Eat: On a Lazy Sunday Afternoon

We invited friends around a week or so ago for Sunday dinner, by which I mean a very late lunch, or an in-house earlybird special - take your pick. We're in that stage of life now where socialising on a Sunday is at its best when it's all wrapped up by 9 or 10, and we can finish the evening by watching Saturday Night Live* before readying ourselves for the inevitable Monday and heading off to bed. Sunday meals should be delicious, and simple, and the sort of food that can just take care of itself while you chat. In winter, as far as I'm concerned, this calls for roast. H1 makes really good roast chicken, so when I suggested we do a roast, he naturally assumed I meant that. I didn't. I meant beef. A type of roast I had never done before.

The perfect vegetables for alongside - potatoes, sweet potatoes, onion, and carrots.
The perfect vegetables for alongside - potatoes, sweet potatoes, onion, and carrots.

My mother used to often make roast beef on Sundays, and every time I think about it I feel all cosy and hungry. Plus, we have a heap of red wine in the house at the moment**. I told H1 I wanted to make roast beef.

"Have you ever roasted beef?" he asked doubtfully.

"No," I replied honestly. "But how hard can it be?"

Brussel sprouts, to be caramelised with oil, salt, and a tiny bit of maple syrup.
Brussel sprouts, to be caramelised with oil, salt, and a tiny bit of maple syrup.

And off to Whole Foods we went, where we procured a gorgeous looking top round cut of beef, a relatively tiny little piece of just over 1.5lbs - perfect to feed four people***. Once upon a time, I would have been highly intimidated by this whole situation - cooking something that I've never made before, with the aim of serving it to friends. Now that I know how simple most cooking is (also, how simple it is to just Google any time you need guidance) I don't worry in the slightest about doing something different.

Unless, of course, I Google AFTER buying the main part of the meal and everybody on the  internet**** tells me that the top round cut is actually the worst cut you could possibly buy, you fool.

Another flurry of panicked Googling brought me to the solution that I knew had to be lurking somewhere. There seemed to be a consensus that if you were foolhardy enough to roast top round, you could get a good result by shoving it in a scorching oven, giving it a short while, then turning the oven off completely and letting it sit inside for two hours. Perfectly tender roast beef, so 'they' reckoned.

I honestly thought about doing it this way, but I just don't have it in me to let a hunk of meat sit in a switched-off oven for a couple of hours. I'm not brave enough. Also, it's the middle of winter and I had a reasonably-realistic***** fear that this would affect the cooking time somehow. I didn't want to serve anything overcooked and tough up to my guests, though, so I went with the time-honoured tradition of taking the good bits and winging the rest.

I dried the (room temperature) beef with paper towels, painted it with olive oil (as this cut has comparatively little fat) and sprinkled it with rosemary, garlic, and salt, before hoisting it onto a roasting rack and into a 500°F (260°C) oven. I left it in here for ten minutes, then turned it over, left it another ten minutes, and then turned the oven temperature all the way down to 200°F (a mere 93°C), which is as low as my oven will go. Then I left it like that for two hours, tested it with a meat thermometer, and (here's where I went way off track) turned the heat back up to 300°F (149°C) for another 20 minutes or so, before pulling it out of the oven to rest and cranking the heat up for the vegetables.

I was aiming for an internal temperature of between 150°F and 160°F (65°C - 71°C) which is medium. The temperature is meant to keep rising after you take it out, but despite the very attractive foil tent I fashioned for it, and the fact that it was sitting next to a cranking hot oven, the roast was most definitely medium-rare in the middle when it came to carving - a fact which pleased the others no end. I eagerly volunteered for the more 'bien cuit' end bits of the roast, which were - if I do say so myself - perfect.

The finished product!
The finished product!

The whole thing was pretty amazing, actually. If I did it again I'd give myself a bit more time, and let the roast sit in a lower oven for longer to let it get to the right temperature. Doing it my way (that is, enthusiastically and dementedly twiddling the temperature according to my whims) worked remarkably well, though, and meant that the vegetables were ready on time too, even though I didn't parboil them first. So while I'm not going to sell this method to you as being THE ONE DEFINITIVE WAY, I do recommend that you make roast beef whenever a cold Sunday afternoon next rears its ugly head - and if you buy a top round, don't be afraid.

The makings of a perfect wintry Sunday afternoon.
The makings of a perfect wintry Sunday afternoon.

*This is pretty much never viewed on a Saturday night because it's just too late. That stage of life, you see.

**I don't actually believe the red meat/red wine thing, but I do when it comes to the type of wines in our house - Malbecs, Burgundies, and I think a Rioja or two. Heavy, spicy wines. Beef-y wines, if you like.

***Four fairly light eaters who are saving room for dessert, is the official measure.

****EVERYBODY.

*****It could happen - I said so.

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our-growing-edge-badge