The Showstopper: Herb-Crusted Beef Tenderloin

herb-crusted beef tenderloin
If you ever need to make a dinner to impress someone or you just want a really amazing meal, this is the dish to make.

I came across this recipe for herb-crusted beef tenderloin in the holiday issue of Entertaining from Cook's Illustrated. I'm usually enticed as soon as I hear the word beef, and tenderloin clearly ups the ante. Add herb-crusted, and it's pretty unlikely that I'd be able to resist.

So on a random Sunday afternoon, following a trip to the new Whole Foods in Dedham, Mass. (one of my new favorite places), I made this for dinner just for my boyfriend and me. It wasn't a special occasion, but if you saw the spread, you would have been fooled. I still can't believe how incredible this meal was.

Like all Cook's Illustrated recipes, this one was tested and retested until it could be called perfect. Even someone like me, who cooks but isn't necessarily great at getting meat to the right doneness and things like that, can execute this recipe flawlessly.

It didn't hurt that this was actually the first time I relied on the temperature probe that came with the oven. If you have one, and you haven't used it before, start now. All I had to do was stick the probe into the middle of the tenderloin, set the desired temperature, and as soon as that temperature was reached, the oven let me know. It's the easiest thing ever.

Cook's Illustrated still hoards recipes rather than offering them online for free like Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Everyday Food, Martha Stewart Living, and virtually any other magazine with recipes; however, I made this one on a smaller scale and it isn't exactly Cook's Illustrated's tried and true version, so below I'm giving you my herb-crusted beef tenderloin for two recipe.

I can also offer you something Cook's Illustrated doesn't: these beautiful, full-color, step-by-step pictures!

Herb-Crusted Beef Tenderloin (adapted from Entertaining from Cook's Illustrated, Holiday 2009 issue)

Note: While the recipe is fairly simple to execute, it does take a lot of time. You'll want to give yourself 3 1/2 to 4 hours, from start to finish.


1 small beef tenderloin, tied with twine (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 slice of white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced

ingredients for herb-crusted beef tenderloin

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 tablespoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon pepper, and sugar. Rub mixture all over tenderloin. Place tenderloin on a wire rack set inside a sheet pan. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours. (This part made me really nervous, but if Cook's Illustrated says it's okay, I figured it must be okay.)

seasoned beef tenderloin
Toward the end of the 2 hours, pulse bread in food processor until fine crumbs form. Place crumbs in medium bowl and add 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Mix well.

bread crumb mixture
Clean food processor bowl and process remaining 3 tablespoons parsley, 1 tablespoon thyme, 1/4 cup Parmesan, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and garlic until smooth paste forms. Transfer to a small bowl.

herb paste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roast tenderloin for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and cut and discard twine.

beef tenderloin with twine
Using a rubber spatula, spread the herb paste over top and sides of tenderloin.

beef tenderloin with herb paste
Press the bread-crumb topping over the herb paste.

beef tenderloin with herb crust
If using oven probe, insert into meat and set oven to alert you when the meat has reached 130 degrees (otherwise check meat with a meat thermometer until it reaches 130 degrees). The meat should be cooked to medium rare and the topping will be golden brown. This should take 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove roast from oven, and let rest for 30 minutes.

finished herb-crusted beef tenderloin
Transfer meat to cutting board, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

Savor every last bite!

The only change I would make is to cook the meat a little less because I like my meat rare. The middle pieces were nearly perfect for me, and the ends were great for my boyfriend who prefers his meat more on the medium side, though I'm slowly convincing him that rare meat has so much more flavor and is safe when made under the right conditions.

We ate this with crispy homemade potato latkes (also a CI recipe) and steamed broccoli. Everything tasted way too good for a random Sunday dinner, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. And I can consider it the test dinner. Now that I've made it once, I know I can make it again and serve a showstopping meal when we have company.

What's your showstopping meal?


Mike said...

This sounds so good! The photos alone make me want to try this out. Except using cheese would make it unkosher. Do you think it would work without the cheese, or would that throw off the consistency?

Megan said...

Thanks, Mike! I think it should still work without the cheese. Just add a little more olive oil if the herb paste doesn't seem "pasty" enough.

Erika said...

This is making me drool! Definitely a wow dish!

Luigi said...

Lovely looking herb crust, and the meat looks pefect. I love it nice and pink in the middle, absolutely stunning.

brandi said...

wow - how beautiful! and I actually have a tenderloin in the freezer that I'm trying to decide what to do with it...yum.

Maria said...

My hubs would love this!

Moogie said...

OMG... this looks fabulous.

Amy I. said...

This looks amazing. I've never quite been able to master beef tenderloin.. when I try it again, I'd definitely trust CI to take me through it right!

lakegirl said...

Oh my this looks absolutely wonderful!! I am not a beef eater but my husband would think this is to die for. I've always wanted to make a tenderloin. It would make a great New Year's Eve dinner.

Shannon said...

wow, that looks amazing! i'll have to keep it in mind for the next time i'm enteraining meat eaters :) i've got some vegetarian friends tonight... dont think they['d appreciate it as much ;)

Alicia said...

Megan - this looks mouth-watering! Red meat is definitely my showstopper of choice - I love making braised shortribs!

Kat said...

Sounds like another great beef recipe to try. I am so glad I have exited my cave and let beef into my world!

Kerstin said...

What a show stopper! The crust looks so good! I've only cooked beef once and it went ok, but I really need to get more comfortable with it.

Fresh Local and Best said...

This recipe is very impressive! The meat looks like it was cooked perfectly and the crust adds so much to the presentation!

Heather said...

Wow....this looks amazing! I definitely bookmarked it for when company comes over.

I would say my 'showstopper' recipe was this version of Beef Wellington that I found on Epicurious: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Beef-Wellingtons-with-Gorgonzola-14632

It was absolutely out of this world. It turned out perfectly, and I'm not really much of a meat cooker. :) It's the kind of recipe that makes you look like a world class chef for very little effort.

Anonymous said...

This recipe is THE BEST!!! Made today (Christmas dinner for 12) had 8 lb Tenderloin and just doubled all the ingredients for the herb crust. WOW. Can't wait to have it again! Cooked to 135 internal degrees before letting set for 30 minutes. Med Rare at larger end to Medium at the smaller end. WONDERFUL!

Vicky said...

thank you so much for posting this. I to used to belong to CI but I hate having to pay for the sites (Cooks Country too). Trying this tonight!

Megan said...

It's my adapted version, not what you'd find on their websites, but I hope you like it. I think their sites are so worth it (but I'm biased)! Enjoy!