Before I Forget

on Tuesday, March 31, 2009

For the last post, a few momentary additional thoughts.

  1. When it comes to cutting, after the rest, cut across the grain, as thinly as possible.  With most beef this is the case, but the tougher the cut tends to be, the more crucial both of these things are.  Beef gets roasted when it's monstrously hard to eat straight (unlike a good steak.)
  2. You can buy pre-seasoned cast iron skillets at any decent department store, and pretty much the only company still making them is lodge kitchenware.
  3. This is a link for the thermometer I have and use.  I can't speak the specific quality of that site, as I bought mine here. It's got a braided steel covering on the remote probe line, which is essential (the silicone wears out with any edge pressing on it, sooner or later it will fail and you'll throw the thing out.)  It also has an included timer (never a bad thing) and will keep you updated both on the oven temperature AND the internal temperature of the food at the same time.  It's the only gadget I've seen that does this, and having a good read on the actual operating range of your oven is incredibly helpful.  Most residential ovens swing through wide arcs of temperature, and many are far off of where they ought to be.  This will cover you in that regard.
  4. In terms of pepper, where it's a particularly prominent flavor, get yourself some tellicherry from here.  If you are actually tasting any element of pepper, tellicherry is the top of the line, and Kalustyans' version was the highest rated in, you guessed it: Cook's Illustrated.  They may be operate with an incredibly exhausting level of detail, but that's just because they're also incredibly exhaustive, and here's where that's a bonus.  Tellicherry is barely more expensive than awful supermarket black pepper, so don't waste your time, unless you want to, it is after all your meal.
  5. Don't use teflon pans in the oven.  Apparently they give off fumes that have been shown to grow extra heads on lab animals.  Avoid unless extra heads and or tumors are something you're personally looking to develop.
  6. You may find making a roast easy, but personally I've never been close friends with things that happen outside of my control, and inside of an oven.  I'm not a fan of hoping that everything is done right, I'm a fan of fixing as I go along... hence this felt like a bit of a victory, always pleasant when money is being saved as well.
  7. Comes right before 8.

Okay Class, We'll Start With Recession Roast Beef...

I'm just going to dive in...

You'll get the whole complicated bio later, but the basic premise here is about cooking well, and eating well. The balance I'm trying to strike is a combination of awareness relating to ecological sensitivity in dining, nutrition, health, taste, innovation, in addition to factors of health factor and most importantly the "cheap factor" where possible.

In regard to that last point, I present Eye Round Roast to you all...

This cut is a grocery store special many of us may know from our childhood, if we had a family home that was trying its best to save a bit on a meal, and it comes to you because I personally love a good roast beef sandwich, and am tired of paying the $8/sandwich that is conventional for New York City (just like I always pictured it, skyscrapers and everything).

Eye Round Roast.

It isn't always a good ending when you start telling this story, and mine begins in a supermarket refrigerated section, looking for cheap cuts of meat to make sandwiches in the Naked City.

There aren't actually 8 million stories about this, though every fool has his own way to make Roast Beef.

I had tried (a la America's Test Kitchen, I give you this variant) a version of this process which asked for the hottest possible oven, with a piece of Eye Round that had been left out until approximate room temperature and placed in an oven at roughly 400-500 degrees Fahrenheitfor anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes. The oven was then turned off with the door shut until the internal temperature of the roast reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

First off - as frivolous as it might seem - get a digital thermometer that has a cable that attaches to a probe. I had one that failed in the barbecue, and was replaced with one with a braided steel line around the silicone/wire probe line. It's worth looking for the braided steel: the regular silicone line failed after a single use on the grill.

This digital thermometer has lasted through several oven projects, including our first assembled family turkey. Knowing the number is a 
very good thing. One day when you're a grandmother, you won't need it, but for now, it helps.

So, Eye Round.

Around $3.50 per pound at the local mega-retailer, and I had tried it with the first method and been rewarded with tough-ish, gray-ish beef.

I would love the link to give credit to the following method, but I have lost it. The basic trick: take a heavy oven-ready pan, let your eye round (of any size) sit out until it starts thinking about being room temperature (mine was still near freezing at the core after a day of thawing in the fridge, so there you have it.)

Set the oven to 225 degrees. Turn that bad boy on. Let it pre-heat. Walk the dog, or read for a bit.

Then, smear the roast with some kind of oil with your bare hands, liberally apply salt and freshly ground pepper (for god's sake don't use pre-ground pepper, okay, you're not homeless) and sear all sides in your oven-ready pan on the stove top. I used my now departed godmother's ancient cast iron pan for this, but take whatever falls to hand. It helps to score the fat portion diagonally with a knife in a crosshatch pattern, to render the fat into the pan. Then, put it in the oven, after turning the burner off, letting the pan start to cool with the flame off, flipping to a less seared side (to prevent scorching) and put the whole thing in the oven.

You should have put the probe in before putting the roast in the oven.

Go back in time and do that, okay?

Now, go and have drinks, or just stand and watch the read-out until it reaches 115 degrees.

Shut the oven off.

Wait some more, until the roast hits 130 degrees, this is for medium rare, I don't know what temperature you demented people want who are looking for well done, as you don't deserve a roast beef sandwich.

Pull that sucker.

Let it rest, in the roasting pan if you like it more well done, or on a plate if you like it a little tiny more on the medium rare side, for about ten minutes.

I feel like I just untied the Gordian Knot of super cheap beef cuts, as it came out like THIS:

It still has some chew, and some texture, but the rest after cooking, and the oven time has left this most healthy, low-fat cut of cheapest beef in the world while not quite fork-tender, at least tooth tender, and when sliced very thinly it is utterly sandwich perfect.

More to follow, and it won't all be Mother Cleaver's Tricks for Cheap Sandwiches for the Beav.

Thanks, and enjoy.