Pancetta-Stuffed Beef Tenderloin with Port Mushrooms

Beef tenderloin is one of those entrees that lends itself to holiday celebrations. In fact, food doesn’t get any grander or flavorful than this tender cut of beef, be it in roast or steak form.

A wonderful-looking photo of a beef tenderloin caught my eye today in a post by one of my Facebook friends, Jessica Baumgarten. I’ve know Jessica since she was a little girl living in my Riverside Park neighborhood in Grand Forks before the Flood of 1997. (Jessica’s dad, Dave Como, is a good friend of mine and a former hunting buddy.) She’s now grown up, is married and has a little boy of her own.

The photo Jessica posted was originally pinned it to Pinterest by “Every Day with Rachael Ray”  onto The Man’s Board.  The tenderloin roast is stuffed with an herbed dressing and swaddled in pancetta — but it’s the winter mushrooms, drowned in a rich port sauce, that lift it to intoxicating levels, according to famous Food Network cook.

The recipe looked so good that I decided to share it. In fact, I might even give it a try on New Year’s Eve or Day.

Pancetta-Stuffed Beef Tenderloin with Port Mushrooms
12 ounces pancetta, sliced
6 ounces pancetta, chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6½ pounds boneless beef tenderloin, trimmed and halved crosswise
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups fresh coarsely ground breadcrumbs (from 1 baguette)
1¼ cups finely chopped parsley
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1½ pounds mixed mushrooms (shiitake and cremini), sliced
1/3 cup tawny or ruby port wine
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. In an extra-large skillet, cook the pancetta slices, undisturbed, over medium heat for 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining pancetta slices.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Season the tenderloin halves with salt and pepper, add to the skillet and cook, turning, until browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and let cool.
In the same skillet, cook the chopped pancetta in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, stirring, until golden, 5 minutes. Add the butter to melt and transfer to a medium bowl. Add ¼ cup water to the skillet and cook, scraping up any browned bits; pour into the bowl along with the breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Reserve the skillet.
Arrange 4 12-inch-long pieces of kitchen twine 2 inches apart on a cutting board, parallel to the front edge; place 1 tenderloin half in the center, perpendicular to the strings. Slice the tenderloin lengthwise, three-quarters of the way through. Open the meat like a book; working from the center out, slice each half of the book lengthwise again, three-quarters of the way through, opening outward, so the split tenderloin has 4 attached panels. Spread half of the breadcrumb stuffing across the meat, leaving a 1-inch border. Starting at a short end, roll up the meat; overlap half of the reserved pancetta slices on top, then secure with the twine. Transfer the meat to a large roasting pan. Repeat with the remaining tenderloin half, stuffing and pancetta.
Roast the tenderloins until they register 120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer for medium-rare, 25 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and tent with foil. Pour the pan juices into the reserved skillet, add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat until browned, 10 minutes. Stir in the port for 1 minute. Slice the roasts and spoon the mushroom sauce on top.
Yield: Serves 10.

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