a French sauce--veal stock, dry red Bordeaux, aromatics...but it does have one unusual (and optional) ingredient--something I have never come across--beef marrow bones.
Now, my chef friends are perhaps thinking--oh, they're roasted and made into stock, or something along those lines--nope. This is what you do...
Rinse them, then put them in a bowl with warm water to soak for about ten minutes. Why? Because you're going to push the marrow out and throw the bones away. Now that you've got all these semi-soft marrow cylinders, you cut them into 1/8 inch rounds and put them in a bowl where you cover them with cold water. And then let them soak for 24 hours, changing the water twice.
Why the 24 hour cold soak? And the water change? I can honestly tell you (after doing it) that I have absolutely no idea. I couldn't see that anything significant was being poured off while I was changing the water (unlike, say, soaking salt cod). So, I just don't know. If you know, enlighten me! Also you can see those are hardly 1/8 inch wide--more like a 1/3. So sue me.
Anyway, then you make the sauce--you combine the wine, stock etc, and boil til reduced to a tiny little bit of liquid. Here's the starting pot:
...and in this case I reduced it to 2/3 a cup since I was doubling the recipe. Then you add the veal stock (in my case beef stock--sorry Thomas Keller) and bring it to a boil...strain, thicken with arrowroot and add a little Madeira. I would also like to take a moment to be grateful for the patience of liquor store owners everywhere who have to put up with people like me, who wander in asking for "dry" Madeira because a recipe calls for it.
That's it. There's your sauce. You might be wondering where the marrow comes in? Hang on...
You can make the sauce in advance, which I did. We had the dinner party at my parent's house, and I roasted the tenderloins there. I entertained the crowd by searing the tenderloins first on a heavy-duty cookie sheet laid across two burners, and then roasting them in a 350 oven.
The marrow gets prepared like this--first, poached in salted broth for about 8 minutes. Then, added to the sauce. And...what does this poached marrow add? Well, it's kind of like melty warm beefy fat globules. Which, you know, isn't bad. The headnotes for the recipe says it adds "sybaritic luxury" which I never did look up but I think has something to do with Roman feasting in togas or maybe Pan with all his red wine drinking. Oh all right, I'll look it up. Here we go, from Wikipedia--the final paragraph:
The word Sybaritic has become a byword meaning extreme luxury and a seeking for pleasure and comfort. One story has a Sybarite turning in his bed sleeplessly, because a crumpled rose petal had gotten into it. The best known anecdote of the Sybarites is of their defeat in battle. It is told that to amuse themselves the Sybarite cavalrymen trained their horses to dance to pipe music. Armed with pipes, an invading army from nearby Crotonia assailed the Sybarite cavalry with music. The attacking forces easily passed through the dancing horses and their helpless riders, and conquered the city.
OK, decadent and luxurious...I'll buy that. Or eat that. Whatever. I will not train my cat to dance to pipes, though. Think of the advantage the mice might have!
Here's the feast in progress...
If food be the music of love play on...no wait, if music be the food of love play on...HANG ON...
That works for me.