I’m not sure what it was that made me think making salt-cured beef in the fridge was a perfect idea for a chilly January weekend, but all I do know is that when I took out our copy of Hawksmoor at Home one Thursday morning before breakfast and I flipped open to that page, my stomach growled. Audibly. It also seemed so simple and the flavors so perfect to this time of year, since you grate up quite a bit of celery root and throw in some rosemary springs to meld with the salt and brown sugar–I mean, it was practically begging me to give it a try. Michael was sold on it pretty quickly, so over lunch I went out in search of ingredients and was able to place a lovely, just-over-one-pound piece of tenderloin into the cure and then into the fridge and I could feel very pleased that half of my Saturday dinner prep was well underway.
What’s so marvelous about this recipe is that the beef you get at the end of the two days is kind of like a happy medium between beef carpaccio and bresaola. While it’s no longer raw, it doesn’t have the tougher texture that bresaola can take on (as that gets dried for a much longer time) and so you don’t have to slice it extremely thinly if you don’t want to, so it feels more substantial on the plate.
I have some ideas on how to use this beef preparation in the future, and particularly in the summer so we can minimize the usage of stoves if at all possible. I’d like to try thinner slices and pound it into the circular shape Alton Brown recommends for beef carpaccio from his classic episode “Tender is the Loin II,” but I’d also like to chop it up into steak tartare in order to revisit a delicious meal we had at Paco Meralgo in Barcelona back last fall. In order to make this a slightly less expensive endeavor, however, I think we’re going to get a PSMO tenderloin at Costco so we can keep several one-pound pieces at the ready in the freezer.
adapted from Hakwsmoor at Home
- 1 lb beef tenderloin, or as close as you can get to that (mine was a little over)
- 1 large or two medium–sized celery roots, peeled and grated
- 300g kosher salt
- 300g light brown sugar
- Zest from one orange
- 20 sprigs rosemary (I used a combination of rosemary and thyme)
- 2 tablespoons (approximately) black peppercorns, roughly crushed once curing is finished
Mix the salt, sugar, grated celery root, and orange zest well in a large bowl, and then fold in the herb sprigs. Place the beef into the middle of the bowl and coat well on all sides with the salt/sugar/herb mixture, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let sit in the fridge for 2 days.
Remove beef, rinse well with water, pat dry with a paper towel and then coat the surface of the beef with the pepper; wrap tightly in more plastic wrap until ready to serve. Slice to desired thinness and serve with a light salad of watercress, arugula, shallot, and lemon.