- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I love New Year’s Eve celebrations, and during the 1990s my husband and I hosted a small dinner each year. Then for several years on Dec. 31 we were in Paris, where we dined out or accepted invitations from Parisians who shared splendid meals with us.

This year we’ll be on American shores, staying with friends in Washington. Although our hosts proposed eating out, I suggested that a simple meal we could prepare together might be more tempting and would mean we could sip champagne without having to worry about a designated driver.

Another reason I wanted to eat in rather than out is that I have a glorious but easy new recipe that is perfect for a New Year’s Eve fete. Beef tenderloin with roasted tomatoes, goat cheese and watercress definitely falls in the special entertaining category, but this dish is deceptively uncomplicated to assemble and calls only for readily available ingredients.

A simple blend of ground pepper, crushed dried rosemary and kosher salt forms the basis of the flavoring. Most of this mixture is rubbed over the tenderloin, and the rest is combined with garlic and olive oil and used to marinate halved plum tomatoes.

The meat is browned in the pan in which it is roasted, then surrounded by the tomatoes. After 45 minutes in the oven, the beef is medium rare and rosy inside. The tomatoes need about the same amount of time to soften and caramelize.

For serving, the sliced meat and tomatoes are arranged on a platter, then garnished with a sprinkling of goat cheese and watercress. For side dishes you could offer roasted redskin potatoes and tender green beans. That would definitely be a menu worthy of ushering in 2006.

Beef tenderloin with roasted tomatoes, goat cheese and watercress

1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper

2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary (see note)

1 teaspoons kosher salt

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 large garlic clove, minced

6 medium plum tomatoes (about 1 pounds)

1 23/4- to 3-pound center-cut beef tenderloin roast, trimmed of excess fat

4 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled or broken into small pieces

1 bunch watercress, rinsed and patted dry

In a small bowl mix together pepper, rosemary and salt. Remove 1 teaspoons of this mixture and place it in a medium mixing bowl along with half of the olive oil and the garlic.

Halve a tomato lengthwise and remove membranes, seeds and stem. Turn tomato upside down on a plate to drain slightly. Repeat with remaining tomatoes. Transfer tomatoes to bowl with olive oil and toss to coat. Set aside to marinate while you prepare the beef.

Pat the beef dry, then rub it on all sides with remaining pepper mixture. Heat remaining olive oil in a large, heavy, flameproof roasting pan over medium high heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, brown meat on all sides, turning several times, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and arrange tomatoes, hollowed sides up, around the roast. Drizzle meat and tomatoes with any extra marinade. Roast on center rack of preheated 375-degree oven until a thermometer inserted into center of meat registers 125 to 130 degrees for medium rare and tomatoes are browned and caramelized, about 45 minutes.

(Meat and tomatoes usually roast in the same length of time. However, if the tomatoes are not done at the same time as the meat, remove roast to a platter and cover it loosely with foil; continue to roast tomatoes 10 to 15 minutes or more.) Let roast rest 10 minutes, then cut into 3/4- to 1-inch thick slices.

Arrange slices slightly overlapping on a serving tray and surround with tomatoes. Top tomatoes with crumbled goat cheese and garnish platter with 10 to 12 watercress sprigs. To serve, top meat slices with a tomato or two and a garnish of watercress. Makes 6 servings.

Note: McCormick sells dried, crushed rosemary. If you can’t find dried, crushed rosemary, crush regular dried rosemary in an electric spice mill or place it in a resealable plastic bag and roll over it with a rolling pin.


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