Hold You Breath; Cross Your Fingers
The first time I watched JC, my Colombian-born son-in-law, cook Lomo al Trapo, I panicked. Lomo al Trapo is one of the most uniquely prepared cuts of meat I’ve ever had. The novice fears for the outcome of the beef tenderloin, a cut that can run the price of a fine French Bordeaux. Rather than risk an emotional meltdown, it’s best to have a Colombian on hand for your first attempt.
The Drama Begins
Like roasting a suckling pig or flaming a Baked Alaska, this dish is not for the faint of heart. When I gently handed over the uncooked tenderloin to JC, he sensed my concern. He patted me on the hand, and said, “Trust me.” With that, my suspicions only heightened.
I gasped as he placed the prime cut of meat on layers of cheesecloth and sprinkled it with cups of salt. (Yes, I said cups, not tablespoons!)
As the sweat began to form on my forehead, JC wrapped the tenderloin tightly in the salt-lined cloth and tied it securely with string. I warned him that the meat would be far too salty and inedible. He smiled and continued on his mission, while I began thinking of an alternative way to feed 15 people.
Pacing the Floor
Just when I thought nothing else could be more weird, he took the dampened bundle, walked over to the fireplace, and tossed it in like he would a stick of wood!
During those first few minutes, I paced the floor in front of the hearth as he reclined calmly in a nearby chair, sipping a glass of wine.
Seeing the centerpiece of my dinner party lay smoldering in cinders was more than I could handle. I headed for the refrigerator to access the lunch meat selection.
All It’s Cracked Up to Be
Some 30-40 minutes later (cooking time depends on the how hot the fire is), JC pulled the charred chunk from the embers. By some culinary miracle, the wrap of cheesecloth and salt had been transformed into a hard cast.
My heart raced as JC approached the newly formed “log” with chisel and hammer in hand. He made a few chops to the casing and it fell away, like a plaster cast from a healed limb.
A Sigh of Relief
My jaw dropped! Before my eyes was a moist, perfectly seasoned tenderloin, medium done on the ends and beautifully pink in the middle. The saline wrap had formed its own protective “oven,” keeping the meat moist and tender, but not salty. Applause all around.
We had Lomo al Trapo!
Below are some of the photos of our early efforts. Renown Chef J. Kenji Lopez-Alt shows more extensive photos and instructions here.