Lomo al trapo has been a favorite in Colombia for as long as I can remember. The North American chef, writer, teacher and grill master Steve Raichlen says it’s “one of the coolest dishes” and “looks positively prehistoric in its presentation (which makes it spectacular for entertaining), and, damn, if it isn’t the best way I’ve found to grill a beef tenderloin.”
Well, I would have to agree whole-heartedly with Mr. Raichlen even though his recipe is slightly different than the one we’ve used.
It’s easy: a nice beef tenderloin lovingly wrapped in a wine-soaked kitchen towel and generously seasoned with coarse salt. The best part is its simplicity and in this cold, rainy weather we’ve been having lately in Bogotá, the heat from the roaring fireplace is more than welcome – and of course some extra wine for drinking and some good company completes the evening.
You’ll need 2 kitchen towels: one stays dry and the other one has to be left soaking in red wine for at least 20 minutes so that it absorbs as much liquid as possible. Place the dry towel on your kitchen counter first and sprinkle evenly with what might seem like too much salt; approximately 500g or two cups. Don’t forget it has to be coarse salt.
The second towel, which has already been soaked in an inexpensive red wine, is placed on top.
Last but not least, the lomo. The one pictured above is about 2 kilos (around 4 pounds – this will serve 5-6 hungry people) and has been completely cleaned (by the butcher) of any fat or silvery bits. Once the lomo is in place, wrap it up and tie it in several places along the length of the bundle so it doesn’t come apart in the fire.
While you are doing all this prepping, the fireplace should be burning, embers glowing and stomachs growling. Once the wrapping and tying is done, place the bundle on the fire for 10-15 minutes on each side for medium to medium-well done.
There really is no way to check how well done the meat is without unwrapping it so the first time can be a little tricky but eventually you get the hang of it.
Use tongs to carefully lift the burning bundle out of the fire and place it on a non-flammable surface. You should wait a few minutes before unwrapping it but usually the hungry masses implore you to just open the damn thing so they can eat!
So, do so with a little caution, please and be prepared for a slightly messy process what with bits of charred towel and salt kind of going all over the place. It’s absolutely worth it, though.
Then all you have left to do is slice it, eat it, savor it and there you have it – with three little ingredients, and a couple of additional props, you can have one of the best damn beef tenderloins on the planet.