Thursday, September 16, 2010

This Is What Happens When You Give Me All Day To Cook!

Good evening everyone! We are returning a little bit of normalcy to the blog this evening - it's a Thursday, and it's my night to cook! With this new schedule at work, I have one day during the week off. This week, Thursday is my day off. As such, I took advantage of this extra time and prepared a more complicated recipe.

While tonight's recipe doesn't fall into the 'prepare after coming home from work' category that most of our recipes follow, it is something that could be prepared for a weekend meal, or be placed in a crock pot and allowed to slow roast for a full day while you're away at work.

We'll get into more detail on that option later, for now - let's get cooking!

The Recipe: Slow Roasted Beef
Original Recipe Found In: The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

What You'll Need:

3.5 to 4.5 Pound Boneless eye-round roast (any lean, roast cut of beef can be substituted)
2 Teaspoons Table Salt
1 Tablespoon Plus 2 Teaspoons Vegetable Oil
2 Teaspoons Black Pepper

The Recipe: Scalloped Potatoes
Original Recipe Found In: The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

What You'll Need:

2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Small Onion (Minced)
2 Medium Garlic Cloves
4 Pounds Russet Potatoes (Peeled and cut into 1/8 inch thickness)
3 Cups Heavy Cream
1 Cup Whole Milk (Any form can be substituted, whole works best)
4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
2 Teaspoons Table Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
4 Ounces Cheddar Cheese (Shredded)

For the beef: 

There are few culinary pleasures in this world better than nice, tender, juicy roast beef. The aroma and flavors that burst from a nice cut of beef after it has been roasting for hours and second to none in my opinion. The problem with roasting beef is that if done incorrectly, you typically end up with overly dry meat or very tough and chewy meat.

This is because most people simply cook their roasts in a crock pot or in the oven without taking a few extra steps at the beginning to preserve the liquid within the roast. The two major keys to keeping your roast tender and juicy - while still being flavorful - are salt and heat.

Be seasoning the roast with salt and allowing it to rest for (up to) 24 hours before cooking - you are allowing the salt to absorb into the roast and change the structure of the muscle fibers in the meat. Salt causes the muscle fibers to change in structure, which allows them to hold onto more water - thereby making the roast even juicier.

The second key factor to a juicy roast is heat. But, not in the traditional way you would think. You actually want to set the heat very low for an ideal roast. By setting your oven to 225 degrees (this is typically close to the lowest setting allowed on most ovens) you will cause the roast's internal temperature to stay below 122 degrees. Why 122? At 122 degrees and below, the roast's enzymes will be active and act as natural tenderizers. These enzymes break down proteins within the meat, causing it to be much more tender. Once the temperature rises above 122 degrees, these enzymes are lost.

Now that you know the science behind making a juicy roast, let's start actually making said roast!

Begin by seasoning each side of the roast with a healthy pinch of salt. Once all four sides are seasoned, wrap the roast in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for 18 to 24 hours. However, you can season the roast in the morning before heading out to work and simply allow it to marinade all day in the salt (essentially shortening the marinating time down to 7 hours). Alternatively, you can skip this step all together if you are in a time crunch. As mentioned though, this step is a critical key into juicier roasts, so be forewarned that you are risking a drier cut of beef by avoiding this step altogether.

After 18 to 24 hours (or however long you chose to marinade) remove the roast from the plastic wrap and pat dry with a paper towel. Pre-heat your oven to 225 degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Rub the roast with 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil, making sure to cover evenly. Sprinkle all sides evenly with pepper. (No salt since it has been marinating in salt for 18 hours!)

Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a 12 inch skillet until smoking. Sear the roast on high heat until it is completely browned on all sides (roughly 4 minutes per side). This gives your roast a nice, crisp exterior without drying out any of the interior meat.

Next, place your roast on a wire rack, set on top of a large baking sheet. Place the roast in the oven and allow to cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes (medium rare) or 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes (medium). A medium rare roast should have an internal temperature of 115 degrees, medium roast 125 degrees (after the first cooking stage).

Resist the urge to open and close the oven while cooking. The goal is to keep constant low heat on the roast for a majority of the cooking. Opening and closing the door will cause fluctuations in heat that could throw off the roasting process.

Once your roast has reached that golden temperature, turn the oven off. Allow the roast to rest in the warm oven for another 30 to 50 minutes. Once the roast has reached 130 degrees (medium rare) or 140 degrees (medium) transfer it to a cutting board and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.

This beauty is what emerges from the roasting process

This resting period allows the juices to move back into the roast, rather than sitting at the surface like the do during cooking. If you were to carve the roast immediately, most of the juices would run out on the cutting board - not something you want after spending all of that time slow roasting the darn thing!

Slice the roast as thin as possible and serve!

For the scalloped potatoes: 

Begin preparing your scalloped potatoes just before you turn your oven off while cooking the roast. This will allow both dishes to finish at about the same time.

These recipes work best together if you have a second form of oven, such as a convection oven or toaster oven. If you don't have access to a second oven, you can prepare the scalloped potatoes before preparing the roast and simply reheat them before serving.

I used our mandoline to reduce potato chopping time
Left: Before mandoline Right: After mandoline

Adjust your oven rack to the middle position and heat to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, melt your butter in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Add your onion and cook until just softened (roughly 5 to 7 minutes, although mine were softened in about 3). Add your garlic and cook until you can start to smell the lovely aroma of garlic from the pan (about 30 seconds).

Next, add your potatoes, heavy cream, milk, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper and bring everything to a simmer. Once simmering, cover the dutch oven and adjust your heat (if necessary) to keep the mixture simmering lightly.

Cook until the potatoes are almost tender. (You can judge this by slipping a paring knife into a potato, if it removes with slight resistance - you're golden) Remove the thyme and bay leaves. Transfer the mixture to a 3 quart gratin dish (or casserole dish...or, heck, leave it in the dutch oven if you really want to! A smaller dish just reduces the cooking time slightly)  Sprinkle the mixture with the cheese (I mixed in some of the cheese, rather than just putting all of it on top). Bake (in the same 325 degree oven) until the cream begins to thicken and is bubbling around the edges and the top is golden brown (roughly 20 minutes)

Remove from the oven and allow to cool 5 minutes before serving!

The Results:

Both of tonight's dishes turned out superbly! The roast was moist, tender and full of natural meaty flavors. It almost melted in your mouth due to the tenderness. The one issue I had with the roast was that it was slightly 'gristly' (due to the type of cut we chose - bottom round) which kept it from being 'fork tender' Nonetheless, the roast was still one of the best roasts I've ever had.

The scalloped potatoes were the real stars of the show. Each bite burst with a delicious, creamy, cheesy flavor. The onion and garlic added nice subtle undertones to the creamy flavor. I added extra cheese (1.5 cups rather than the 1 cup that 4 ounces typically makes) and I still feel it could have used a little more. Other than that - no complaints from one of my favorite potato dishes so far.

Oh, and we finished it all off with this:


What is that you ask? Why, homemade chocolate mousse of course! How do you make such a thing? You'll have to come back on Sunday to find out!

That's all we have for you this evening! Thank you all for stopping by and sharing our latest recipe with us. We are planning to share the chocolate mousse recipe on Sunday, so be sure to stop back sometime Sunday afternoon and check that out. Otherwise, we're off for the next two days! Until Sunday,


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