Beef tenderloin's bold flavors a match for red wine

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Our Wine of the Week, Rowen 2016 Sonoma County Red Wine ($55), is big, bold, beautiful and exuberant. Aromas suggest a raspberry farm on a hot day, with wisps of milk chocolate and black pepper punctuating the scent of black fruit. On the palate, you’ll notice more black fruit, especially blackberries and black plums, along with black currants, cassis, and hints of vanilla.

Tannins are firm and a bit rough, a quality that suggests freshly grated nutmeg and crushed allspice. The finish offers a surprise, with pretty little floral notes and a mouth-filling richness that lingers until your next sip.

At the table, you have a lot of options for making this wine blossom into its full self. Because it borrows from the Rhone region of France, where syrah is often fermented with viognier, you can look to that general region for some great matches, such as beef daube, short ribs braised in red wine, French onion soup and pissaladiere, a Provençal-style pizza of sorts.

With the alcohol hovering near 15%, it is a quality that should be factored into any pairing. You want something lush and rich but not at all spicy to cushion the alcohol’s impact. This suggests everything from anchovies and aged cheeses to sweet potatoes and polenta.

The wine is a bit racy, too, a quality that has inspired today’s recipe, which is, admittedly, not for everyone. But if you are not averse to anchovies, give it a try. It is big, bold and sassy, just like this lovely, high-altitude wine.

Beef Tenderloin with Anchovies and Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4

1 1/4 pounds beef tenderloin, well chilled

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

— Kosher salt

2 teaspoons freshly cracked black peppercorns

2 small-medium sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

8 anchovy fillets, rinsed and patted dry

1 garlic clove, crush and minced

1 large shallot, minced

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, minced, optional

— Parsley sprigs, for garnish

Using a very sharp knife, cut the beef into four, equal, crosswise slices.

Set a sheet of parchment or wax paper on a work surface, spritz it with water and set a piece of beef on it. Top with a second sheet of paper and use a meat tenderizer or French rolling pin to gently pound the meat until it is 1/8-inch thick. Repeat until all four slices have been pounded.

Brush the meat all over with just a little olive oil, using a total of 1 tablespoon, and season with salt and pepper, using all of the cracked peppercorns. Set on a plate, cover with wax paper and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Fill a saucepan half full with water, add a tablespoon of salt and the sliced sweet potatoes and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until the sweet potatoes are tender but not mushy, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Drain thoroughly, return to the saucepan, and keep hot.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and set an oven-proof plate in the oven.

Meanwhile, put the anchovies and garlic into a suribachi or other large mortar and use a wooden pestle to crush into a paste. Add the shallot and incorporate it into the paste. Stir in the lemon juice and the remaining olive oil, taste and correct for salt. Add the parsley and the tarragon, if using. Add a generous dollop to the sweet potatoes and turn to coat them; continue to keep hot either over a very low flame or in the heated oven.

To cook, set a seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat. When the pan is very hot, add two beef paillards and sear for 10 seconds; turn and sear for 15 minutes more; transfer to the plate in the oven. Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces of beef.

To serve, divide the sweet potatoes among four plates and drape a paillard half on and half off the sweet potatoes. Spread the anchovy paste over each paillard, add a tiny dollop to the sweet potatoes, garnish with parsley sprigs, and enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “Polenta” (Broadway Books, 1997). Email her at

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