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A tournedo is a portion of meat that is formed into a round steak before cooking. The term usually applies to beef, though it’s also used loosely when referring to tender, circular entrees made of pork, veal, poultry, or fish. The cuts of beef used for tournedos are generally taken from the narrow end, or the leanest part, of the tenderloin. As the cuts are so lean, they are often wrapped in some sort of fatty substance before cooking in order to maintain the tenderness and juices. The term tournedo is French.
With its origins in French, the true meaning of the tournedo is often lost outside of France. Most Americans and non-French Europeans have varying ideas of exactly what a tournedo is, as well as how it is actually prepared. A tournedo is not, as it is often assumed, the same thing as filet mignon. When comparing the two similar beef dishes, experts generally agree that they are very similar, but disagree when it comes to the differences between them.
In America, the phrase filet mignon is far more well-known that tournedos. Butchers and restaurants often — both knowingly and inadvertently — market tournedos as filet mignon to attract consumers. Typically, the central portion of the tenderloin is sold as filet mignon. Butchers who differentiate between the two will sell the smaller, middle portion of the tenderloin as filet mignon.
Tournedos range in thickness from approximately 3/4 of an inch to 1 1/4 inches (roughly 1.9 centimeters to 3.76 inches). Each tournedo weighs between 2 and 5 ounces (roughly 56.7 grams to 141.7 grams). They are generally 2 inches in diameter (about 5 centimeters); if they are much smaller, restaurant consumers will often receive them in pairs.
Tournedos are typically broiled or grilled. They are often enveloped in bacon or lard in order to retain its juiciness and tied with a string to keep their round shape. Although prices vary, tournedos are generally fairly pricey.
When served, tournedos are often garnished with a jus or glaze, vegetable and/or grain. Perhaps the most famous of the recipes is Tournedos a la Rossini, named after the French composer of the same name. The tournedo in this dish is usually pan-fried in butter, served on a round piece of bread or cracker, and topped with foie gras, which is made with duck or goose liver. Black truffles and a demi-glace are also featured in the dish.