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The prized filet mignon steaks are sliced from a cut of meat known as the tenderloin, located in both the loin and sirloin primal sections of a cow's lower back. Though widely considered to be the tenderest cut for its location in an under-worked section of the upper ribs, it is also not the most flavorful cut of meat due to its general lack of fat and connective tissue. Some counter this lack of succulence by making a stuffed beef tenderloin that is crammed with a medley of complementary ingredients like other meats, vegetables, stuffing, rice, herbs and cheese.
When preparing a stuffed beef tenderloin, or even the cheaper pork alternative, it may at first seem like a difficult task to create the necessary folds inside the final product. According to celebrity chef Rachel Ray, a good technique is to cut the meat lengthwise, nearly but not all the way through. This is done after an initial sear in a hot, oiled pan. Then after opening the two halves like a book, the chef cuts each side from the spine to the outside — again, cutting nearly but not all the way through each half.
These cuts create four connected strips of tenderloin, with three folds to hold the stuffing. Ray uses a simple blend of fried pancetta, breadcrumbs, thyme and parsley that soaks up a stock made by de-glazing the pan where the tenderloin was seared and adding just a little butter and water to clean the pan of its drippings. After smearing the stuffing into the folds of meat, the now-stuffed beef tenderloin is wrapped back up, tied shut with string, and baked at 425°F (or 218°C) for about 25 minutes per pound. The internal temperature for a medium-rare stuffed beef tenderloin, Ray reports, is 120°F (about 50°C).
Some versions of stuffed beef tenderloin are not nearly as standardized. A recipe at the Betty Crocker Web site includes a stuffing made of butter, breadcrumbs, mushrooms, wine, beef stock, parsley and gorgonzola cheese. Several other stuffed tenderloins take on a surf-and-turf feel, using shrimp or lobster in the stuffing.
Chefs do not need a full tenderloin to stuff this meat full of extra goodness, though. Food Network chef Robert Irvine's Szechuan-style tenderloin is stuffed with a distinctive blend of cooked duck meat, ginger soy sauce, hoisin sauce and scallions. Instead of stuffing it into a tenderloin, however, Irvine advises cooks to make large slits in already-sliced filet mignon and cram in as much of the stuffing as the space will hold.