GINNA PARSONS: Christmas meal takes new twist

The table at our home at Thanksgiving looks, I'd guess, pretty much like mainstream America's: turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, a potato dish, something green and pecan or pumpkin pie.

Traditionally, our Christmas Day table has looked very similar. Some years we might get a little wild and cook a ham, but the rest of the regulars would be there, along with Charlie's creme brulee for dessert.

This year, I wanted to do something different. I'm turkeyed out and ham has never been one of my favorites, so I was leaning toward either a pork loin or a nice cut of beef.

Now let me say, I've never cooked a really fine piece of beef. They're usually expensive and I've never wanted to buy one to experiment with just for the heck of it.

But Sandra Wright, a fellow Master Gardener, has convinced me I can cook a beef fillet successfully. She got the following recipe several years ago in Maryland and carried it around with her for years. She made it the first time when she and her husband, Dennis, were living in Japan. Sandra said the meat was so tender you could cut it with a fork and there wasn't a scrap left on the serving plate.

I'm inspired now to cook the beef fillet for a special occasion, but it won't be Christmas Day dinner. We voted to cook a pork loin before I got my hands on this recipe. But there's always New Year's …

Fillet of Beef

1 large fillet of beef, 7 to 8 pounds, trimmed of all fat

1 cup Japanese soy sauce

1 cup olive or peanut oil

1 cup sherry

6 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon Tabasco

Dash of freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Marinate the fillet in remaining ingredients for 24 hours (except the vegetable oil), turning several times. Remove and pat dry with paper towels. Rub with vegetable oil. Place beef in a roasting pan on a broiling rack and roast at 475 degrees for 40 minutes for well done, 35 minutes for medium well and 28 to 30 minutes for rare. Watch closely. Baste with marinade 3 or 4 times during roasting. Allow to cool. If possible, do not refrigerate. Arrange on a platter with watercress and tiny cherry tomatoes.

Ginna Parsons is the Daily Journal's food/home/garden editor.