Roast Beef with Roast Potatoes
Until last night, I had never made a roast.
You may think that just because I attempted to make short ribs out of long ribs that I’m unafraid in the kitchen, a pioneer. The truth is far less exciting. Most nights we fall back on tried and true favorites like this and this. Pasta is, without a doubt, an everyday food for Italians and if you’ve ever lived with one, you’d be familiar with this:
But back to the roast. Sure, I’d roasted vegetables and maybe a chicken or two, but I usually leave the meat to someone else. In fact, perusing this blog you’d come away thinking that we eat very little meat. It’s true, we’re not exactly vegetarians, we do throw some form of bacon into most pastas or salads, but whenever the need for meat strikes (and in Francesco’s case it strikes often) we just throw a bit of steak on the barbie (which, in our case, is actually a grill pan: we’re not that assimilated yet) and call it a night.
I’ve waxed poetic before (here and here) about the greatness of Australian steak, which always distracts me at the butcher. Despite Francesco’s desperate pleas (and my very pleasant retorts of “make it yourself!”), roasts of the Sunday variety are not part of my repertoire.
I decided to make the roast in a particularly uninspired moment at the butcher’s. It was almost 5 pm and I was on my way home from a lovely afternoon at the beach with the dog. Glowing with sun and relaxation, I wanted to share my warm fuzzies with Francesco who had been stuck at the office all day. The lamb chops looked good, but I hate lamb chops. Likewise for the veal schnitzel. Then there was the beautiful roast.
A side note: roasts are, in Italy, almost as sacrosant as pasta al pomodoro, so I knew that I could easily mess up. This is probably why I’d never attempted a roast before. If you ever want to see Francesco beam like a ray of sun? Give him a Sunday lunch that begins with salami and cheese, moves to pasta then “rosbif” with potatoes, and finishes with crema catalana. So while the pressure was heightened, I also knew that a roast done well would send Francesco into a happy place that no amount of office time could tarnish.
The butcher gave me 800 grams (1 3/4 lbs) and told me to cook it at 160°C for 90 minutes. Or that’s what I think he said, but by the time I got home, washed the dog and remembered the roast, I couldn’t remember if it was 190°C for 60 minutes or 160°C for 90. So I checked my Italian go-to cookbook, Ada Boni’s Il Talismano della Felicità, which was, as expected, frustratingly vague: “sear on all sides and put the roast in a well-heated oven and cook for 40 minutes.”
Throwing caution to the wind, I just kind of went for it, comforted by the presence of my trusty candy/deep-fry thermometer (unopened wedding present), which would finally come in handy.
In an effort to keep things as simple as possible, I forwent fancy spice mixes and just rubbed the whole roast with salt, then browned it on all sides in a very hot pan. I put it in a small roasting dish with peeled and chopped potatoes that I’d tossed in olive oil and salt, stuck some rosemary in holes I poked in the sides with a sharp knife, and roasted it until the thermometer read 125°F (which took about 50 minutes at a low temperature). I then took out the meat and let it rest while I finished the potatoes in a cranked up oven for another 30 minutes or so.
In the meantime, Francesco had come home and, overjoyed at the imminent “rosbif,” invited our friend John over for dinner. Now I’d really be screwed if it didn’t turn out edible.
But you know what? It turned out just right, beautifully rare but not bloody, with a delicious line of fat on top and the perfect accompaniment on the side. The whole affair was beyond easy and has forever changed my aversion to roasts. The only important things to remember are 1. do not overcook it (use a meat thermometer! They cost $5!) and 2. let it sit awhile before slicing, this way all the precious juices don’t flow out.
So will we be having roast beef anytime soon, you ask? To quote Francesco, “adesso che abbiamo fatto l’arrosto non torniamo indietro.” In other words, viva la rosbif.
ROAST BEEF WITH ROAST POTATOES
Just because this is one the simplest roast beefs you can make, doesn’t mean it’s not perfectly delicious. Plus, simple means it requires no planning and minimal effort. These quantities would make enough for 3, but would recommend getting more meat for delicious, cold leftovers. And the potatoes? How could I forget about the potatoes: crunchy, salty exteriors and pillowy centers = perfect.
1 kg (2.2 lbs) roast beef (ask your butcher for the right cut)
2 rosemary twigs (or dried rosemary)
5 large potatoes
Take the meat out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before using. Wash and peel the potatoes and cut them into equal sized chunks. If you have time, soak them in cold water for as long as possible, then dry them very thoroughly.
Rub the meat all over with olive oil and salt (and black pepper, rosemary or whatever other spices you want). Heat a frying pan so that it’s very hot, and sear all sides of the roast until brown (about 2-3 minutes per side).
Preheat the oven to 300°F/150°C.
Coat the bottom of a roasting pan with olive oil, sprinkle in some salt and put the potatoes in; use your hands to toss the potatoes with the oil so that they’re coated evenly. Add some rosemary if you want. Mmmm rosemary.
Place the seared roast on top, fatty-side up. (If you want, you can poke holes in the sides with a knife like I did and stick rosemary in there). Roast in the oven for 45 – 60 minutes, until a meat thermometer reads 120°F.
Remove the meat from the pan and place on a plate. Meanwhile, crank up the oven to 400°F/200°C and, without tossing the potatoes, return the roasting pan to the oven for another 20 minutes or so, checking on the potatoes and tossing them vigorously halfway through. The potatoes will be done when they’re browned and easily poked with a fork.
The meat can be served warm, at room temperature or cold the next day.
Serve meat with very good extra virgin olive oil and hot potatoes.