It is our family tradition to cook a Beefsteak dinner on New Years Eve. For those of you who don't know, "Beefsteak" is what a whole beef tenderloin roasted in a "cast" of Kosher Salt is called in North Jersey. The meat is cooked rare, sliced thin, dipped in melted butter, and served on thin sliced Italian or just plain white bread. It is always accompanied by a "relish tray" of raw carrots, celery, scallions, radishes, olives and pickles. Sometimes people serve fries at a Beefsteak dinner, but I have always thought they fill you up to much to have room for the star of the show.
I have never heard of this style of cooking a beef tenderloin outside of my native North Jersey, but in those parts there are whole businesses built around doing "Beefsteaks". It is common for organizations to hold Beefsteaks as fund raisers. They are also often done for political fund raisers. The best way to do a beef steak though is with a bunch of friends for a special time of celebration.
When I was growing up my uncle used to cater Beefsteaks and this is how the tradition got handed down to me. I have old eight millimeter films of my parents hosting new years eve Beefsteaks our house in Clifton. (My folks were quite the party people in those days.) One wonderful memory I have is of sitting in School # 4 on West 2nd Street and smelling the delicious aroma of beef steak roasting in an open pit at Hap Nightingales, the beef steak caterer next to the school. (By the way, Hap Nightingale is still owned by the Nightingale family in the same location they have been cooking Beefsteaks for the last 60 years.)
This year we had our beef steak at the home of Russ and Debbie, in Lancaster, PA. We introduced the tradition to them a few years back and Russ always wants to get together to Ring in the New Year with this decadent tradition. He invited a few friends over to join us, so the tradition is spreading outside of it's North Jersey environs.
You can find different recipes for salt crusted beef tenderloin on the Internet, but all of them complicate this simple way of cooking this select cut of beef.
Here is my recipe for how to cook a Beefsteak. You have to follow it to a T to get the full North Jersey experience.
North Jersey Style Beefsteak Dinner
1 whole beef tenderloin, trimmed (about 6 or 7 lbs.)
1 box Kosher Salt
1 lb butter
2 loafs Italian Bread
Preheat oven to 400.
Moisten kosher salt with enough water so that it just sticks together.
Place tenderloin in a low sided pan, bend thin end of tenderloin up so that the girth of the meat if fairly uniform. Put a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the beef. Encase the beef fully in the salt so that is completed covered with about 3/4 of an inch of salt and no meat is showing through.
Roast the meat in the oven for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the thermometer reads 120. Let meat rest in the salt crust for another 1/2 hour to 1 hour. It will continue to cook in the salt crust. Remove salt crust when temperature is between 140 and 145.
While meat is resting heat butter in a roasting pan until it is just melted.
Rinse salt off meat. Slice it thin. Place sliced meat into melted butter. Meat should be rare to medium rare. You can cook it to be more well done in the butter if desired, but this is not recommended.
Serve meat on thin slices of bread. Pass around the relish tray, and the fresh ground black pepper. A traditional thing to drink with a beefsteak dinner is red birch beer on tap.