Foodbuzz 24 x 24 | An Ode to Orvieto
This recipe was a part of a special menu for Foodbuzz’s June 2011 food blogger party, 24×24. Showcasing posts from 24 Foodbuzz Featured Publisher bloggers, the monthly Foodbuzz 24 highlights unique meals occurring around the globe during a 24-hour period. Read more about my meal along with all of the other recipes at An Ode to Orvieto.
One of my favorite things about Italy, particularly in the sleepier towns, meals are a whole lot more egalitarian. Wine is cheap and plentiful, and fresh ingredients used in wholesome cooking are never at a premium. Tasty is tasty, and everything else fails to make it to the table.
On a dinner out with a group of other students in Orvieto, one of the guys told me that whenever he saw “filetto” on a menu, he ordered it without hesitation. For the mounds of fresh pasta and pizza and risotto that we ordered as main courses over first courses, we never managed to get to the meat courses. Learning about this filet obsession shook me from my carb-focused complacency, and I decided to go with a Filetto ai Carciofi, a filet mignon simply grilled with artichokes. It was in that moment that I had felt as if I’d wasted how many dinners not indulging on a perfectly cooked steak. Better yet, the dear price tag was nowhere to be found – it was as if I had ordered a chicken breast back in the states, the cost so reasonable. I miss those days.
This dish has been adapted as a party pleaser, replacing the filet with a whole beef tenderloin. You have the joy of the same tender meat, but can slice thinly to feed a group. I’ve also found that buying the whole tenderloin results in a much cheaper price tag by the pound. As such, you can roast a tenderloin one night and cut individual filets with the rest for dinners later on. The artichokes are the perfect accompaniment, simmered in chicken stock and dressed in a lush, creamy bechamel. This is a seriously rich dish of food and a little bit goes a long way. You will be impressed with how far rich, fresh ingredients go in feeding a bunch, all the while keeping the price tag reasonable.
Beef Tenderloin with Artichokes in Bechamel
1 3-4 lb. beef tenderloin
sprig of thyme
6 c. of chicken stock
1 sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
4 tbs. of butter
3 tbs. of flour
1 c. of heavy cream
2 1/2 c. of whole milk
4 tbs. of parsley
salt to taste
Season your beef tenderloin liberally with salt and pepper. Rub with olive oil and let sit out while you prep your artichokes.
Halve the two lemons and squeeze into a large bowl. Fill the bowl with water 2/3 of the way full. Remove the outer leaves of the artichoke until you get to the tender golden leaves in the center [photo]. Chop off the golden leaves to expose the hairy choke in the center [photo]. Use a pairing knife to smooth the outside of the artichoke and remove any tough bits of leaves [photo]. Cut off all but 1/2 of an inch of the stem and peel with a pairing knife or vegetable peeler. Cut the artichoke into quarters and scoop out all of the fuzzy choke. Rub all of the cut sides of the artichoke pieces with the halved lemon and then add to the water. Continue until you have prepped all of the artichokes.
Bring the six cups of chicken stock, thyme and bay leaves to a boil. Add the artichokes and simmer on medium high for 30 minutes. Remove artichokes with a slotted spoon and set aside.
In a skillet, add a bit of olive oil and heat on high. Add the tenderloin and sear on all sides until deeply browned on the outside and rare in the middle. Place tenderloin on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven until cooked off to your desired doneness, about 5 more minutes for rare to medium rare. Remove from the oven and let rest.
While the beef is cooking, make your bechamel. Melt the 4 tbs. of butter in a sauce pan. Whisk in the flour to make a smooth paste. Continue to whisk and add the milk and cream. Working over medium heat, whisk until sauce thickens slightly. Add the artichokes, about 1/2 tsp. of salt and a 1/4 tsp. of white pepper to taste and stir. Continue to cook until the bechamel thickens around the artichokes. Top with parsley.
Slice the steak into 1/4 inch slices and surround with the artichokes and bechamel. Serve.