Dust off the place mats! Here’s a Sunday dinner to whet the appetite of the fussiest eaters around, and one that will hook your family on dinners as a “mustn’t miss” feature of family life. There’s nothing that smells more like “Let’s eat” than the aromas from roast beef, mashed potatoes and (attention!) a cauliflower dish that your family will literally dive into, to bring everyone happily to the table. Honest! One taste and they’ll be elbowing each other out of the way to get to the table whenever you’re in the kitchen!
I’ll be posting Sunday dinner menus and recipes regularly, and I hope you’ll join me when I do. (BTW, if you have enough leftover beef after dinner, take a look at the Thai Beef Salad With Spicy Peanut Dressing I have already posted. It’s the best use of leftover beef I’ve ever found, and I always plan to make both recipes back-to-back).
We’ll start things off with a perfectly cooked rare roast beef that requires essentially NO work! When it’s done we’ll prepare a lazy man’s au jus to serve on the side. Mashed potatoes (done right, trust me, I’m a fanatic!), and what is certainly my entire family’s favorite vegetable (all generations dive for it when it hits the table), Cauliflower With Crumbs. For a simple dessert, why not top it off with a fast and easy batch of my Butterscotch Brownies, and some vanilla ice cream?
First, the beef. This recipe takes what is usually a pretty tough cut of beef and turns it butter-soft. Up front you give it a healthy rub with some homemade (or store- bought, if you’re not up for it) Montreal Beef Seasoning. Then, into a screaming hot oven it goes for exactly 7 minutes per pound. Then the oven goes off and you just let it sit in the closed oven for a couple of hours, and voila! Flavorful, succulent roast beef for your Sunday table.
HIGH-TEMPERATURE EYE-OF THE ROUND ROAST
The Texas Beef Council
|1 eye of the round roast, about 3 pounds|
Montreal Beef Seasoning (recipe follows, or buy a bottle)
1 to 1 ½ cups canned beef broth
|Preheat the oven to 500° F. Season the roast with Montreal Beef Seasoning and place in a roasting pan or baking dish (I prefer a cast iron skillet, because it gives me more “fond” — brown bits at the bottom — to flavor my au jus). Do not cover or add water.|
|Place the roast in the preheated oven. Immediately reduce the temperature to 475° F. Roast for 21 minutes (seven minutes per pound) then turn the oven off and let the roast sit in the hot oven for 2 1/2 hours. Do not open the door at all during this time!|
Remove the roast from the oven. The internal temperature should have reached at least 149°. Remove the roast to a platter and tent it with a piece of aluminum foil. Let it rest for about 10 minutes, then carve into thin slices to serve.
Put the cast iron skillet on the burner and add the beef broth. Scrape to incorporate all the fond from the bottom of the pan. Keep warm until you are ready to serve the beef. Serve the au jus in a gravy boat alongside the beef.
MONTREAL BEEF SEASONING
4 T salt
1 T black pepper
1 T dehydrated onion
1/2 T dehydrated garlic
1/2 T crushed red pepper
1/2 T dried thyme
1/2 T dried rosemary
1/2 T dried fennel
Measure all ingredients into a ziploc bag, seal and shake until thoroughly blended. Store in cool dry place.
Shake on meat prior to grilling, or roasting.
Attention, all would-be cooks: Fabulous mashed potatoes are not only reputation-makers, they are also reputation savers. Many a cook has left behind him/herself a potentially full-bore dinner disaster that was saved by a heaping bowl of perfectly turned out mashed potatoes. Great mashers have the blissful calming effect of all nursery foods. Wise cooks keep this fundamental wisdom at the forefront of their culinary arsenals at all times.
By the time I was 10, my mother had pretty much been relieved of her mashed potato duties, because my older brother would beg, whine and wheedle until I agreed to take on the job. Why did he make such a fuss? Because, 1) my mother’s mashed potatoes were lumpy and usually quite dry as well. 2) He knew that I loved mashed potatoes as much as he did, and that even at that tender age I was horrified to see them rendered inedible before my very eyes. Also, 3) he knew that I had made a study of the process to figure out what she was doing wrong so that 4) I could spend the rest of my days in the company of great mounds of creamy, lump-free mashed spuds. I have. Follow my detailed instructions, which follow, and so shall you.
My daughter Jenn insists that I should post recipes for which I am famous. This, however simple, however “of the peasants”, is one of them. (I am, of course, a peasant at heart.)
REPUTATION-MAKER/SAVER MASHED POTATOES
All-purpose potatoes, or Russets, or Yukon Gold, as many as you need
Milk, or, for a touch of pure decadence, cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peel and cut up the potatoes. Boil until tender in salted water. Drain in a colander. Return the potatoes to the pot, and the pot to the burner, on medium-low heat. Allow the potatoes and any residual water to dry out for maybe two minutes. You want all of the water that is hanging out in the potatoes to evaporate. Why, you may ask, do I need to get rid of the water (liquid), just before adding milk (also a liquid)? That’s an easy one. Water = no flavor, plus mushy texture, whereas milk = flavor, plus creamy texture. Water-sogged potatoes will whip up, but they will have a watery feel and flavor that no amount of additional milk (or even butter) can correct.
Don’t let the potatoes start to brown, just watch until you can see that all the sogginess is gone, and you’re good to go.
Add butter to taste (do not be stingy here, please, a good healthy dose of butter is critical to both taste and “mouth feel”!) When it is melted, add some milk or cream to the bottom of the pan, about ½ to ¾ cup, depending on how many potatoes there are and let that get good and hot. Add enough so that the potatoes will have enough hot milk/cream in them to get the whipping process far enough along while it’s still piping hot. This important step helps keep them from them getting gluey or lumpy.
At this point you are ready to start beating with your electric hand-held beater (or, if you are a macho guy or gal, use one of the hand-held wavy-style old-school mashers – they’re what I cut my teeth on.) Whip them on high, once again so that the milk gets incorporated and they get to the desired state as quickly as possible. After you can see that the potatoes have reached a non-lumpy consistency, add more milk or cream as needed until they get to the consistency you like. At this point there is little danger of things getting screwed up irreparably. Add salt and pepper, taste, adjust your seasonings, then add more butter if it doesn’t seem rich enough. :}
There’s a great story behind this vegetable, my favorite, Cauliflower With Crumbs, which was actually the first of my lifetime “quests” for the best food in the world (or at least my world). As a teenager I attended a very small boarding school in New Hampshire, where the food turned out by Mr. And Mrs. Preuss, our fabulous German cooks, was truly noteworthy, even to my unpracticed palate. But there was one dish in particular that I adored, and salivated over every time it appeared on the table: Cauliflower With Crumbs. Eventually I graduated and went on with my life, but I never forgot that cauliflower. One time, many years later, I ran into my former roommate, who, it turned out, was still in touch with the Preuss’s from time to time. You guessed it! I begged her to ask them for the recipe. Long after, I heard from my friend again, and she had indeed snagged the recipe from those wonderful, generous cooks. As a result, I have been able to share this delicious vegetable dish with my children and my grandchildren, every one of whom loves it equally as much as I do. And now I get to share it with you! Do yourself a favor and try it. The unique combination of flavor and texture qualifies it, at least in my humble opinion, for entry into the Vegetable Hall of Fame, should there ever be one.
NOTE: Since I know that the crumbs are addictive enough to create clan warfare at the table, I have one-and-a halved the crumbs, just to help keep peace in your home.
Cauliflower With Crumbs
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
1 ½ cups Pepperidge Farms Stuffing Crumbs (not the cubes, the sort of broken up stuff)
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
Cook the cauliflower in salted water until soft but still somewhat crisp (not mushy). Drain and dry out slightly by putting it back in the pot and returning it for a minute or two to the burner, over a low heat. Turn off the burner and cover it while you make the crumbs.
Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the crumbs as soon as the butter is melted. Cook the crumbs, watching the butter carefully. As soon as the butter begins to foam, the crumbs are going to begin to absorb the butter (oh, yum!). As soon as the foaming subsides you will see the crumbs actually begin to turn a buttery golden brown. Turn the heat to low, and about a minute later is about when you should remove them from the heat. But always keep a sharp eye on the crumbs. They need to be golden, not dark. After a few times, you will understand by other clues, such as smell.
Just before serving, put your cauliflower in a serving bowl and toss with the crumbs. This vegetable should not sit for very long after adding the crumbs, because a big part of the magic is the crispiness they add!