Cookbook #41: Charlie Trotter Cooks At Home

Adapted from Cookbook #41:  Charlie Trotter Cooks at Home

Recipe:  Stuffed Beef Tenderloin with Whole-Wheat Couscous and Black Olive Vinaigrette

Four years ago, the husband and I got married.  This year, to celebrate we're heading up the California coast to a little town called Gualala for some relaxation.  However, because of availability of the lodge we're staying, we have to wait just one more week before we can (hopefully) get fogged in at some local bar watching baseball.

In the mean time, I made beef.

Admittedly, I always confuse Charlie Trotter with Thomas Keller.  The double letters followed by the -er, and I cannot keep the men straight.  Both have masterminded some great restaurants, and both geographically speak to me:  Keller with his California cuisine, Trotter with his Chicago palate.  As a Midwestern transplant, I appreciate a Midwesterner's point of view.  And while I have never actually been to his restaurant, I happily cook from this cookbook.

I deconstructed the "stuffed" part of the tenderloin, and we ate the eggplant and peppers as a side dish to the beef, which we sliced thinly over the couscous.  I also sauteed some kale and chard with garlic to serve on the side.  As the capper, we ate cupcakes from Katrina Rozelle, the bakery that made our wedding cake.  Oh, sweet Jesus, those were good cupcakes.

Yes, this seems a far cry from other Chicago-style fare (you know, deep-dish pizza and foot-long hot dogs), but Charlie Trotter adds an elegance to Chicago.  Thank you.

The husband and I engaged in one of our favorite activities--watching playoff baseball--while we ate this fine dinner.  While the Giants sadly lost, we love baseball.  Before we go further, let me be clear.  First and foremost, I love the Cubs, but the Giants will do in a pinch as my beloved team, seeing as we live in the area.

Overall, baseball has played a prominent role in our relationship.  Thirteen years ago, we used to get beers at Squatters and watch baseball, talking about those halcyon days when Jack Clark was a Cardinal.  Ten years ago, we holed up a church-turned-bed-and-breakfast in Vernal, Utah, to watch Olympic baseball.  In 2002, we bellied up to a bar high in the Sierras to cheer ourselves hoarse as the Giants won their division.  Last year, we stayed up late at the hotel in Grass Valley to bemoan the stupid, stupid Yankees.

We're willing to travel to satisfy our baseball-based desires.  We have been to games at Coors Field, Safeco Field, the Coliseum, AT&T Park, and Camden Yards.  We have fantasies of a baseball stadium tour of the US and Canada (Cleveland, here we come!).

Further, baseball showed up in our wedding vows in the guise of Tobias Wolff's masterful short story "Bullet in the Brain."  A story about the heady charm of language and the sweet stillness of baseball:  "This is what he remembered.  Heat.  A baseball field.  Yellow grass, the whirr of insects..."  The husband then vowed to always bring me "heat"--even in the form of an extra blanket in the middle of a January night.

While this entry has strongly veered away from beef tenderloin and taken a turn into baseball and romance, this dinner was a fine way to watch the Giants and to celebrate four years of marriage to a fellow baseball fan.  And hopefully next year, we can celebrate in Chicago style with a Cubs win.  This, of course, is said as a true Cubs fan.  There's always next year. 


Serves 4

1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives, plus 1/4 cup of their brine
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper

1 small eggplant
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 roasted poblano chile, diced
1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
1 tsp capers

Beef and Couscous
2 12-ounce beef tenderloins
Salt and Pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup whole-wheat couscous
1 large red onion, julienned
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

To Prepare Vinaigrette
1.  Whisk together the olive brine and the balsamic vinegar in a small bowl, and then slowly whisk in the olive oil and olives.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside. 

To Prepare the Stuffing
1.  Prepare a medium-hot grill,  Peel the eggplant and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices.  Rub with the canola oil and grill for 2 minutes each side, until done.  Dice the eggplant, place in a small bowl, and toss with the poblano, red bell pepper and capers.

To Prepare the Beef
1.  Starting from the end of each tenderloin, cut a slit all the way through the center of the tenderloin with a long, thin knife.  Rotate the knife 90 degrees and insert in the same spot, making an X.  If the knife is not long enough to reach the far end of the loin, repeat the process starting from the other end.  Insert the handle of a wooden spoon through the incision to help stretch the hole.

2.  Using your finders and the handle of a wooden spoon to keep the incision open, stuff as much filling as possible into each tenderloin.

3.  Season the tenderloins with salt and pepper and rub with  2 tablespoons of olive oil.

To Prepare the Couscous
1.  Place the water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Add the couscous and bring back to a boil.  Cover, remove from the heat, and let stand  for 15 to 20 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.

2.  Cook the red onion and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until caramelized.

3.  Stir in the couscous, parsley, and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook for 10 minutes, or until warm.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and keep warm.

To Cook the Beef and Serve
1.  Grill the tenderloin for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until medium-rate.  Let rest for 5 minutes, cut into 1/4-inch slices, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

2.  Spoon some of the couscous in the center of each plate and top with some of the beef slices.  Spoon the vinaigrette over the beef and around the plates and top with freshly ground black pepper.


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