Beef tenderloin: The ‘little black dress’ of meats

Has the stress of the holiday season got you down? Well, don’t despair. In a four-part series on “Today,” Elizabeth Mayhew, style director of Real Simple magazine, offers ideas to help take the hassle out of the holidays. In part three of the series, she shares some tips on what to serve your guests for any type of holiday gathering. Whether you're throwing a casual cocktail party or a formal dinner, the editors of Real Simple magazine have one easy recipe that can be dressed up or down to suit the occasion.


When it comes to entertaining, beef tenderloin is always a perfect answer to most menu questions. No matter who’s at the table — boss, relative, friend — a roasted fillet of beef can be dressed up or down to suit the occasion. The little black dress of meats, it’s always classic and practically foolproof.

Beef tenderloin is an extravagant cut of meat and will cost anywhere from $60 to $150, depending on the quality and where you buy it. That said, there are no bones to deal with and no waste.

Oven-Roasted Fillet of Beef
1 4-pound fillet of beef1/4 cup Dijon mustard1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Remove the fillet from the refrigerator 30 minutes before roasting to bring it to room temperature. Preheat oven to 500º F and position a rack in the center.

Spread the mustard evenly on all sides of the fillet. Sprinkle with the salt, pepper, and thyme. Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over high heat; the oil should simmer but not smoke. Brown the fillet on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Place the fillet in oven and reduce temperature to 425º F. Roast about 25 minutes for rare or until a meat thermometer reads 130º F when inserted into the center. (Check the temperature once after about 20 minutes to gauge how far along the fillet is.) Remove the fillet from oven and allow it to rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
Makes 36 hors d’oeuvres; 8 to 10 buffet servings; 6 servings for a sit-down dinner

Since your fillet requires so little hands-on time, you can concentrate on making colorful and complementary salads and vegetables. With Real Simple’s New Year Buffet menu, the Oven-Roasted Fillet of Beef can be served warm or at room temperature.

Suggested served with: Rustic Sweet Potato Galette; Leeks With Vinaigrette; Red, White and Green Salad With Walnut Vinaigrette. Visit for recipes.

If you drizzle a luxurious béarnaise sauce over your fillet, you don’t need much more to make your holiday dinner a success. Béarnaise sauce is best made just before serving, but it can also be kept warm in the top half of a double boiler. Simple steamed broccoli makes a nice addition to this menu.

Béarnaise Sauce
1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Sancerre or Sauvignon Blanc2 tablespoons sherry vinegar1 tablespoon minced shallot1/4 teaspoon kosher salt4 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon3 egg yolks3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the wine, vinegar, shallot and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-high. Cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons of the tarragon. Cool to room temperature.

Put the egg yolks into a blender and add the cooled wine mixture. In a small saucepan, heat the butter until bubbling.

Blend the yolks and wine mixture. Pour in the melted butter in a slow, steady stream. Add the pepper and the remaining tarragon. The sauce will be thick and creamy. Serve immediately with the Oven-Roasted Fillet of Beef.

Suggested served with: Wild Rice With Shallots; Candied Carrots; Herbed Drop Biscuits. Visit for recipes.

You don’t have to worry about your guests going home hungry when you have these substantial cocktail sandwiches on an hors d’oeuvres tray (or a kitchen counter than can serve as a buffet). Spread different flavored butters on different sandwiches, or serve the butters in small bowls besides the baguettes and have guests make their own.

Blue Cheese Butter
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard1/4 cup crumbled good-quality blue cheese

Place the butter in a small bowl. Add the mustard and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Mash in the blue cheese. Chill the butter until needed, but allow it to come to room temperature before spreading.

Recipes for Horseradish Butter, Roasted-Garlic Butter, Parsley Butter and Red Currant Butter available at

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