Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Home Style Roast Beef (Plus, How To Make Perfect Gravy Every Time!)

I realized yesterday that I've been just a little bit hung up on the idea of "Sunday Dinner" types of meals recently and I suppose that could be because the typical late Fall weather here in the Northeast has been insanely cold, rainy/snowy and just plain old... yuck. The weather in November is always a bit touch and go around here and there are always a few days at the beginning of the month that tend to hint at snow, as a way for mother nature to remind us that her daughter Winter is on her way to this part of the world. To be honest, up here in my neck of the woods, it isn't too far-fetched to expect a November blizzard (and this year we've already come close) and by mid-December, it's definitely beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. But... I digress.

At any rate, this recent food obsession has led to some very hearty and pretty tasty weekend meals and what (in my opinion at least), is a fair amount of seasonal (and yummy) content for me to share here on the blog!

I'll be posting the recipes for the sides that we had with this roast, not long (hopefully) after this goes live and as usual, I'll add the links to them at the bottom of this post, once they're up.

Home Style Roast Beef
  • 5 to 6 Lb Top Sirloin Roast, tied
  • 3-4 Lg Carrots and/or Parsnips, washed and cut into halves/thirds
  • 2 Med Yellow Onions, peeled and quartered
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper

You'll Need:
Large Roasting Pan
Roasting Rack  (optional)

The gravy ingredients and instructions will follow the roasting directions.

1. Season the roast with salt and pepper on all sides. You can lightly dust it with a bit of flour if you like, but it isn't necessary if you don't want to take the time.

2. Preheat your oven to 350°F and place the roasting pan on the stovetop (spanning one or two burners) over medium-high heat. Place the roast in the pan and brown it well on all sides, turning it often to prevent burning. You can also use a large frying pan for this step, but I see no reason to dirty extra dishes.

3. Once the roast is well-browned, remove it from the pan and place the roasting rack (if using one) in the pan. If you don't have a rack, you can add your aromatics (the cut-up onions, carrots, parsnips, etc.) directly to the pan and they'll act as it's "natural" counterpart. If we'd had both carrots and parsnips, I would have used them both. Love me some roasted root veggies!!!

4. Place the roast on the rack and add all of the aromatics around the perimeter of the roast. (Obviously, if you're using your vegetables as your rack, you'll place the browned roast directly on top of your veggies)

5. Place the pan in your preheated 350°F oven and roast it until the center reaches your desired temperature of doneness. (see chart below for temperatures)

DON'T FORGET ABOUT CARRY-OVER COOKING!! (see last chart below)

[Illustration by Elizabeth Kurtzman]

Graphics Sources: Google Images

The Gravy

  • Beef Drippings, drained of any excess fat
  • 2 to 3 Tbls *AP Flour (heaping)
  • Water, roughly 1 Cup (for the **slurry)
  • 3 to 4 Cups Beef Stock (or Broth)
  • 1/2 Cup Red Wine, to deglaze the pan (Dry Vermouth will work fine too)
  • 2-4 Tbls Butter
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper

  * All-Purpose
** Click HERE if you are not familiar with making a slurry)

What would a luscious plate of juicy roast beef be without a drizzle (or more) of a rich golden brown and of course, beefy gravy? Well, around here, we'd say that was a sacrilege! (or at the very least, b-o-r-i-n-g!)

So, this is where I share the hubber's tried, tested and true method for making a perfect gravy with you. It's basically the same process whether you're planning to drizzle (or pour) it over beef, chicken, pork, turkey or basically just about any other roasted or pan-seared protein you can think of.

1. While the roast is resting, it's time to make the gravy! I love the veggies that are left over in the roasting pan, but they're usually not the prettiest thing to look at. They get a bit mushy, but the caramelization on them is gorgeous and adds the most lovely depth and richness. Oh dear. I digress yet again...

2. After removing the meat and the veggies, you'll see a lovely brown stickiness left on the bottom of the pan. This is called the fond (primarily in fancy French culinary circles). But, we can just call it "pan drippings" if you prefer. This lovely little gift that your roast leaves behind serves the very important purpose of being a rich (and in this case beefy) base for an exceptional gravy.

Cook's Note: Most grocery chains in America now carry both broth and stock and each of these serve their purpose. But, in our humble opinion, using stock whenever possible for making a meat gravy is always the better option. Don't get me wrong... broth will still make a delicious gravy, sauce or soup, but because it's made by slowly simmering the roasted bones along with any remaining meat that is left on those bones, a stock has a certain depth of flavor that you just can't get from a broth.

3. Place your roasting pan on a burner (or burners) set at medium to medium-high heat.

Cook's Note: Now... if you've used a glass or thinner ceramic baking dish, I would suggest using some kind of diffuser with a gas cooktop or with one that has electric coil elements, in order to protect it from cracking or shattering from the direct heat. If you don't happen to have a diffuser lying around, alas, do not despair... 

You can just use the heat that's left over in the pan from the roasting process. This will allow you to bring the drippings to the point where they can be poured into a heat-safe pot. While the pan is still hot, pour a small amount of liquid (stock/broth, wine, water, etc.) into it and stir it quickly with a whisk or spatula, just long enough to loosen the fond from the bottom. As soon as you've achieved this, carefully pour the contents into a nice heavy saucepan, making sure to scrape up every last bit of that goodness you've just freed from the bottom. Et voila! You are now ready to commence with the gravy making!

4. Pour about a quarter cup of stock/broth into the pan and using a whisk or a heat-safe spatula begin stirring and gently scraping the bottom of the pan as the stock comes up to a steady and robust simmer.

5. Add in your wine (or vermouth) and continue to stir as it simmers. You'll notice that the liquid in the pan will begin to thicken. This is exactly what you want to happen.

6. Put your flour in a large glass, plastic bottle or jar that has a tight-fitting lid.

7. Add in the water and give it a bit of a stir with a long fork or a skinny whisk to loosen the flour from the bottom. Place the lid on the container and make sure it's on there tightly. Now, shake the dickens out of it, until you can no longer see any lumps or pockets of dry flour. (we recommend doing this over the sink, just in case the lid gets loose and the slurry goes flying all over the kitchen - trust us - we know about this from personal experience!)

Cook's Tip: A proper slurry should be roughly the consistency of a "heavy" or "whipping" cream. (I think that'd be known as "double cream" to our European friends!)

7b. While this next step is optional, I would highly recommend doing it. We like to add a good tablespoon or two of butter to the pan at this point and stir it in until it has melted completely. It's just one more little flavor booster that you might not realize is in there, but your taste buds will definitely recognize it!

8. Now you can slowly pour the slurry into the briskly simmering base, whisking vigorously as you go.

Cook's Tip: Please keep in mind that you might not need all of the slurry that you've mixed up, so please be patient and resist any temptation to pour every last drop into the pan at once.

9. When the contents of the pan reach the thickness of a standard pancake batter or a pudding or custard that hasn't reached its full setting point, it's time to add the rest of the stock/broth to the pan.

10. Continue slowly adding more stock/broth to the pan while whisking, until it reaches the thickness that you prefer. Some people like a very thick gravy and others might like it more on the thin side. This is truly one of those areas of cooking that come down to personal preference, so adding the stock/broth slowly will help you to reach your desired gravy consistency.

11. Season the gravy well with salt and pepper. And if you happen to be the adventurous type, you can experiment with some additional herbs and/or spices. Maybe just a pinch of onion or garlic powder, a little bit of chopped rosemary or possibly some freshly chopped thyme. The only limit is your imagination!

12. Finally, at this point you should have your sides all prepared and ready to go, so go ahead and have at it - and I sincerely hope that you enjoy every last bite!

I'll be posting the recipes for the side dishes we had with this roast very soon and I'll be sure to link them here at the bottom of this post when they're up on the blog. But...

If you want to be sure not to miss those posts (or any of my future recipes), why not pop over to the sidebar on the right, or just below this recipe and subscribe!

This roast ended up being just a tad over-cooked for our tastes. I was busy making the potatoes and mushrooms and I left it in the oven a little longer than I normally would. We prefer a roast beef like this to be more on the medium rare side and this was a bit more in the medium range. The internal temperature was already about 128°F and (as you can see in the charts above) I really should have taken it out when it had reached 120°F.  It was still quite delicious, though! And it was even better the following night when we had hot roast beef sandwiches for dinner!



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Friday, August 31, 2018

Slow Smoked Pulled Pork

Tis the season! For BBQ that is! We might be getting a little closer to the cold weather months, but we've still got one last Summer holiday left and it's a big one! Labor day! A holiday that has now become quite bittersweet for me.

Sure... it harkens the coming of those slightly chilly, crisp but still sunny days of Autumn and the exciting new school year. (when/if you still have young'uns at home!) And of course, it's also that time of the year for holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving, with their pails full of sweet treats and "turkey day" feasts, as well as the lovely warm earthy hued rustic reds, deep oranges and rich browns of both Mother Nature's and our own decorations.

For most of my life, Fall was my favorite season. It just so happens that I was a September baby, so of course, that was always something to look forward to. I remember almost wishing away my Summers back then, because I couldn't wait to get into my cozy old jeans and sweaters, my perfectly worn out leather boots and well... just about everything plaid!

But as we all know, Labor Day weekend is also the "official" END to what has now, in these middle-stage years of my life, become my new favorite of all of Mother Nature's four seasons... Summer. What I used to look forward to, I dread these days. It's not that I don't still love Autumn itself, but Fall leads to Winter and frankly, this broken old body of mine simply can't handle the cold and snow anymore. Plus, it seems like the Winters up here in the Adirondacks have grown colder and lasted longer as each year has passed.

Argh! Now, that's more than enough of the doom and gloom, isn't it? It's time to get on with the real reason for this post, right?

It's time to talk about delicious, rich, succulent slow smoked pork shoulder! Or, what's most commonly referred to as "pulled pork". It's the perfect main attraction for that final Summer backyard bash and although it takes patience and time, it's easier than you might think! Keep in mind that this process is a labor of love and requires the "pit master" to be on sight all day long. Starting this "smoke" early in the morning is not only recommended, it's mandatory!

Slow Smoked Pork Shoulder (Pulled Pork)
  • A 5 to 6 Lb Pork Shoulder/Butt - the butcher might call it a "Boston Butt"
  • Pork Rub (store-bought or homemade - link to recipe below)
  • Lg Bag of Charcoal Briquettes - no lighter fluid/quick-light charcoal, please
  • A Smoker, Kettle Style Grill or Gas Grill w/compartment for wood chips
  • Wood chips of your choice, soaked well (we use/prefer Hickory)
  • A digital or an instant-read meat thermometer
  • Time - This will take 8 to 10 hours to reach the required doneness

1. Take the roast out of the refrigerator about an hour to an hour and a half before you're ready to put it on the smoker/grill. We buy both bone-in and boneless roasts, depending on what the butcher has or what might be on sale at the time. Smoking the roast is going to yield the same results either way.

Tip: You want any meat that you're cooking (indoors or out) to come as close to room temperature as possible before cooking. Why? Because if you take any cold piece of meat and immediately put it in a hot oven or pan (or on a hot grill) it will seize up/tighten up and will remain that way, which gives you a much less tender end result. Bringing meat to room temperature will relax it right from the start and everyone will be much happier when it's time to eat!

The hubby usually makes a homemade rub (recipe HERE) but on this particular day, he wanted to try the store-bought McCormick brand that happened to catch his eye in the spice aisle, when he went to pick up the meat. If you already have a particular favorite recipe or store-bought rub, by all means, use it!

2. While the meat is coming up to temperature, prepare the smoker/grill. If you have a smoker (or a gas grill that came with a wood chip compartment), just follow the instructions that came with it.

For a kettle style grill like ours, please see the section of my Slow Smoked Pork Ribs recipe post, titled: Kettle Style Grill Set-Up HERE

3. Once the coals are ready (225°F - or as close to that as you can possibly keep it) take one good-sized handful of the wood chips at a time and squeeze out as much of the water as possible. Spread a handful out over the prepared coals on each side of the grill in a relatively shallow layer and you're ready to replace the upper grill rack.

4. The Hubbs tends to put the cover back on the grill for a few minutes to get the smoke flowing before he continues.

5. Place the pork shoulder right in the center of the grill rack, directly over the drip pan. If you have a digital thermometer, place the probe in the thickest part of the roast and set your temperature for 190°F before putting the cover on.

6. Cover the grill and, well... wait. LOL  Pop open a cold one, grab a comfy lawn or patio chair and enjoy the lovely weather OR you can do some work (or play) around the house while the roast is cooking.

You really can't wander too far away from home because smoking is a method of cooking meat that requires regular attention throughout the cooking process. The coals and the wood chips need to be replenished several times over the 8+ hour period of time that it will take to get that pork to the point where it's falling apart with just a small amount of pressure from a fork or a pair of tongs.

7. Once the meat is finally done, remove it carefully to a large platter or baking dish, tent it quite loosely with foil and allow it to sit and rest for about 10 - 15 minutes before starting to "pull" it.

8. Using 2 large forks (or a pair of tongs and a large fork), begin pulling the meat apart into shreds. How thick or thin your shreds are, is really a matter of personal preference. Some people like large chunks and others would rather have it thinly shredded. We do a bit of both so that all of our guests get the type/texture that they prefer.

9. Serve the pork with split rolls and a few different types of BBQ sauce - we usually make sure to have a selection of sweet, smoky and spicy sauces available and we always put out several bottles from Hubby's hot sauce collection.

The coleslaw in this post is made with the bagged chopped cabbage and carrot mix that you find in the refrigerated produce section of most major grocery chains. I make my own dressing, but there are quite a few decent bottled versions available these days in that same section of the produce department.

My Coleslaw Dressing:
(for 2 bags of the cabbage/carrot mix)

  • 1 Cup Real Mayonnaise (I use Hellmann's/Best Foods)
  • 2 Tbls Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Tsp Onion Powder
  • 2 Tsp Superfine Sugar
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 of a Small Yellow Onion, grated & with juices (optional)
  • 1 Tsp Poppy Seeds (optional)

Mix all ingredients well with a whisk to remove any lumps and completely dissolve the sugar. Refrigerate in a tightly covered container until about 15 to 20 minutes before you plan to serve the slaw.

Place the 2 bags of coleslaw veggies into a large mixing bowl.
Add the dressing and stir well, making sure to coat all of the cabbage/carrots.
Cover and refrigerate in the mixing bowl for 10 to 15 minutes. The slaw will "shrink" down by roughly about 1/4 while it's in the fridge because the dressing wilts the cabbage a bit as it sits - but that process also marries the flavors of the dressing and the vegetables together, so this is a good thing.
When you're ready to eat, you can pour your slaw into a smaller "prettier" bowl if you like but you certainly don't have to. I'm just a tad quirky when it comes to those types of things. LOL

Many people like to pile their pulled pork sandwich with creamy crunchy slaw, so that's always on the menu around here, but you can add any and all kinds of sides and condiments that you want to, like:

  • pickles
  • potato salad 
  • baked beans
  • pasta/macaroni salad
  • cornbread
  • collard greens
  • tossed green salad
  • three-bean salad 
  • broccoli salad
  • or any other side dish/dishes that scream "Summer Barbecue!!!" to you.

You'll find a post with several of my salad and salad dressing recipes by clicking HERE!



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