Tournedos Masséna

(Beef fillets with Madeira and truffle sauce)

André Masséna

This recipe for Tournedos Masséna is from the Hotel Boule d’Or, in Chinon, a historic town in the heart of the Loire Valley, known as the garden of France. Masséna most likely refers to André Masséna, one of the original eighteen Marshals of the Empire, a hero of French military prowess. He was the only one of the great generals who did not receive formal training. He is considered a hero in France with everything from a graveyard to this dish named after him.

Tournedos are a small cut of meat, nearly always beef, taken from the most tender part of the animal and formed into a round steak. They’re usually about 3/4 to 2 inches thick and because they are very lean, are usually wrapped in bacon or suet. They’re small, only 5 oz. and are served as a pair, grilled or broiled in a shallow pan.

Because of their lack of marbling and fat, which always carries the most flavor of beef, tournedos are often served with highly flavorful garnishes and sauce, like in this recipe, which adds both Madeira and truffles to the sauce.

I recently dined at a nice little place here in Chicago, Ricardo Trattoria, and had my first true experience of fresh truffles. Ricardo’s serves risotto with summer truffles, which have a light, creamy colored interior under a dark skin. When the plate arrived, it was crowned with a lacy tiara of white truffle shavings. My first bite was revelatory–until that bite, I’d never really understood the impact of fresh truffle. Now I’m an absolute maniac. I’d put it in my coffee if I could figure out how.

Tournedos Masséna calls for finely chopped truffles but I’m going to tell you to shave them instead. You can pick up a good truffle knife at Northwest Cutlery in Chicago. Just do it.

Don’t cheat. Don’t go buy some truffle oil at Trader Joe’s. Don’t buy some of those cheap tiny Chinese truffles at the liquor store that look like furry marbles. Don’t. Sack up and buy real truffles. Go to Roederer and order a nice 4 oz black summer truffle. They’re expensive (though they can be much, much more expensive)1

This is also an example of Price referring to canned ingredients. However, this time I think it works. Artichokes are a pain in the ass to do yourself and you’ll never get the flavor you can get from the canned brine. Hell, I drink that shit straight.

Tournedos Messéna

Ingredients

    Tournedos
  • 2 fillets of beef, 5 to 6 oz each.
  • 2 canned artichoke bottoms
  • liquid from the artichoke's can
  • 2 three inch rounds of bread
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Madeira
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped truffle
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Instructions

    Tournedos
  1. Salt and pepper your beef.
  2. Warm the artichokes i their own liquid.
  3. Poach 8 slices of beef marrow in simmering salted water for 3 minutes. Keep warm.
  4. Sauté the bread in butter. Drain on paper towel.
  5. Cook the fillets in butter in a hot skillet for 5 minutes on each side until well browned but still rare. Transfer to a warm serving dish, placing each fillet onto the bread. Drain butter and fat into the pan.
  6. Sauce
  7. Add Madeira to the pan and reduce by half.
  8. Add the stock and chopped truffles. Swirl in remaining butter.
  9. Presentation
  10. Arrange an artichoke bottom on each fillet, put 4 slices of the poached marrow in each artichoke cup, and spoon sauce over all.
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Bull Garlington is an award-winning author and columnist from Chicago. His newest book is The Full English, a humorous travel memoir.
  1. I’ve heard a rumor the restaurant subsequently let the truffle rot. Expensive compost.