Roasting a whole beef tenderloin and serving individual filets to your guests is a lovely idea. With such a nice cut of meat, we think the simpler done, the better. The following recipe for Beef Tenderloin, which calls for the tiniest hint of garlic and black pepper, would work very well. The recipe says a 4- to 5-lb tenderloin will serve 8 to 10 people. A half-pound per person sounds a bit overgenerous, but you may not be able to obtain a tenderloin large enough to serve 15 and may have to buy two smaller ones. And, of course, if there are leftovers, you can look forward to some incredible sandwiches!
I am indebted to Helen Hecht's wonderful Simple Pleasures for this method. As she explains in that book, the low oven temperature produces evenly cooked meat that's uniformly rare, "rather than having a wide band of well-done meat surrounding a bloody center." Hecht also says that if you wish to serve the beef cold, you should wait to slice it until just before serving. Otherwise it will go brown on you. (She said it more elegantly, of course.)
1 4- to 5-pound beef tenderloin, tied and trimmed, at room temperature 1 clove garlic, sliced in half Lots of fresh-ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C). Rub the tenderloin all over with the cut garlic. Then rub it liberally all over with the pepper. (Save salt for after the meat is cooked. Salt draws out meat juices during cooking.) While you're doing this, take note of how thick the meat is.
Place the meat in a roasting pan, stab a meat thermometer into its heart and place the pan in the oven. Immediately turn the heat down to 225 °F (105#176;C). If you've decided you have a thin tenderloin, start checking the temperature on the meat thermometer after 1/2 hour; if you have a normal-sized tenderloin, start checking after 50 or 60 minutes. The thermometer should read 140°F (60°C) for rare meat. When the meat is done, remove from the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes before you cut it. Don't forget to put salt on the table.
Yield: Serves 8 to 10