Tenderloin and Tomato Towers with Toasted Goat Cheese and Balsamic Rosemary Reduction

Tuesday, 17 Feb 2009


I couldn’t think of anything to make for dinner tonight and was resorting to cooking by Google, searching with different combinations of ingredients, until this burst of inspiration hit me.  I stumbled on Michael Chiarello’s Tomato Steak with Baked Goat Cheese and Herb Salad.  I decided to stack that on top of a grilled filet on top of a nest of pappardelle pasta, drizzled with a balsamic vinegar rosemary reduction.  This was such a such an amazing combination of flavors.  It’s hard to beat a rare filet paired with melty but toasty goat cheese and the tanginess of tomatoes, herbs and balsamic vinegar.  I wish I’d thought of this for Valentine’s Day.


It’s a rare occurrence when I can put something into both the “fast” and the “elaborate” categories, but this is one.  This whole thing took only 30-40 minutes.  Timing is important with this meal.  You want to make sure everything is either fresh or hot, so there’s only limited preparation you can do in advance.  Having the steak, pasta, and goat cheese warm and the tomatoes and herbs fresh, not wilted, makes all the flavors and textures jump out at you in the right way. Here are the steps I followed to make sure everything was ready at the right time — there are more details on each step with the pictures below:

1.  Start the pasta water boiling and make the pasta.  It’s one of the few make-ahead parts of the meal.

2.  Make the balsamic so it can reduce while you do other things.

3.  Prep the goat cheese and put it in the refrigerator.

4.  Prep the herbs and tomatoes but don’t dress or season them.  Put them in the refrigerator.

5.  Grill the steaks.

6.  While the steaks rest after they’re done, brown the breaded goat cheese and warm the pasta.

7.  Dress the herbs and season the tomatoes.

8.  Assemble the towers:  place pasta on the plate in a nest shape.  Place steak on top of pasta.  Arrange tomato slices on steak.  Place goat cheese round on top of tomatoes.  Drizzle with balsamic reduction. Arrange herbs on top of goat cheese.  Garnish with additional fresh herbs.

The drawing below is what I was envisioning when I decided to make this.  My handwriting and drawing are not going to win any awards.  Ha.


Now for more detail about each element of the “tower.”

I didn’t have large tomatoes, so I used these small Camparis sliced about 1/4 inch thick.  It’s hard to find tomatoes that taste good this time of year, but these are actually really flavorful.  I seasoned them lightly with a little salt and pepper before assembling.


I didn’t have any “herb mix salad,” which would have been better than what I used, but I made do with some chopped flat-leaf parsley, chives and thyme.  I dressed these with a few drops of olive oil and red wine vinegar just before assembling.


The goat cheese I had was a little crumbly, so I took it all out of the package and made it into a couple of little patties before breading them.  I seasoned the bread crumbs with salt, pepper and ground Italian herb seasoning.


Refrigerating the goat cheese after it’s coated in the bread crumbs is very important because otherwise it will melt immediately when you try to brown the breading.  It’s also important to get the olive oil really hot so the crumbs will brown quickly.  If you brown the goat cheese just before serving, it’s so good — melty, but with a crispy, flavorful shell.


For the steaks, I seasoned them with a little soy sauce, salt and pepper and grilled them.  Like butter. The filets were pretty big, so I cut mine in half before assembling the “tower.”


The balsamic reduction was easy to make and added a lot of flavor.  I chopped about a teaspoon of fresh rosemary very finely, added it to 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, and reduced the mixture over very low heat.  I put this on while I was doing everything else and it took about 15 minutes.


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