Speaking with my Stomach
Speaking with My Stomach, by Chris Jaehnig
Editor’s note: We’re debuting the new-to-Copper Beacon food column from Chris Jaehnig today! In the future, this will go into a special section, but I wanted to make sure you all saw it this week, as well as this opening note from me. Chris worked in the local restaurant industry for years before joining me as a coworker at the Daily Mining Gazette, where he also first started publishing this column. Since leaving the Gazette, he’s agreed to share his column with Copper Beacon as well. I’m also working with him to get original photos to go along with his future columns. Let me know what you think!
We’re well into December now, and the snow is really flying, which means I’m barricading myself in my kitchen and getting knee-deep in warm, hearty foods.
This past Saturday, I had some friends over for the evening, and I was more than happy to entertain.
I had a menu all planned up the week before, but unfortunately, that meal didn’t pan out due to what I had available to me when I went prep shopping.
I was all ready for a surf and turf evening of sockeye salmon and flat iron steaks, but I had what Bob Ross would call a “happy little accident.” I ended up getting a full tenderloin on sale instead of the flat irons I wanted. The salmon was there, so I was still able to do my surf and turf.
My plan for the salmon didn’t initially go as I planned it either, but that’s okay, too. My potato and vegetable game did go as planned, which was nice.
For the potato, I did a bunch of little roasters in a pot. I boiled them up nicely with plenty of smoked salt and cracked pepper, a good amount of butter but not too much, and added some sautéed onions and garlic. Pretty simple, but very tasty.
My veggies were just as simple and still pleasing. I diagonally cut zucchini and yellow squash so I had them in a long, almost chip shape, but a little thicker. I tossed them in a mixing bowl with extra virgin olive oil, and some smoked salt and cracked pepper, put them on a baking sheet, and fired them off in the oven.
I know I’m being specific with my salt and pepper types, but I really do think it makes a difference, and it’s worth noting. A seasoned salt, a crazy salt, smoked salt, or plain iodized salt, will all do different things to your dish and your pallet.
For the big centerpieces, we have the previously mentioned tenderloin and sockeye salmon.
I’m particular in my use of sockeye salmon because it’s a richer, fuller-bodied salmon than an Atlantic salmon. Sockeye is a northern Pacific salmon that eats a lot more crustacean and kelp, and you can see it in the redder flesh, and you’ll taste it, too. If you like salmon for the inherent flavor of salmon, go sockeye.
To cook this beautiful fish, I laid out five fillets on an oiled sheet pan, salt and peppered them, squeezed a fresh lemon evenly over the fillets, sprinkled them with fresh lemon zest, and then topped them with salted butter and fresh basil. To make sure they didn’t dry out, I added white wine, a bit more oil, and butter to the pan around the filets before wrapping the pan with tin foil and sending them to the oven. For fish, you always want them cooked to 165 degrees. There is no rare or medium rare with fish. For time and oven temp, we’re looking at 450 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. These are small fillets, so they won’t take long at all.
The most care-intensive dish of the night was easily the beef tenderloin. The tenderloin can be a pain because you have to do a bit of at-home dressing if you buy a full tenderloin. Once out of the package, you carefully remove excess hard fat, the silver skin on the bottom, and any pesky membrane left on it. It’s not a simple hack and slash job because you want to make these surgical cuts while losing as little proper meat as possible.
Once the tenderloin was dressed, I rubbed it with extra virgin olive oil and Stout Edition Jameson. The oil helps our seasoning stick and helps to keep the tenderloin, well, tender. I’m also a huge fan of using quality alcohol to cook. I think they add a lot to the profiles. I wouldn’t empty a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon over this delectable tenderloin, but the heady and robust Stout Edition Jameson blended really well with the full-body seasonings we’re about to delve into.
With the tenderloin properly hydrated, I rubbed both sides down with garlic salt, onion powder, paprika, cumin, rosemary, and cilantro. These are all heady, strong, and earthy flavors and will hold each other's hands and not butt heads, so to speak.
I wanted to sear the tenderloin on both sides to help keep the moisture in while baking, but unfortunately, I didn’t have a way to do it evenly, so I had to skip that important step.
Because I couldn’t sear it, I hoped my secret weapon, the “meat mote” would work.
The meat mote was simply more olive oil, Jameson, and some liquid aminos surrounding the tenderloin to keep it moist while it baked. Of course, It was under a tin foil wrap and not left uncovered. That would have been disastrous.
Temping the beef tenderloin can be trickier. Weights will vary, so it’s best to use a meat thermometer and not to go just by time. And if we’re using a beef tenderloin, we can go by rare, medium rare, and medium, which each have different readings. 120 to 125 is rare, 130 to 135 is medium-rare, and 140 to 145 is medium. We’re going to want the oven at 450 degrees. Getting it to rare should take about 20 minutes, and you can periodically check from there to get the temp you do want. It is a bit of a guessing game and can be tricky because you don’t want to overcook it, but opening the oven lets out valuable heat every time.
Luckily for me, everything turned out just fine and I had some potatoes and tenderloin to make doggy bags for another pair of friends. There was no surviving squash or salmon, though.
Well, that’s all I have for you today, friends. Come on back next time to see what we’re cooking up, and until then, don’t forget to tip!