Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Three-Herb Chimichurri Sauce

Maybe it’s my brief (albeit lackluster) career as a graphic designer, but I am completely enamored by color. Given that, it’s no surprise Seattle has been a good fit for me – it’s a Technicolor city. Even in the dead of winter, everything is kelly green.

I just read a fun fact the other day: before the spice trade reached the Europe, there was no word for the color orange. It’s because there weren’t naturally occurring orange things, so there was no need to name that color. And that’s why gold fish are called gold and redheads are red, even though both are orange. Who knows if that’s really true, but I heard it on NPR, and I’m quite content to not be called an orange head, so I’m going with it.

My color obsession translates quite well into the food world. A brief stroll through the produce aisle and you can see pretty much every color in the good ‘ol ROY G BIV. And eating a colorful diet is a sure way to make sure that you’re eating a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods. (You know I meant a NATURALLY colorful diet. Sorry, you thought you had me there. No, Fruit Loops are not healthy.)

And maybe it’s my current (hopefully stellar) career in marketing, but I’m intrigued by the relationship between color and food packaging. Another fun fact is that there aren’t any naturally occurring blue foods. Blueberries are close, but really are closer to indigo. That’s why very few food companies use the color blue in food packaging – it’s not a color that we associate with food. The power of suggestion runs deep. Think about it – when you see that bright green Snackwells package, don’t you almost mistake it for a box of vegetables? You laugh, but I just read an article about how the mere sight of the colors red and yellow (the most predominant colors used in fast food establishments) causes us to eat faster. YIKES!

Anyway, back to the point, which is that my current favorite color is green. And with spring (hopefully) springing, I’m so so excited for peas and asparagus and little green sprouts of anything peeking through the dirt. I’m in a monthly potluck dinner group, and March was my turn to host. Coincidentally, dinner was also two days before St. Patty’s day, so we all got creative and made dishes that were a tribute to the color GREEN.  At first I was worried that a monochromatic plate would be a little boring, but it was far from it. And the food was good.

As soon as I settled on the theme, I knew immediately that I’d make my chimichurri sauce. It’s fluorescent green and fabulous. Chimichurri has been a restaurant darling this past year, and I know why – it’s a vibrant explosion of fresh, bold flavors. I served it over beef tenderloin and halibut filets (we have a few vegetarians in the group), both with a paprika and adobo chili pepper rub. The meat develops a spicy coating that balances so nicely with the herby chimichurri.

The great part about this recipe is that it has serious wow factor, so it’s a great option for a dinner party. And the even better part is that you can make ALL OF IT before your guests even arrive. A great dinner party includes you partaking in the pre-eating schmoozing, not stuck behind the stove. So I love recipes like this. And don’t worry if you have left over chimichurri – you’ll find plenty of things to put it on. It’s great on chicken breasts, cold cut sandwiches, pasta, cous cous, bruschetta… Don’t worry. You’ll polish it off.  Enjoy!

PS – if you’re wondering what other green delicacies we feasted on along with the chimichurri, we had a green salad with avocado and amazing home made green goddess dressing, asparagus and gruyere tart, and chocolate hazelnut (with green sprinkles) panacotta for dessert. Sure, the dessert wasn’t particularly green, but who cares. It was chocolate!

Beef Tenderloin with Three-Herb Chimichurri

Click here to print this recipe.
Adapted from: Bon Appetit, July 2006
Serves: 8-10
Time to Prepare: 2 hours, active time 25 minutes

Spice Rub
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder or ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Chimichurri Sauce
3/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar or red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 medium shallots, peeled, quartered
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
3 cups (packed) stemmed fresh parsley
2 cups (packed) stemmed fresh cilantro
1 cup (packed) stemmed fresh mint

Beef Tenderloin
1 3 1/2-pound beef tenderloin
2 tablespoons olive oil

For spice rub:
Combine all ingredients in small bowl.

For chimichurri sauce:
Combine first 8 ingredients in blender; blend until almost smooth. Add 1/4 of parsley, 1/4 of cilantro, and 1/4 of mint; blend until incorporated. Add remaining herbs in 3 more additions, pureeing until almost smooth after each addition.

For beef tenderloin:
Let beef stand at room temperature 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a sauté pan to high heat, add tenderloin and sear each side until browned.

Finish in the oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of beef registers 130°F for medium-rare, about 40 minutes. Transfer to platter; cover loosely with foil and let rest 15 minutes. Thinly slice beef crosswise. Serve with chimichurri sauce.

Notes:

The spice rub can be made days ahead, and the meat can be rubbed with olive oil and the spices and stored in a zip-top bag overnight. Bring to room temperature, and sear it off a few hours before your guests arrive. Finish it in the oven just before your guests arrive. This recipe works well grilled, too. The meat is good even at room temperature, so you can let it rest for a little while before serving if timing works out best that way.

If you’d like to make this with fish, you can cook the fish en papillote – tear off a piece of parchment paper about 4x as long as your fish fillet, fold in half, and trim into a half-heart shape. Place the fish in the middle close to the seam (rubbed with the olive oil and spices), and crimp the edges together, starting at the top of the heart, so it seals the parchment satchel closed. The fish will steam to moist perfection in the bag, and you’ll get bonus points because it looks fancy when you present it to the table. Alternatively, you can cook it on the stovetop in a little olive oil over medium-high heat. Sear one side for a few minutes, flip, cover and cook until done. If you want to see a video of how to prepare fish en papillote way, this one is good. It’s a great trick to have up your sleeve.

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