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By November 4, 2021 January 21st, 2022 No Comments

Entertaining made easy

By June Naylor

As friends and family can attest, the kitchen is Caren Rector’s happy place.

The North Hi Mount resident worked for a caterer through her high school years in Galveston and, after earning her degree in food and nutrition at Texas Tech, worked for a French chef. She studied pastry making as well as the intricacies of French and Italian cooking before turning to a career in recipe development for Lipton. Both of her daughters love to bake, too, and the family made thousands of cookies to sell for a church mission trip years ago. Rector’s creative juices still get a good working out, as she directs the flower guild at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, where she also caters a good many events. Making things people enjoy feeds her soul; in fact, her motto is “A grateful heart is the road to happiness.” She also loves to throw together a dinner party, and her Beef Tenderloin with Dijon-Green Peppercorn Sauce is a quick dish that’s as easy as it is impressive. Her favorite kitchen hack: Love Knots, warm rolls from a can topped with butter, garlic and cheese that she promises are as good as the ones made from scratch.

Caren Rector’s Love Knots are made from canned dough.

Caren’s Pro Tips

Beef tenderloin is a splurge, but prices at big box stores are surprisingly good. Go for prime or choice grades.

It is essential to use a meat thermometer, so you don’t overcook the roast. And keep in mind that the meat will continue to cook after it is taken out of the oven.

The Dijon-Green Peppercorn Sauce is the perfect accompaniment, whether chilled or closer to room temperature. And it’s also delicious on pasta.

Don’t skip the cinnamon in the spice rub; combined with cumin, it gives an exotic hint of flavor from the other side of the world.

It’s more economical to shop for peppercorns at the bulk spice department at Central Market, Whole Foods Market or Sprouts, where you can buy just a small amount. Just rinse and drain them (yes, the dry ones) before using.

Beef Tenderloin with Dijon-Green Peppercorn Sauce

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 (3- to 4-pound) beef tenderloin, room temperature
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Dry rub, recipe follows
  • Dijon-Green Peppercorn Sauce, recipe follows

Dry rub Combine 3 tablespoons green peppercorns (rinse and drain first), 2 tablespoons cumin, 1 to 2 tablespoons coarse salt and 1 tablespoon cinnamon in a small bowl.

Dijon-Green Peppercorn Sauce In the top of double boiler over simmering water (making sure water underneath does not touch bottom of pan), combine
1 tablespoon sugar, 2 tablespoons tarragon (or white wine) vinegar, ¼ cup Dijon mustard, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 egg yolks and 2 tablespoons green peppercorns, whisking  constantly, for about 5 minutes. When thick, stir in 1 tablespoon unsalted butter until it melts. Allow mixture to cool. In a separate bowl, beat ½ cup whipping cream till fluffy, then fold into cooled mustard mixture. Cover and refrigerate till ready to use.

To prepare beef Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush beef tenderloin with oil, then coat with spice rub. Set a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. (We cut our tenderloin in two pieces.) When skillet is hot, sear beef tenderloin on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Scrape up and save the browned bits of rub in the cast-iron skillet to spoon on top of the finished tenderloin, too.

Transfer beef back to skillet and put in oven, tucking the “tail” of the small end under. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, use a regular one for searing, then roast the beef on a preheated sheet pan. Cook for 40 minutes for rare (125 degrees with a meat thermometer) or a little longer for medium-rare (135 degrees); begin checking around the 30-minute mark for doneness.

Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before carving, then serve warm with the mustard-peppercorn sauce and Love Knots (recipe follows).


Love Knots Heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter with 1 clove minced garlic. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon chopped parsley and 1/3 cup finely shaved Parmesan cheese. Open 1 refrigerated (11-ounce) can Pillsbury bread dough. Roll out, if necessary, and cut into 12 equal pieces. Using your hands, pull each piece gently to lengthen. Twist and tie each into a knot and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush butter-herb mixture over the knots and bake 13 minutes or until golden brown.