I’m stuck. I can’t think. My kitchen is full of people who are currently staring at me, waiting for me to begin cooking. I realize that if I ever had a plan, it is no longer in occupying space in my head. I feel like I am having both stage fright and writers block at the same time. I stare at my ingredients as if I am not recognizing them. My guests and family are happily sipping wine. Laura is cheerfully preparing the salad course, chattering away with her Mom while slicing absolutely identically sized pieces of pancetta. I wonder what I was ever thinking when I volunteered to cook this meal.
It doesn’t help that we have had a foodie weekend. Chef’s Tour Saturday night, English breakfast at the Underground Pub on Sunday morning – wonderful Scotch Eggs, coffee and lattes by Strange Coffee – I’m feeling more than a little intimidated. I decide it’s a good time to pet the cat.
I wander out to the deck; Stubbs is nowhere to be found as there are what he considers to be strangers in our house. I light charcoal in the chimney starter, buying some time. Laura’s mountain is clearly visible now that we have cleared the trees – so now she can see directly from her hammock overlooking the river. I scour my brain for inspiration.
My ingredients are great, wonderful even. Inspiring. I have free-range, organic, grass finished beef tenderloin. Fresh new carrots and baby potatoes. Fresh horseradish. Assorted spring greens. New Vidalia onions and Granny Smith apples from last fall. What on earth to do?
Inspiration builds quickly as I overcome my stage fright. Everyone is ignoring me a bit now that the grill is lit. I put a tablespoon or two of pink and black peppercorns in a skillet and begin toasting them over medium heat. I add coriander seeds and with a nod to the morning, a small handful of coffee beans from Strange brewing company. I toast them all for a few minutes until they are aromatic, and then grind them in a spice grinder. Now, I have my rub for the tenderloin.
The tenderloin is already on the counter coming up to room temperature and so everyone can admire what they are about to eat. I am getting my confidence back. I start a large pot of salted water on the stove to heat up so that it will boil quickly. I rub the tenderloin down with olive oil and coat it in the rub, adding a bit of paprika and truffle salt at the last minute. The rub has a nutty, spicy flavor that will hopefully compliment the meat without delivering the same old barbecue flavor that is so popular this time of year.
The coals are ready, so I spread them over one side of the grill and place the tenderloin on the cold side. The thermometer instantly hits 400 degrees. Perfect. I’m starting to sweat now, and focus entirely on the food. I mix Sorghum Molasses and local honey, bring them almost to a boil and add a splash of Maker’s and a few pinches of brown sugar. I pour this over the carrots in aluminum foil and add them to the grill.
Now we’re getting somewhere. I slice the apples thinly, quarter the potatoes and split the onions in half, leaving the greens on. I sauté the apples in the remnants of the sauce for the carrots, boil the potatoes and throw the onions on the grill to char. I chop garlic and quickly brown the bits, then mix the garlic, sour cream, crème fraiche and horseradish for the tenderloin.
The tenderloin is at 135 degrees, so I char it quickly, and then put it on the cutting board. The potatoes are fork tender so I drain them, smash them quickly with sour cream, butter and horseradish and season everything with salt and pepper. IT’S WORKING!
I relax happily during the meal. Everyone claimed to love it, but the proof was in the empty plates. Whew. That was a close one.