Christmas Day Dinner: Beef Tenderloin with Peppercorn and Mustard Seed Crust

Christmas Day Dinner: Beef Tenderloin with Peppercorn and Mustard Seed Crust

1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 (4- to 6-pound) whole beef tenderloin
6 to 8 sprigs of fresh rosemary, for garnish

The sight of a whole beef tenderloin on a bed of rosemary studded with cold pickled beets will say "Merry Christmas" before your guests even take the first bite. Buy the beef from the best butcher you know. Nothing could be easier to prepare, and, done right, it has a buttery soft interior with a crisp, pungent crust. All you need is a meat thermometer, a roasting pan with low sides, and a rack. Serve it with a jot of Cranberry Horseradish Sauce. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" . . . and remember there'll be plenty of beef for sandwiches the next day.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Roasting time: 25 to 45 minutes
Resting time: 10 to 15 minutes
Makes 10 to 12 servings
Best if made and eaten at once.

Preheat the oven to 425F and spray both the rack and the shallow roasting pan with cooking spray. Place the roast straight from the refrigerator, fat side up, on the rack. Don't add water or cover the pan.

Combine the peppercorns, coriander seeds, and mustard seeds in a Ziploc bag. Close the bag and crush the seeds with a rolling pin or mallet. Add the salt and stir to combine. Rub the outside of the meat with Dijon mustard, then press the spice mixture into the surface. Transfer to the rack and roast until done to your taste.

Don't overcook the roast! Because the meat temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after it's removed from the oven, remove it when the thermometer reads about 130F for medium-rare, 140F for medium, 150F for well done.

Stick a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat to test it. Roast about 40 to 50 minutes, to achieve 130F for medium-rare; about 50 to 60 minutes, to rise to 140F for medium; or up to 70 minutes, or to rise to 160F for well-done. Transfer the meat to a warmed platter, garnish it with the rosemary sprigs and beets, cover it with foil, and set it aside for about 10 to 15 minutes before carving so the juices will settle down and the meat will firm up for easy slicing.

Other Classic Roasts for Holiday Meals

Beef rib roast, beef rib eye roast, or beef eye round roast will all work well with this recipe for a peppercorn and mustard seed crust. Here's a tip. Ask the butcher for the small end of the rib or rib eye roast for best flavor and tenderness.

When choosing meat from the counter, beef roasts should be a bright cherry red color. If vacuum-packed, the meat may look darker, but it will redden as it's exposed to the air. Store roasts, unopened, in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, or frozen in the store packaging for up to 2 weeks. To defrost properly, transfer the meat to the refrigerator and allow from 4 to 7 hours per pound for thawing.

Excerpted from ENTERTAINING 101 by Linda West Eckhardt Copyright © 1997 by Linda West Eckhardt and Katherine West DeFoyd. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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