Saturday, June 8, 2013

Meat and Potatoes

May 26, 2013

Roast Beef
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
Dinner Rolls
Ranch 32 Cabernet Sauvignon
Brownie Sundae

Grandma's Roast Beef and Gravy from Cook's Country
ATK Classic Brownies from Cook's Illustrated

I grew up in a meat and potatoes family. This culinary phrase, which apparently only came into usage after World War II, has come to have meanings that go well beyond the kitchen. Among these usages, it indicates a preference for simple foods, comfort food if you will. These two items were featured in most suppers we ate when I was growing up.  I don't remember having pasta as a side dish. We never ate rice, I don't think I ate rice until after I had grown and moved away from home. These days we eat a more varied diet due to an evolution of our personal tastes,  to the availability of a wider variety of foods, and to a more diverse society with more varied culinary influences. But meals like this with meat and potatoes, meals that harken to our earliest food memories, will always be comforting and welcome.

The butcher custom-cut a 4-pound top round roast for me; handing it to me he called it a "man steak". I forgot to ask for a ¼" fat cap as specified in the recipe and the meat came well trimmed. I tied and salted it, wrapped it, and put in the refrigerator for about 24 hours. After browning the meat there was little fat in the pan and perhaps I should have added some oil before browning the vegetables and flour. The recipe predicted it would take 2½–3½ hours to cook the roast, but mine was done in less than 2 hours. I checked the temperature of the oven and found it was 250° rather than the 225° that it was set for. It may be time to calibrate the oven again. It may also be that calibrating the oven to be correct when set to 350° does not mean it is correct when set it to a higher or lower temperature so it is important to use an oven thermometer. Despite the shorter, hotter cooking time, the beef was delicious, done perfectly to medium rare with only a thin ring of darker meat around the edges.  It was nicely seasoned though a little tough but; I think that is to be expected when using such a lean cut of beef. Cooking it for a longer time at a lower temperature might also lead to a more tender result.

Since the pan was still dry after roasting the beef, I added several tablespoons of vegetable oil when browning the vegetables to make the gravy. The original recipe specified beef consommé but as I couldn't find any in two different supermarkets I used canned beef stock. The gravy still turned out to be very good. It wasn't at all greasy and had a nice, thick consistency. It lacked somewhat in beef flavor probably due to the absence of the fat cap on the roast, the only source of beef flavor was the stock and the brown bits left in the pan from browning the meat.

I don't usually comment on wine but the Ranch 32 Cabernet Sauvignon was remarkably good. It was not as full bodied as Cabs can be, but had good varietal flavor, good fruit, and modest tannin which made it easier and more pleasant to drink.

While we don't frequently have meat and potatoes and gravy meal like this, it is nice to include it in the mix. Not only is it familiar and comfortable food, it's just good to eat.

What a treasure trove of leftovers we had with this beautiful roast beef. We had cold roast beef sandwiches, hot roast beef sandwiches, steak salad, beef added to spring vegetable pasta, steaks (cut the ½" slices and heat on the grill), and french dip sandwiches.

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