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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Roast Beef

We had roast beef this week. A rare enough occurrence given that I'm not really fond of rare beef and apparently rare is the only way to cook roast beef. But they had the "Boston Roast" on sale and this is usually a small roast easily consumed by two. The cookbooks say this cut is meant to be pot-roasted (braised in liquid) but while it can be tough when roasted, we have usually had good luck with roasting. It was over 4 pounds. Just big enough for roast beef one night and leftovers for a couple meals.

Roasting beef couldn't be easier. Bring the meat to room temperature by letting it sit out for an hour or so. Heat the oven to a blasting 550 f. Put the roast in the oven in a pan with no rack, no liquid, no nothing and immediately turn the heat down to 350 and let it go for about 20 - 30 minutes per pound (the longer time if it's been rolled and tied) for medium, a little less for rare.

Let the roast stand, covered loosely with foil, for 10 minutes or so before carving to let the juices settle and there you are. I get the outside cuts as they are generally less rare than the later slices, which Bill adores.

You can mix about 1/4 cup flour with salt and pepper and your favorite herbs and rub the roast with this, before cooking, for a crusty exterior. You can slice potatoes, onions and carrots and scatter them in the pan. You can pour some beer or wine in the pan to help those veg cook a little (or parboil them first) and to help the pan drippings along.

If you want Yorkshire Pudding with your roast, and who doesn't, here's how. Mix an egg with about a cup each of milk and flour with a pinch of salt. Whisk until lump free. Then let it sit there while the roast cooks and whisk it a couple more times. It should resemble a thin pancake batter, a little thicker than for crepes.

When you take the roast out to rest, turn the oven up to 450 and if there's not a lot of grease in the pan add a little oil, butter, margarine or bacon fat. Let it get ripping hot and then pour the batter in all at once. Put it back in the oven for about 10 - 20 minutes, then turn the heat back down to 350 and let it cook until done, brown and shiny, about 10 - 20 minutes more. It will puff up and get a shiny crust and is delicious cut or torn into serving pieces and served with the beef and veg.

I know some people make gravy to accompany roast beef but mom never did this and so I don't either. I just pour any of the pan drippings over the meat and let it go at that. Roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding is great with brussels sprouts or cauliflower. Serve tea after the meal for a very English touch.

I like to use the leftovers to make roast beef hash, roast beef sandwiches or fake Stroganoff. Chill the leftover meat and then slice it as thin as you can get it for sandwiches or Stroganoff. Use the bits and chunks for hash.

Hash - chop the beef and any leftover veg fairly fine. Heat some oil or bacon grease in a skillet and add a minced onion if you didn't have any leftover, and then a diced potato. Finally add the chopped beef and veg and heat through. You can let it get pan-crispy if you wish but you probably don't want to cook the beef too long. Salt and pepper, a little cayenne, tobasco or worcestershire sauce and it's ready to serve, with or without an egg.

Sandwiches - Reheat the thinly sliced beef in beef bullion or consomme with any of the juices. You can slice and saute an onion and a red or green pepper first if you wish, and add some herbs and seasonings. Not too much liquid - just enough to keep it moist. Pile the meat and veg onto buns that you have split and toasted and dressed with mayo or mustard and top with some Provolone or Swiss cheese.

Stroganoff - my favorite - Heat a little oil and saute some fresh mushrooms (or use canned) along with a bit of onion or garlic if you like. Add a package of instant beef or brown gravy mix and the water called for on the package. Stir to combine, then add the sliced meat and heat until the gravy has thickened and the meat is heated through. Stir in a few spoonfuls of sour cream and serve over rice or noodles. Couldn't be easier! And as Lucy says, "It's so tasty, too"!

Quotable Quotes; In the category Spread Out!

Mustard's no good without roast beef". Chico Marx, from the film Monkey Business

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Please, Sir, I want some more!

Yep, soup again. Chicken this time. I roasted a chicken this past weekend. I only buy chickens when they are on sale and this one was 69 cents a pound. Gone are the days when the Jewel had them for 29 cents or even less - a 3 or 4 pound chicken could cost less than a dollar! Of course they were those scrawny "fryers" but they were still good, and just the right size for two!

This chicken was a "roaster" with a fat breast and thighs, quite plump and just itching to make us happy. I like to cut the chicken down the backbone, spread it out and flatten it by pressing on the breast bone. Tuck the wings up and around and roast it that way. Some recipes call this butterflying, others call it spatchcocking. I don't care what you call it, I do it cuz it's easy and cuz the whole chicken cooks evenly without the breast meat drying out AND the entire thing ends up with crisp, crackly skin all over!

I cut up carrots, onion, celery and potatoes into chunks and scatter them in the roasting pan, then lay the seasoned chicken over them, skin side up. Season with salt and pepper, seasoned salt or your favorite rub. I kind of nudge the veggies back under the chicken so they'll cook through. Be sure to leave some peeking out - they'll get deliciously browned and caramelized.

The neck, giblets and extra bits go into a small pan of water to simmer. Halfway through the cooking time I use this broth to start basting the bird to keep it moist and help it brown evenly. I cook it at 400 to 450 f for about an hour or so. It's done when the leg moves freely or when the juices run clear or when a thermometer registers - I don't know, check your cookbook. Let it rest a few minutes before carving and serve with some of the pan juices and the veg.

As Bill said, "that was absolutely delicious".

Now comes the free food. When the chicken is cool remove all the meat from the bones. Set it aside for chicken salad, pot pie, chicken and dumplings or what have you. Also set aside the leftover veg. Take all the bones and any bits of fat, skin, or anything the cat didn't steal and put it in a sauce pan. Rinse the roasting pan several times with water to remove all the baked on goodness and pour that into the pot with the bones. Scrape up any burned bits and get them in there too. You might also want to add the trimmings from the carrots and onions and anything left from simmering the giblets earlier. A couple of bay leaves and peppercorns would not be out of place.

Bring this to a simmer and let it go for a couple hours while you do the dishes, snack on chicken bits and make sandwiches for lunch the next day. When the broth is good and rich, turn it off and let it cool a bit. Remove and discard the bones and strain the broth through a sieve. I just pile all the bones and stuff in a sieve and pour the broth through, letting it drain completely. When this has cooled a bit more pour it into tall narrow containers (the ones that large size won ton soup come in are just right). Put in the fridge. The fat rises to the top and you can scrape it off to discard or use next time you make chopped liver.

Turn this into soup by dicing and browning some onion, carrot, celery and garlic in olive oil. Add the de-fatted stock and bring to a simmer. Taste and add some chicken bullion, if necessary, or thin with a little water or extra canned chicken broth.

Now you get to add whatever you like. Barley, noodles, orzo or rice are all good. Some of the leftover chicken is excellent. Add any other vegetables you desire such as peas, green beans or corn. Season with herbs, spices, a splash of wine, beer or lemon juice to perk it up. Add some chopped spinach, Swiss chard, kale or other greens at the end and let them get tender. When it's hot and the pasta has cooked through it's ready to serve.

If you have been saving your leftover vegetables in the freezer, this is practically free food. And remember, soup loves you.

Quotable Quotes; In the category You Said A Mouthful!

"Do you have a kinder, more adaptable friend in the food world than soup? Who soothes you when you are ill? Who refuses to leave you when you are impoverished and stretches its resources to give a hearty sustenance and cheer? Who warms you in the winter and cools you in the summer? Yet who also is capable of doing honor to your richest table and impressing your most demanding guests? Soup does its loyal best, no matter what undignified conditions are imposed upon it. You don't catch steak hanging around when you're poor and sick, do you?" Judith Martin (Miss Manners)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Poetry Hour

Every once in awhile someone sends me an email filled with cat haikus. In case you don't know a haiku (sometimes spelled hokku) is a 17 syllable poem usually (at least as far as I know) in three lines - 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables - something like this:

Look, the little mouse
sleeps and thinks I do not see.
I pounce, no more mouse!

The fun part is every time I see an email or a reference to cat haiku, I'm reminded of a poem that my sister sent me. I don't remember the title but it was probably something deep and meaningful, like "dog". Here's the poem.

You gonna eat that?
You gonna eat that?
You gonna eat that?
I'll eat that!

I liked the poem and thought it fit the personality of most dogs perfectly. However, being a person who understands cats infinitely better than I do dogs, I was immediately inspired with the cat version of this poem. It goes like this.

You gonna eat that?
GIMME that!

Anyone who knows cats will fully understand the implications.

Quotable Quotes; In the category I Heard You The First Time!

"Dogs come when they're called; cats take a message and get back to you later". Mary Bly