The Best Roast Beef
You would be hard-pressed to find someone who loves roast beef more than me—though, I find myself eating a whole lot of chicken, and fish, and beef, and beef and beef!!!!!
Let’s have one of our little chats – grab a cup of coffee and let’s klatch if you will — just some thoughts back and forth on how to come up with the best roast beef in the kitchen!
Emma T and Isaiah always felt that if you’re doing a roasted piece of beef because company is coming over; or it’s the holidays and the family is gathering, then nothing but the best cut – a rib roast was the order of the day! This calls for a lot of pennies at your local butcher!!! But the joy, of course, is the elation in the eating!
Bunch and Papa Joe felt that since they cook low and slow, the best roast been was a pot roast done with all the glorified accoutrements of potatoes, onions, carrots and celery. And, if company was coming over, they’d splurge a little bit and add some beautiful mushrooms and a bit of the red wine in the bottle that was stoppered from last night’s dinner!
Growing up, I had the pleasure of enjoying all those versions of roast beef. During my corporate executive days, when entertaining and presenting roast beef to my guest, if they were superiors I was trying to impress with my culinary prowess, it was Emma T and Isaiah’s presentation all the way: Roasted Prime Rib of Beef, standing with bones up, French style with little white caps; and au jus laced with a hint of burgundy and finest of minced onion and garlic! I’d bring it out on a silver meat tray, pat myself on the back and say ‘you go boy, you did it!!!’
When I would want to cook on a weekend, and have some leftovers for dinners during the week, I fondly remembered those wonderful days of my childhood, when on Tuesday my Mom would bring out the pot roast left over from Sunday’s dinner! Nothing to do but take up a plate – a one-stop task — veggies and gravy included – just add bread! (Note: Oh how I loved stopping in the deli and picking up a hard roll or a small baguette on the way home from a full day!)
Enter the period of my learning beef a bit better – cooking with the tenderness and flavor of a rib roast; with the economics of a chuck roast – welcome sirloin; welcome brisket!!! But, careful mind you – I DO prepare them differently!
With a sirloin roast I will do one of two things – cut it up into large chunks and braise it with a lacing of an orange liqueur. Le Bouef Cointreau is a recipe that I developed based upon my mother’s pot roast methodology. (In volume one of the series “Ham Bones: Memoirs of a Southern Cook”, I include my mother’s pot roast as well as this wonderful liqueur-enhanced braised sirloin dish!)
Living in New York City, I had many a brisket sandwiches at the famous delicatessens with which we are all familiar. Those brisket sandwiches were the juiciest, most tender and flavorful beef anyone could ever hope for! In fact, I don’t remember ever having brisket until I moved to New York City! It wasn’t a very popular cut of beef that I remember while growing up in South Carolina. I think those briskets sliced at the NYC delicatessens were slow-steamed/boiled until done! Not having been introduced to brisket before then, I had no idea what part of the carcass from which the brisket came; and I had no idea if there was any other way to prepare it!
Ahhhh, but with travel comes a facet of sophistication – learning different ways of cooking by region! Texans have a way of slow-smoking their brisket with a tremendous crust on it that they call a bark! Oh my, I had never considered bar-be-queuing beef before moving to Texas! That brisket they make down there is so flavorful; so juicy; so wonderfully tender, it will make you wonder how is it that everybody does not prepare their brisket the exact same way! Forget pastrami; forget corned beef; just give me some TX-style brisket!!! (Caveat: No, no – wait just a minute – don’t throw out the pastrami and corned beef – that’s another chat on another day!!!)
Now, boys and girls forget New York; forget Texas – look at what I did! Yeah, you guessed it – brisket prepared like I was a South Carolina boy with a new best friend for real – my roasted brisket of beef!!! Cowboys and cowgirls, hold onto you saddle, ‘cause this ride gonna be a Carolina Rodeo!
First, let’s think economics! Let’s be thrifty! Buy the WHOLE brisket! (Oh stop ya’ crying, the $70 you spend will be a cheaper per serving cost in the end!!!) Now, when ya’ get home, cut it in half. Wrap one half and put it in the freezer; you’ll have love and joy for another day in another way! (Maybe Texas-style next time out!!!)
Now that you’ve got that half still out on the counter, get yourself to the pantry and pull some all-purpose flour; and some spices! Let’s not get too loose with the spices—specifically we want salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and dry mustard powder! THAT’s IT – you don’t need nothing else – TRUST ME!!! Okay, here we go – riders UP on your saddles!!!
In a medium-size bowl, put in 1 full cup of all-purpose flour; 1 tablespoon each of salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and dry mustard. (Note: I don’t go cheap on this – I love the imported dry mustard in the yellow can! You know the one – its rich and will do your brisket proud!!! Splurge — buy it!!!) Use a miniature hand-held whisk and blend that flour-spice mixture. Now for the good part – totally dust and rub ALL of that mixture on your brisket. Follow this technique: Use only about one-quarter on the bottom of the brisket. Use three-fourths of it on the top-side of the brisket where you have that wonderful adipose tissue that we call fat. You know, that layer-of-flavor that’s gonna have our palates singing a song upon taste of the final product! Yes, pour that three-fourths on there, pat in down good that you almost got a bit of a dry paste on top your brisket! (Ohhhhhh, don’t you worry about how it looks – just wait until you taste it!!!) Now, that you’ve prepared your brisket, let it be – just leave it on a rack; sit the rack in a rectangular roasting pan; pour in 2 cups of water; cover the whole thing with heavy-duty aluminum foil and leave it on the counter to rest for about 3 minutes!
Cowboys, cowgirls turn and wave your hats to the crowd! Now, turn around and light your ovens – 500 degrees please! Once your ovens reach temperature, Uncover your roast; put in the oven and let it get its game on for about 15 minutes! Now, open your oven door, slide your roast out – cover it again with that heavy-duty foil; TURN YOUR OVEN DOWN to 225 degrees! Slide your roast back into the oven and leave it alone; no peaking; no basting; just leave it alone for 3 hours!
Three hours later, add one more cup of water to the pan! You should see a light gravy in the pan. Add some finely minced onion and garlic; ½ cup of red wine if you’d like; put back in the oven for another 30 minutes!
Oh you grand chef you – your roast is ready to come out and make you a superstar! But, before taking its bow, let it rest on the counter – it’s had a hot time in closed spaces!!! Thirty minutes rest should be sufficient!
Turn ya’ bandana to the left; put your roast on a cutting board; get out your sharp slicing knife and make your incision! Pour half your gravy onto the meat platter; add your slices of roasted brisket. Pour the remainder of your gravy in a sauce boat for table presentation!
As your audience give praise and applaud you, enjoy the stardom! (Oh, I’m modest — you can thank me later!!!!!)