Eating Nose to Tail

This weekend we hosted a Cowboy Brunch at our house.  Two of our dear friends came over and were kind enough to cook a bunch of cowboy themed brunch foods.  It was delicious.  One of the guys cooked for the meat-eaters, and the other cooked for our darling vegetarians.  We also had a few vegans so I contributed some vegan baked beans, and because I had a slightly freezer-burnt chunk of tenderloin in the freezer I decided to cure it following Fergus Henderson's recipe from The Whole Beast.
Basically, the tenderloin is cured int he fridge for three days in a combination of sugar and salt, and nestled in rosemary stalks.
After three days remove your tenderloin (making sure that it has taken on a firmer texture) and rub it with cracked black pepper, slice and serve.
This was one of my most successful cures ever, there was a subtle rosemary flavour, along with a salty sweetness.  And because it was not a full cure the meat was very soft.  Fergus Henderson suggests a celeriac salad, but I think it would be excellent on some bitter greens as well.
Mum was in town to visit last weekend, and at some point during  our shopping we bought a whole tenderloin.  Beef tenderloins are a cut that I have a bit of experience breaking down, thanks in part to one event I catered with Rich Chudy a couple years ago.  I was  really excited/distracted by having my Mum in town and I totally blanked on photographing how one would break down a whole tenderloin at home.  After a quick search I found a site called Great-Grilling who have a good example of how to break down a tenderloin at home. I'm still thinking it may be a good idea (and kinda fun) to go get another one and do a post about it myself.

A tenderloin chain is a piece of the tenderloin that runs along one side.  It's much tougher than the loin itself, and most recipes ask you to "remove and save for another use" but don't give much advice on what that other use is.  If I'm breaking down a lot of tenderloins and have a lot of chains I will grind them (they make awesome burgers) but since I only had one I decided to braise it with dried mushrooms and red wine.
The chain.
While I was an Intern at America's Test Kitchen I was told repeatedly to never photograph meat on a red board, this photo has opened my eyes to why.

The chain has a lot of fat and connective tissue, which in my mind makes it perfect for a braise.  After removing some of the fat and breaking the chain down into pieces I was left with this.
Stew size pieces of chain.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and get out your covered braising dish and heat up a splash of oil (I used olive).  Next sear the meat until it's a nice brown colour.
Seared chain.
Chop up some veggies, I used onion, garlic, carrot and celery because that's what I had on hand but leeks, shallots and white mushrooms are other veggies that would also work.  Be creative.  Cook the veggies in the same pan, making sure to scrape up all the beefy bits stuck to the pan as they cook.  Once the veg are soft return the meat with all the juices they've released to the pan and add a handful of dried mushrooms. 
Chain, shrooms and veg.
Pour over some red wine and maybe some beef stock if you've got some, and add a sprinkle of cracked black pepper.  Put the whole thing in the oven for around an hour or until the meat is tender.  Once it's done season with a nice salt.

I prepared this on Monday and we ate it on Thursday, it keeps really well in the fridge.  Reheat, and if you want you can thicken the sauce by removing the meat and adding a beurre manié (aka a paste made from equal parts flour and butter) or any other thickening method you prefer.  I also added a spoonful of sour cream, just to give it some richness.

I served this dish with egg noodles, but boiled potatoes would also be good.
The chain is very beefy, and goes really well with the red wine and mushrooms.  I was in the mood for a hard cider, which went well with the beefy dinner.

One of the best parts of butchering larger cuts of meat is you can really use all of the bits and pieces.  Grilling a perfect filet can be easily taught to just about anyone, but knowing all of the cuts takes a little more effort.  Although that effort is greatly rewarded with meals like this.