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dinner party fare

Recipe: bourbon-glazed beef tenderloin

Fall is shaping up to be something good. Except that it’s still sunny and warm. Once the weather turns the corner, I’ll be a truly happy camper. But we are making progress on so many fronts now. Neva is no longer a fountain of drool when she gets in the car (although she makes a few quiet whimpers if we drive for more than 20 minutes). She has also started to curl up at my feet for a nap when I am working on the computer, which is a huge improvement over what she used to do (she used to go under my desk and attack the cardboard recycling). Best of all, we’ve discovered when she makes her little “mmmmm” noises at 5:30 am each day, I can reach over in the dark to open her crate door and she’ll jump up on the bed and cuddle between us for another 30 minutes. That extra 30 minutes makes all the difference to the humans.

With doggy day care once a week, Neva gets lots of playtime and socialization and then the following day is “downtime” for her, a.k.a. a really long nappy loungy day. That’s two days in a row allowing me large blocks of time to get work done, and maybe a trail run, and lunch with friends. I like the dog Neva is becoming. Do I miss the adorable little puppy she was just a few months ago? Yes and no. I miss how cute and itty bitty she was. I don’t miss the feral, high-energy, in-need-of-constant-supervision, sharp-puppy-toothed ball of destruction.

no-stress neva chilling in the back of the car

still a few torch-like aspens on my trail run

i got to have lunch with my friend’s adorable little girl

A few weeks ago when I was in Crested Butte, our good friend and neighbor, Eileen, pulled up next to me while I was walking Neva. We chatted and when she learned Jeremy would be coming out for the weekend before we headed back to Nederland, she said, “How about dinner at my house? We’ll grill steaks.” The last time we had dinner at James’ and Eileen’s house, Jeremy and I took turns running back down the street to check on Neva, who was crying and barking in her crate as she suffered from major FOMO (fear of missing out). This time, months later, she was quiet – alternating between dozing off and chewing quietly on her toys. Good girl.

Dinner was a team effort as I supplied a few appetizers, Eileen took care of the main and sides, and Wendy and Denise brought desserts. And there is always exceptional wine with these good folk. As I loaded my plate and crossed the room, Wyatt, Denise’s giant fur baby, tracked me – or rather the steak – to my seat.

wyatt wants to know if we could maybe share that steak

Wyatt had good reason. That steak was off the hook. James and Eileen often entertain large groups, so they will usually grill at least one hunk of protein to feed the masses. When last they served this steak over the fourth of July, the carving board was picked clean by the time I got back from checking on Neva. Over dinner, Eileen asked for my gougères recipe and I in turn requested the recipe for her steak. It was one of those “oh I just throw together x, y, and z” recipes, which I promptly forgot when Jeremy and I walked home under the sparkling night sky. The next day, Eileen was sweet enough to email me a recipe and I am sharing it with you – because it is TOO GOOD not to share.

One ingredient Eileen mentioned was Montreal steak seasoning, which she said you can find in any grocery store’s spice section. She uses that with salt and pepper as part of the dry rub. I had never heard of it, but I was pretty sure I could make it from scratch. The recipes online vary somewhat, but overall they have many of the same components. I chose the one that uses dill seed because I have a ton of it to use up.

black pepper, paprika, granulated onion, sea salt, dill seed, cayenne, granulated garlic, ground coriander

whisk everything together

now you have montreal steak seasoning

The recipe itself is quite easy, requiring very little effort on your part. The one thing it does require is time and perhaps an investment in a nice piece of beef tenderloin. I wound up using a two-pound section of a four-pound, trimmed beef tenderloin from Costco. Coat the tenderloin in Montreal steak seasoning (I used about half of the batch I made), salt, and black pepper. Tuck the tenderloin into a large ziploc bag and then add a third cup each of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and bourbon. Use an inexpensive bourbon since you just blew all of your cash on the tenderloin (and because it would be a waste to use a high-end bourbon on this). Marinate the beef for up to two days, but at least overnight. Be sure to turn it at least once.

soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, bourbon, black pepper, salt, montreal steak seasoning, beef tenderloin

coat the tenderloin with the salt, pepper, and montreal steak seasoning

place the tenderloin in a sealable bag with equal parts soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, and bourbon

marinate at least 8 hours

I let this tenderloin marinate for two full days. When I was ready to grill, I took the beef out of the refrigerator to warm up to room temperature a bit. Meanwhile, I made the bourbon glaze. It’s also ridiculously simple (and wonderful) – a third cup of balsamic vinegar, a third cup of bourbon, and a third cup of brown sugar. Boil the balsamic vinegar and bourbon together until they reduce in volume by half. Add the brown sugar and let that simmer down over a low flame for 20 minutes until it is syrupy. Just don’t boil it down too much or you will wind up with caramel that your basting brush can’t penetrate when the syrup cools.

brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, bourbon

combine the balsamic vinegar and bourbon and reduce it over high heat

add the brown sugar

simmer until syrupy

When the glaze is done, you can heat the grill to high. You can do this over coals or with gas (we have a gas grill), but it has to be hot so you can sear the tenderloin on all sides (four sides). Our grill got up to 450°F and each side took a few minutes to sear. Once the tenderloin is seared, turn the heat off on one side (or shove the coals to one side of the grill) and set the beef over the part of the grill with no heat. Brush some of that delicious glaze on the top of the tenderloin, close the lid and let the tenderloin cook via indirect heat. Turn the tenderloin over and brush the top with more glaze. Continue to grill until the thickest part is cooked to your desired doneness. We aimed for rare. Your grilling times will depend on the temperature of your grill, the grill’s heat capacity, the size of your tenderloin, and the doneness you want.

pat the tenderloin dry and get ready with a brush and the glaze

sear the tenderloin on all sides

brush the glaze on top

let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes


The beauty of this recipe for parties is that you will have a range of doneness to suit just about everyone’s preference. The thicker end will be more rare and the tail will most certainly be well-done. Even if you love rare beef, I have to confess that the tail end is phenomenal. Even well-done, it is super tender, juicy, and bursting with that caramelized bourbon flavor – the entire tenderloin will knock your socks off. You could brush any extra glaze over the tenderloin while it rests or serve it on the side. With the holidays looming large on the horizon, file this one away for a special dinner.

great with roasted or sautéed vegetables

and wine, don’t forget the wine

Bourbon-Glazed Beef Tenderloin
[print recipe]
based on this recipe for Montreal steak seasoning and the recipe from my friend, Eileen

montreal steak seasoning
2 tbsps freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsps paprika
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp granulated garlic
1 tbsp granulated onion
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp dill seeds

2-4 lbs. beef tenderloin, silver skin and excess fat removed
Montreal steak seasoning
1/3 cup bourbon
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup bourbon
1/3 cup brown sugar

Make the Montreal steak seasoning: Mix all of the ingredients together. Makes 5 ounces.

Prepare the tenderloin: Generously season the tenderloin with salt, pepper, and Montreal steak seasoning. Place the tenderloin in a ziploc bag with the bourbon, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Push the air out of the bag and seal. Refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days, flipping the bag occasionally. When you are ready to make the glaze, take the tenderloin out of the refrigerator.

Make the glaze: Combine the balsamic vinegar and bourbon in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and let reduce to half its original volume. Stir in the brown sugar and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes until the glaze is syrupy. Remove from heat.

Grill the tenderloin: Set your grill to high heat (gas or coals). Take the tenderloin out of the ziploc bag (discard the bag and marinade) and pat it dry with paper towels. Sear the tenderloin on four sides (for us, about 2 minutes a side). Turn the burner off over half of the grill or shove the hot coals to one side of the grill. Set the tenderloin over the cold side of the grill. Brush the top with the glaze and close the lid. Cook for 5 minutes. Turn the tenderloin and brush the top with glaze, close the lid. Use a meat thermometer to check the thickest part of the tenderloin for your target temperature (medium rare is supposed to be 130°F or so). When the beef is just shy of target temperature, remove from grill and let rest on a cutting board for 5-10 minutes (make sure you catch any errant juices). Slice the tenderloin and serve. Serves anywhere from 6 to 12 people.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

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21 nibbles at “dinner party fare”

  1. Alexa says:

    I LOVE Bourbon steak. There was a fantastic restaurant in the DC area where I first had it and now this is my preferred method of preparation. Your photos are making me salivate in the wee hours of the morning here on the East Coast. Love your site!

  2. Steve says:

    This looks like an amazing recipe! Still an avid griller here even though I now use the apartment complexes gas units instead of my trusty Weber. I’ll have to give this one a shot. So glad to hear the car rides are going better for Neva! Lorna loves hanging in the car, head out the window or curled in the seat. Hope you guys get some snow soon.

  3. farmerpam says:

    I’m not much of a meat eater, but this recipe has me drooling, looks so good! ( can’t believe how big Neva is!)

  4. Kristin says:

    So, I am not much of a drinker, but I DO love the flavor of bourbon…so I enjoy it in many desserts (your cake and pie in particular!) and hot toddies when I have a cough or sore throat. I can’t wait to try this, but think I will wait until my kids are home for Thanksgiving break. It sounds fabulous! I am a bit worried about over cooking it on our charcoal grill, but will give that job to my husband. I agree, the difference between 5:30 and 6 am seems like much more than half an hour.

  5. Amber says:

    So this will seem kind of dramatic but I just got home from the hospital after a car accident this morning. Nothing serious. Banged up head and knees. The reason I mention this is because I was achy and upset and just overall not feeling great and then I saw a new post. Thanks for continuing your blog Jen. Really comforting these days… Also now I’m hungry. May have to settle for pizza in my current state. I’ll be dreaming of this recipe though lol.

  6. farmerpam says:

    Well, I made this recipe last night, I didn’t have bourbon, had to use scotch, sounds weird, I know. But it was awesome, everyone loved it. Thanks for helping me create the illusion that I’m a really good cook,lol!

  7. Jill Hyde says:

    Looks absolutely yummy! xo,j

  8. Anna says:

    I love your recipes! Thanks again for the new entry and images. I would love to make this but my family isn’t a big beef eater, will pork tenderloin work as a substitute or is this specially a beef recipe? Thank you in advance! :)

    Hope you’re having an awesome week!

  9. jenyu says:

    Alexa – thanks! I hope this recipe lives up to your expectations :)

    Steve – we’re still waiting to see when the flip switches from dreading car rides to loving them, but I’ll take the non-puke rides any day! You know, I love my Weber, too. Sending kisses to Lorna xoxo

    farmerpam – it really is delicious and if you serve it to a bunch of people, you can nibble a piece and everyone else can finish the rest ;)

    Kristin – me too! It’s one of my favorite boozes to cook and bake with. It’s definitely a good recipe to serve for special occasions as it’s a bit spendy for us to have on a regular weeknight. Just tell the hubz to use a meat thermometer and all should work well.

    Amber – oh man, I’m so sorry to hear it! It’s a traumatic experience being in a car accident, but I’m glad you’re okay (be sure to monitor your overall health as things can crop up after a few days). Sending a big hug to you. xoxo

    farmerpam – damn, lady. You don’t mess around! ;) xo

    Jill – it is!! xo

    Anna – you know, I bet pork would be great with this too. Just make sure it is cooked through in the center of the thickest part of the pork loin (use a meat thermometer). I can’t remember the temperature, but you can look it up online. Hope it works out!

  10. kenh says:

    I followed this recipe to the tea except that being Canadian I used real maple syrup instead of brown sugar. As for the beef it was Alberta grown, the worlds best. Almost forgot I threw in a couple handfuls of mesquite chips. This tenderloin was absolutely a blue ribbon winner.
    Thank you so much

  11. jenyu says:

    kenh – Great to hear! And I love it when folks tweak the recipe to make it their own! xo

  12. Blanche says:

    Excellent! I prepared this using a tritip streat, very happy with the outcome! I think the glaze alone would pair well with any variety of meat, especially pork. Thank you!

  13. Nathalie says:

    Ok farmerpam I will follow your advice for your substitution.. ?
    I wanted to cook this tonight but I really think that if I can wait to have it marinate longer It will pay off?
    This is my first visit and their is already lots that I want to try.
    Thanks for the inspiration

  14. Paul Kerivan says:

    This is a terrific recipe. I made it at Christmas dinner last year it was a big hit. Will make it again this year it’s now a Christmas tradition. Everyone loves it. Simple and delicious. Thank you for such a great recipe and memorable holiday dinner.

  15. Caitlin says:

    I just made this for my first ever catered dinner and oh my! Was it a hit! Absolutely wonderful! The tenderloin moo-ed (in the best way). Thank you for sharing this simple yet utterly effective recipe. Served with a side of Joel Robuchon’s mashed potatoes, Yottam Ottolenghi’s fattouch and Melissa Clark’s crab cakes (do not recommend unless you’re subbing with fresh shrimp and real Pablo). Thanks!

  16. Caitlin says:


  17. jenyu says:

    Caitlin – WOW! That’s an impressive menu *applause*! So happy that it worked out xo

  18. Neo says:

    Can I use pork loin ?

  19. jenyu says:

    Neo – I imagine you could (but I’ve never tried it). Just make sure the internal temperature reaches a safe minimum before serving. I bet it would be delicious.

  20. Jen says:

    Just wanted to leave a message to thank you for this recipe! I found this recipe page a couple of years ago, and ever since this tenderloin has become a Christmas staple with our family. Even my dad, who generally dislikes beef, looks forward to this recipe and not only cleans his plate, but has seconds!

  21. jenyu says:

    Jen – Sorry for the delayed reply, but what a sweet note you left! Really happy to hear that this makes people and tummies happy. I hope you are all well xo

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