There are lots of reasons to like this recipe. First, it’s a way to make a small piece of expensive beef go a long way.
The second reason I like this recipe is that everybody loves the layering of the flavors. The third reason is that even though it is an impressive dish, it is easy to make.
The inspiration for this recipe came from Robert Irvine and his book Impossible to Easy. It’s a great book full of creative recipes that are easy to make, look great, and taste great.
To Make the Tomato-Onion Salsa
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 cup reduced salt vegetable broth (I use Knorr Vegetable Bullion Cubes)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Saute the red onion, garlic, and celery over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent. Pour in the wine and deglaze the pan. Reduce until there is about a tablespoon of liquid left in the pan. Add the vegetable stock, tomato paste, parsley, and thyme. raise the heat to a gentle boil and let the liquid reduce to about 2 tablespoons. Keep the salsa warm until ready to serve.
To Make the English Cheddar Polenta
This is traditional polenta, into which I stir grated cheese. My absolute first choice for the cheese is Cave-Aged Cheddar from Ford Farm in England. It may sound exotic and hard to find but Trader Joe’s carries it. You can also get Cave-Aged Cheddar from Grafton Village in Vermont. If neither of those are available, Almost any English cheddar or aged American cheddar would work though the flavor will be different. (The flavor won’t be worse, it will just be different.)
UPDATE: Trader Joe’s no longer carries cave-aged cheddar. Costco now carries it.
(Shortcut: Polenta and Grits are both cornmeal. I have used Quaker Instant Grits – made according to the directions on the package – and no one knew the difference.)
The people at Serious Eats have a great blog post containing everything you’ll ever need to know about making polenta.
In my opinion the cornmeal from Hayden Flour Mills makes the smoothest creamiest polenta.
This recipe should make enough for four servings of this dish:
1 cup cornmeal
4 cups water
2 cups grated Aged Cheddar
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Put the water in a saucepan over medium high heat. Begin adding the cornmeal in a slow stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. As soon as the polenta starts to boil, reduce the heat to low – just below a boil. Stir frequently. When the polenta starts to pull away from the sides of the pan as you stir, add the butter and the grated cheese. Stir until well blended. Serve.
Note: when I make polenta this way it takes about an hour and 15 minutes.
A couple of polenta hints: If the polenta get done early use a double boiler to keep it warm. If the polenta gets too thick add a tiny bit of water and stir.
To Make the Mesquite Beef Tenderloin Medallions
I’m faced with the same conundrum as most of you: I like to use the highest quality ingredients. It goes without saying then that if I am going to serve beef to guests I want it to be better than they usually buy in the supermarket. On the other hand, the price of all beef has risen significantly. The temptation is to drop back to a lower quality or cheaper cut of beef. My approach is different: I still use the very best beef but prepare it in ways that allow me to make a little of it go a long way. This dish is a perfect example. I use the best quality center-cut beef tenderloin (filet mignon) I can find. I have the butcher slice it into 3/8-inch thick slices, one per serving.
While tenderloin is a very tender cut of beef, it is not the most flavorful. My preferred solution to this is Jack Daniel’s Mesquite Marinade. It is a liquid in a heavy ziplock bag. About an hour and a half before cooking just drop the tenderloin medallions in the bag, seal it shut and put it in the refrigerator.
Beef Tenderloin Medallions, 3/8 inch (or your reference) thick, 1 per serving
Jack Daniel’s Mesquite EZ Marinader
About an 90 minutes before cooking, place the beef medallions in the marinade bag, seal it closed and place in the refrigerator. About 30 minutes before cooking, remove the beef from the refrigerator. Remove the medallions from the marinade bag (discard the bag), place them on a plate, and let them warm to room temperature.
Put a saute pan over medium heat. Add a little olive oil. when the pan and oil are up to temperature, saute the medallions, about 2 minutes per side.
Place 1-2 to 3/4 cup of the polenta on the plate. Gently place the tenderloin medallion on top of the polenta. Gently place a generous spoonful of the salsa on top of the tenderloin. Serve immediately.