COCOA NIB-CRUSTED CHÂTEAUBRIAND (from The Kitchen Table: Brennan's Of Houston by Randy Evans)

FROM THE CHEF - Cocoa nibs are the purest form of chocolate. These raw cocoa beans have some of the same bitter flavors as black pepper and coffee, which are often used with Châteaubriand, so I decided to give it a try. I ended up with a great crust that has an underlying chocolate note, which pairs well with the saltiness of the blue cheese.

1/4 c. cocoa nibs
1/2 t. black peppercorns
2 t. salt
1 center-cut tenderloin of beef (1 1/2 lb.), trimmed
2 T. vegetable oil
1 recipe Blue Cheese Lyonnaise Potatoes (recipe follows)

FOR THE CHATEAUBRIAND:
In a coffee grinder, process the cocoa nibs and peppercorns to a medium grind; add salt. Rub the tenderloin. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over high heat; sear tenderloin for 2 minutes on each side. Roast at 400° for 12-18 minutes or til the internal temperature reaches 120°. Let rest for 10 minutes.

TO PLATE:
Slice tenderloin into 1/4 inch slices. Spoon the Lyonnaise potatoes in the center of the plate; shingle beef slices over potatoes. Drizzle remaining blue cheese sauce over and around beef.

BLUE CHEESE LYONNAISE POTATOES

8 fingerling potatoes
2 T. unsalted butter
1/2 medium yellow onion, Julienned
1 1/2 T. minced garlic
1 1/2 T. flour
1/2 c. brandy
1 1/2 c. whole milk
1/3 c. good-quality blue cheese
frying oil
fresh herbs to taste
salt and white pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook til fork-tender. Drain and cool. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat; sauté onion and garlic for 3 minutes. Stir in the flour to make a roux. Deglaze pan with brandy. Reduce heat and add the milk; bring to a simmer. Over low heat, slowly melt blue cheese into milk mixture. Keep warm. Cut cooled potatoes lengthwise in half. Heat oil to 375° and fry potatoes til golden brown and crispy. Toss with herbs, salt and pepper; then toss with cheese sauce.
(serves 4)

Chateaubriand Steak With Blue Cheese Potatoes recipe is published in our Jan., 2007 Menu Minder.