Rachel's Table

The Tenderloin of Christmas Past

When I think of my own Christmas Pasts, these images float before my eyes…

My older brother and I sit in front of the Christmas tree. He’s smiling and exclaiming while clutching the perfect gift: Atari. I’m mirroring his excitement as I gaze in wonder at the pink box of an Easy Bake Oven.

My favorite game: Frogger

My favorite game: Frogger

I’m a few years older now and wearing a bright color-blocked skirt layered over puffy black tulle. My feet are clad in the sweetest pair of Sam and Libby’s as they make their way down the cold Boston streets to see The Nutcracker. The theater is magical, the music is breathtaking, and my brothers giggle and rename this particular ballet, The BUTTcracker.

I had these in teal, too

I had these in teal, too

I’m a bit older, but still young enough to entice my mother to unwrap each and every one of her presents before the Big Day. We carefully pull apart the tape, peek inside the boxes, and re-wrap  in hopes my father won’t know our secret. We are the best kind of partners in crime.

As a teenager, living in a Southern state, away from my New England home, I felt out of place and out of sync. But I met a new friend. She has large copper-gold eyes, matching hair, a melodious cackle of a laugh, and a heart full of life. We exchange gifts at a school party: she buys me sunglasses with purple lenses and I buy her Florida State boxer shorts because that’s where she’s from. Twenty years later she’s still my best friend (despite my lack of gift giving skills).

Misty and me

I’d rock out to Lemonheads with her any day

Moving on to adulthood, tonight I’m wrapping presents with my one true love. He’s wearing the plaid moose pants I bought him in Maine and laughing secretly over the funny names he’s writing on the gift tags. I’m assuming this year I’ll receive a present from either Walter White or Raylan Givens, since we are watching Breaking Bad and Justified on Netflix.

For the past two years, I’ve made Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce for my family’s Christmas dinner. The tenderloin is so lean it requires some kind of richness, which the sauce provides spectacularly. You can make the sauce a day in advance, so on Christmas Day all you have to do is let it sit on the stove, leaving you more time to tuck away memories for the next year.

Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce

(Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine. I usually double this recipe for a crowd of 10 to 12.)

For the red wine sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups vidalia onions, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 6-ounce package cremini or baby bella mushrooms

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 750-ml bottle Pinot Noir or other dry red wine

1 14-ounce can low-salt chicken broth

1 14-ounce can beef broth

2 fresh thyme sprigs

1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

Kosher salt

For the tenderloin:

1 2-pound beef tenderloin roast

1 tablespoon olive oil

Kosher salt


Make the sauce: Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and mushrooms; sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle sugar and a couple pinches of salt over mushroom and onion mixture; sauté until mixture is browned, about 4 minutes longer. Add red wine vinegar; stir until liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Add wine; boil until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Add both broths, thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaf; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer uncovered 35 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally. The sauce will reduce significantly.

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Strain sauce through strainer into small saucepan. Get rid of the solids. Mix butter and flour in small bowl.  Bring sauce to simmer over medium-high heat and whisk in flour mixture. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Cook until sauce is reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 5 minutes.

(Sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm over medium heat.)

Make the tenderloin: Preheat oven to 350°F. Sprinkle beef generously with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add beef to skillet and cook until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes.

Angels We Have Heard On High

Angels We Have Heard On High

Transfer beef to a baking sheet. Roast in oven until thermometer inserted into center reads 120°F for medium-rare, about 35 minutes. Transfer beef to cutting board and let rest 10 minutes. Slice the tenderloin and serve on a platter with the red wine sauce on the side.

Joy to the World

Joy to the World

So tell me, what are some of your favorite memories from Christmas Past?


  1. Oh we never dared peek under the paper! I enjoyed reading about your memories very much! And the tenderloin looks delicious, perfect for a simple, yet delicious Christmas dinner.
    My brother and I used to search for the place where my parents hid the presents, and would touch and shake them, trying to guess what they were! Now my best memory is just decorating the tree with my parents and brother, eventhough we are now both grown up; I like that we still make a point of doing it, and then sit down, play some music, and have a glass of wine.
    Happy holidays, Rachel!

    • Decorating the tree is still one of my favorites, too. My mother cannot help herself when it comes to surprises. She’s notorious for snooping.

      Enjoy your holidays, Darya! Eat, drink and be merry!

  2. Sam & Libby’s! I remember those exact shoes and how much I loved them! I also love all of your holiday memories — sweet, touching, and forever-lasting. Just as they should be.

  3. Those are fabulous memories and looks like a delicious recipe. My memories weren’t quite as happy, but I do remember a few Xmas mornings, my brother and I sitting on the top of the stairs in anxious anticipation of the bounty of wrapped gifts awaiting us in a room below. Those are probably some of my best memories of the season, despite the strained relationships with those very same people now. I try to make the best possible memories for my kids with our family and my husband’s extended family now, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job of it, according to my kids. Happy Holidays to you and Mr. Rache!!!

    • Magic is always there when kids are around, Misty, and yes, it sounds like you’re being very intentional about creating magical memories for your boys.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours, Misty!

  4. I remember playing Frogger for 6 hours on Christmas Day!! I know this’ll be a great meme or for my kids – last year my daughter gave me a pair if my own underwear and an empty juice box. You had to be there…

    Now I want tenderloin! I make a horseradish encrusted one but don’t like the port wine reduction the recipe came with. Gotta try this!

  5. *sigh* I know I’ve said it before, but your preludes to the recipe are as delicious as the food! I love imagining Mr. Rache signing tags from Walter White in his moose PJ bottoms.

    But as for you and mom, tsk tsk!! I never understood peeking; I always wanted the surprise. Or maybe I was just scared Babs might actually have eyes in the back of her head.

    Some of my favorite Christmas memories involve how excited my brother would get to see my reaction to that year’s “big” gift. I’ll never forget, when I was about 6 and he was 10, him jumping up and down, so excited to lead me to the basement where my mom had sewn this awesome house/tent in felt, over a folding table. Now THAT was flipping suhWEET!

    • I do NOT peak. I’m a purist. My mother, on the other hand, would tell me every single gift if she could. Last year, she opened her trunk and asked me to pick which color throw I wanted for my couch. There were five of them in there. I was like, “That would have been a nice surprise, Mom.” She just thinks it’s better to get exactly what you like.

      I love your story! And I would LOVE to see the six year old version of your freaking out over your new tent. Gosh, do you think Babs will make me one?

  6. Aw, such sweet memories, RP. I can’t believe your mom let you peek! We used to unwrap gifts when my parents were out grocery shopping. Once we unwrapped the new Atari ET game, played it, then wrapped it back up. We were so bad.

    I hope you and Mr. Rache have a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year filled with adventure and travel and more moose pants.

  7. Raylan Givens can send me Christmas presents any ol’ time he wants … if you know what I mean. 🙂 Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    Favorite memories? Of course, I loved the Christmases of my childhood that are a full blur of wrapping paper and boxes … but, my favorites are recently with my little boy. He is pure joy.

  8. I wish it were cold enough in Australia to do a roast for Christmas day. We are all about fresh seafood, salads and air-conditioning for Christmas Day! Hope you have a lovely day with your love (cute shoes p.s)

  9. Sweet. Oh how I loved my Easy Bake Oven. I still can’t believe that one can bake cake (albeit really gummy cake) with a light bulb. And, I must confess: Like your mom, I used to open my gifts and rewrap them. Hope you have a lovely holiday, Rachel!

  10. I’m not even going to show the picture of your tenderloin to my husband! When I came home from college I didn’t have my presents wrapped so I’d wait until someone opened a different present and then grab the shredded wrappings and sort of roll them around my gifts before presenting them.

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