Notes on the cut:
As we mentioned, the cuts used in this demonstration came from a particular place on the beef tenderloin. Since we are doing several demonstrations/recipes as we work our way down the primal cut, we thought we might show you just where we are!
In the picture above, you see the entire denuded tenderloin. The head is on the left, the tail on the right. Below, you see the steaks portioned from the head, in the bottom of the picture–these are the steaks we used. The tenderloin is tender from end to end, but its characteristics do change as one proceeds from one end to the other. In general, the head and the heart are viewed as the best parts of the filet.
How do you like your Filet?
There is debate as to the exact definition of “rare,” “medium rare,” “au point,” etc. A little practice will help you learn just exactly what temperature achieves your preferred appearance of doneness.
Here are some basic temperature setting guidelines:
Rare: 129 F/54 C.
Medium rare: 135 F/57 C
Medium: 140 F/60 C.
Medium well: 150 F/66 C.
Well done: 165 F/74 C.
Set the sous vide bath to the temperature that most closely matches your preference. Most chefs try to arrive at an internal temperature of approximately 129 F/54 C. This is much easier to do using sous vide than by conventional methods.
Stage each filet into a dedicated vacuum bag. Seal and sous vide process at the temperature best suited to your preferences for a minimum of two hours. If you want to process several steaks at different degrees of apparent doneness, start with the HIGHEST temperature to be applied. Using two hour intervals, add ice or cold water to achieve the next desired temperature, and add the next steak. Continue making these adjustments every two hours until you have processed the last steak for a minimum of two hours. Because the rate of conversion at these temperatures is so low, the entire set can be held for up to four hours at 129 F/54 C without any noticeable change in color or texture.
For enthusiasts who like their steaks extremely rare, they can be processed at temperatures as low as 122F /50 C; HOWEVER, in this case the steaks will not achieve pasteurization, so the processing time MUST be limited to TWO HOURS in order to meet USDA standards of food safety. The steaks should then be consumed immediately, just as one would if sous vide were not being utilized.
Finishing and Presentation:
NOTE: If you want to do something like the presentation above, make sure you have completed the recipe for the mille-feuilles potatoes. Reduce the Pinot Noir with the demi-glace until you have one cup/200 ml. This can be put in a squirt bottle. Saute one whole mushroom in a little butter until it softens and darkens. Add the carrots and peas just to heat.
Heat the plate (or plates) in a 190 F/88 C oven–this is very important. Hot plates give you more time to create a deliberate presentation. Restaurants always use hot plates and one of the large chains takes great pride in how hot their plates are–they usually arrive to the table sizzling.
Sprinkle the black salt on the plate. Arrange the crispy sage leaves and the rest of the components on the plate except the mushroom, the sauce and the filet. Return to the oven if possible.
Remove the steak from the bag and pat dry. Sprinkle the steak with the salt and pepper on all sides. Drizzle or spray with a little oil–this avoids the oil burning as a result of being added to the pan/grill. Sear the steak on high heat. The surface of the pan should be approximately 375 F/190 C. Avoid moving or excessively flipping the steaks–each surface should touch the pan only once to avoid cooling the pan and overcooking the steak. This process usually takes about one minute to darken all sides. Remove from heat and coat the steak with a little butter, allow to rest for two minutes.
Place the steak on the plate, crown with the mushroom, and drizzle the sauce as shown.
You can see the uniform appearance of doneness throughout the steak. This is almost impossible to achieve by traditional means. This is one of many favorable features of the sous vide process. No matter how you like your steak, this principle applies. It is no longer necessary to “burn” a steak just to achieve a well done appearance–sous vide does that for you!
We did another similar but slightly different version of the same tenderloin cut below.
This model utilizes the same procedure as the first one except for the addition of the creamed greens. To make them, you sprinkle the fresh greens with a pinch of salt, wrap in a paper towel and vacuum. Wait fifteen minutes for the greens to cure and drain into the towel.
Combine the cream and the butter in a thick-bottomed skillet and bring to boil. Allow to simmer for up to one minute to fully emulsify. Add the greens but do not boil again. Slice one mushroom and saute it separately. Be sure you have your potatoes ready and proceed to arrange all the components on the hot plate except for the filet and the sauce.
Sear the steaks as explained above, and proceed as pictured. Cut the steak in half to reveal the level of doneness.
Again, you can see the uniform appearance of doneness that sous vide gives you.
For me, this is about as good as it gets! It is worth taking that little extra time and putting forth the effort to create a simple but eye pleasing presentation–even when you are only cooking for yourself!