Tender Loin Han Should Have Served to Leia
by Ivy and Diana
Most of us remember in Courtship of Princess Leia, Han Solo kidnapped his beloved and imprisoned her in the Millennium Falcon. He was headed for the planet Dathomir -- a long trip, and he cooked and cared for her, hoping to change her mind about marrying him. She was really not impressed though, and Leia made him suffer during their "private time" together. One scene we remember in particular -- he made some sort of roast and served it to her ... she made him cut the meat for her on the plate and generally made his life miserable. It took a long, long time for her to forgive him for his rash jealousy ... it DID cause a galactic incident, after all!
If Han had made her this recipe, Leia might have been a lot nicer to him. At the very least, she would have wanted to eat it! And for all the fussing and chopping and mixing he did, Han would have found this preparation much simpler.
This recipe gets raves no matter when it's served, but considering the princely price of this cut of beef, a special occasion is the perfect time to serve it. Like at a big gathering. Or when trying to win over someone you really, really love, even if she or he is ambivalent about you. (It works, we swear! But that's another story ...)
In a large saucepan, boil the broth or stock together with the port, and let it evaporate to about 4 cups. If you use broth, it will take about 30 minutes; stock will take less time. (If you like a richer tasting sauce, you can add more broth or stock and boil it down to about 3½ cups or so.) Add the tomato paste and stir or whisk to combine.
(NOTE: If you prefer, the shallots and the sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated. Reheat when the beef goes into the oven -- the broth can be reboiled, and the shallots can be reheated in the microwave.)
Place the beef on a wire rack set in a roasting pan, and let it come to room temperature before roasting. Pat the dry thyme, salt and pepper over the surface of the roast.
Heat oven to 375°F / 175°C. Using a pan large enough to hold the meat, gently fry the bacon pieces over medium low heat to render the fat -- this takes about 5 minutes. Don't rush it, you don't want it to burn. Remove the bacon when it's crispy and browned and set aside. Add the beef to the pan and sear on all sides, including the ends, to brown. To sear, you drop the meat in and leave it for a minute or so, then turn with tongs, not a fork. Don't keep moving it around or it won't brown. This takes about 10 minutes, total, if the pan is really really hot. Remove the browned up roast to the baking pan and rack, then roast for about 45 minutes. Use a meat thermometer for the best results -- this is an expensive piece of meat, don't botch it up! The thermometer will register about 120°F / 45°C when it's stuck into the middle of the roast.
When done, remove the meat to a platter and tent loosely with foil, so it stays warm while it rests and you finish making the sauce.
Remove all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the drippings in the roasting pan -- save for something else or discard this fat. Heat the beef broth and port mixture to boiling, and place the roasting pan with all it's yummy drippings onto a stovetop over hight heat. Add the broth to the roasting pan and boil, using a wooden spoon to scrape up browned bits off the bottom of the roasting pan. When it's at a rolling boil, transfer to a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
In a separate bowl, mash together the softened butter and all of the flour to form a paste. Drop bits of this mixture into the sauce and beat it in with a whisk, till all the paste is beaten in. Simmer to a boil and keep whisking as the sauce thickens. This takes a couple of minutes. Finish by adding the cold, chopped up butter a piece at a time. Do not reboil the sauce after adding the butter or till will break. Stir in the roasted shallots and the bacon you'd set aside from before. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, slice the beef into ½-inch / 1 cm thick slices. Place on an individual plate and spoon a bit of the warm sauce over. Pass remaining sauce at the table. Serves 12.
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