Monday, April 16, 2012

Sunday Roasts


When I look at my massive bookshelf, filled with cookbooks from top to bottom, I can honestly say that a few publishers seem to stick out from the spines of many of my books. One of those is San Francisco-based Chronicle Books. I own a hefty arsenal of Chronicle Books, and most recently added Betty Rosbottom's Sunday Roasts to the list. What I love about their books (and this one included) is how approachable they are, well-edited, and yet stand out from the plethora of similar subject cookbooks. Betty Rosbottom has previously published Sunday Soup and has an upcoming book entitled Sunday Brunch due out in June. Her Roasts cookbook not only offers clever and comforting recipes for each type of protein, but also boasts indexes and recipe sidebars with easy navigation and loads of information.


For example, starting out, the Table of Contents is organized into colored panels for each chapter/type of protein. Rather than using a running list, which sometimes prevents the titles from really popping, this is a colorful and organized technique that really works for this book. Furthermore, each recipe illustrates the number of servings with forks of that corresponding number (it's also written out if you don't feel like counting), followed by the cost of the recipe (either Inexpensive, Moderate, or Splurge), the Prep Time, the Start-to-Finish Time (including resting time for the cooked meat), Sides (suggestions either from the Sides chapter or simple to prepare accompaniments that don't really require recipes), Leftover Tips (many of these are for sandwiches, but suggest great additions to make them really stand out), and occasionally Market Notes and/or Cooking Tips. I find that with all of these little bullet points included in the recipes, they are very organized and easy to follow.


Also, at the end of the book, not only is there a traditional index, but there is a section that defines meat cut equivalents in the US and the UK (certain cuts have different names depending on where you live), as well as guides for recipes in the book that fall under the following categories: roasts that need less than 30 minutes in the oven, roasts that need a long time in the oven (1 1/2 hours or more), showstopper roasts for special occasions, roasts that can be served at room temperature, roasts for holidays (divided by holiday), roasts that won't break the bank, and roasts for calorie counters. Each of these lists makes it even easier to select the perfect recipe from the cookbook for any of your requirements.


In my experience cooking from the book, I'm overall pleased. I decided to make the Perfect Sunday Roast (pictured on the cover of the book). The seasoning on the meat, along with the compliment of roasted mushrooms and red onions was lovely. My roast took significantly longer than the book specified to come to the proper temperature. This was a bit frustrating, but I was relieved that I had given myself extra time before dinner to continue cooking the roast. I will blame my meat thermometer for my resulting over-cooked roast. I checked the internal temperature many times throughout the process and removed it at the appropriate time, and yet when I sliced into the meat, it was closer to medium-well than the medium-rare/medium I was aiming for. Fortunately, the flavors were fabulous, and no one complained about the color/temperature of the meat. I am planning on making this roast again using a different thermometer (one of those that you leave in the meat in the oven while it cooks), and see if I can get it right. I've never had a problem like this before, so I'm going to blame instrument error :) My perfect mashed potatoes were the perfect addition to this meat and potatoes experience. I recommend using a food mill for an absolutely smooth texture. Enjoy!


The Perfect Sunday Roast
Serves 6 to 8
(from Sunday Roasts)

1 (4-lb/1.8-kg) boneless top sirloin roast
5 medium garlic cloves, peeled and cut into very thin slivers
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 T. plus 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for oiling pans
3 medium red onions (about 1 1/2 lb/680 g)
12 oz/340 g brown mushrooms such as creminis, cleaned and, if large, halved
1 1/2 cups/360 ml reduced-sodium beef broth
3/4 cup/180 ml dry red wine
1 1/2 T. unsalted butter
1 bunch watercress
1 (4-oz/115-g) wedge of blue cheese, such as Roquefort or Blue d'Auvergne

Pat the roast dry with paper towels. Using a sharp paring knife, make slits over the entire surface of the roast and insert the garlic slivers. In a small bowl, mix together the thyme, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and 3 T. of the oil. Brush this mixture on all sides of the roast. The roast can be prepared 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before proceeding.

Arrange one rack at center position and another at a lower position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F/230 degrees C.

Lightly oil the bottom of a medium, flameproof roasting pan and stand the roast, fat-side up, in the center of the pan. Roast the meat for 15 minutes.

While the meat is roasting, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Oil a large, rimmed baking sheet generously. Peel the onions and cut them into wedges 3/4 in/2 cm thick, leaving the root ends intact. Arrange the onions on half of the baking sheet and the mushrooms on the other half. Toss the vegetables lightly to coat well, adding more oil if necessary. Salt and pepper the vegetables.

After the meat has roasted for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C and place the pan with the vegetables on the lower shelf. Continue to roast the beef until a thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 130 to 135 degrees F/55 to 57 degrees C, for 50 to 60 minutes. Roast the vegetables, stirring every 15 minutes, until slightly browned and charred around the edges, for 50 to 60 minutes.

When done, transfer the roast to a cutting board and let rest for 20 minutes. If the vegetables are not done when the roast is, continue roasting a few minutes more, checking every 5 minutes, until done. Remove the vegetables and tent them with foil to keep warm.

Skim off and discard any fat in the roasting pan. Place the pan over medium-high heat, and add the broth and wine. With a wire whisk, scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan into the liquids. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and reduce by half. Then swirl in the butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut the roast, crosswise against the grain, into slices 1/4 in/6 mm thick and arrange on a serving platter. Garnish the platter with bouquets of watercress and surround the meat with the onions and mushrooms. Drizzle the sliced meat with some sauce and pass extra separately. Top each serving with a thin slice of blue cheese.

Cost: Moderate
Prep Time: 15 minutes for the roast, plus 15 minutes for the vegetables while the roast is in the oven
Start-to-Finish Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes, including resting time for cooked meat

Sides: Pair this roast with mashed potatoes or potato gratin, and with green beans and caramelized shallots.

Leftover Tip: Sliced leftover beef is delicious used in sandwiches made with good peasant bread or a baguette. Slather some Dijon mustard on the bread, top with leftover roast beef, crumble any remaining blue cheese over, and add some watercress sprigs or a few arugula/rocket or baby spinach leaves plus some sliced tomatoes.

Market Note: Ask your butcher for a roast cut from the top portion of the sirloin. These are more tender and sometimes referred to as "spoon roasts."

Cooking Tip: This particular cut of beef sometimes tips over as it roasts. To prevent this, you might want to use a roasting rack with sides that you can adjust to steady the meat.



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