Sunday, May 11, 2008
Rolled Roast Beef
Clothing fashion is a funny thing. What is cutting edge one year can suddenly find itself in the charity bin the next. So it is with food, many are searching for the next great taste or texture and in the process some wonderful dishes can so easily be discarded or just forgotten.
There is no doubt that molecular gastronomy is the haute couture of the moment. Its very nature of cutting edge experimental ism sometimes changes the way we perceive food, achieved by rather unconventional and even bizarre cooking methods often involving food chemistry, which can make us forget in all the dazzling excitement of the new, just how good some of the dishes of an earlier time really were.
This particular roast is a pertinent example of that. When I was growing up, roast beef at home always meant one thing, unless one grew up in the posh suburbs of Toorak or Brighton where a standing rib roast was king - everywhere else, rolled roast reigned. Every butcher's cabinet held this cut of meat, for good reason too, it always cooked up a treat and full of glorious flavour, which the nobler and much more expensive eye fillet really lacks.
But these days one rarely or never sees this cut; as society has grown more affluent, we all like to have the prime cuts for roasting, eye fillet, rib roast and so on. The lesser cuts have largely been left behind and in these days of high heat roasting, no one remembers how to cook them, for if they are treated in the same way as the prime cuts, the result will be tough and chewy meat, leaving no desire for a repeat performance.
So this last Mother's day, I decided it was time for a revival of the rolled roast. My sister-in-law was excited to hear what I was cooking as she remembered how good it was too. My local butcher, Zepp, from Ormond Meat & Smallgoods (9578 5049), also seemed happy about producing something from a bygone time.
He explained to me that this particular cut is a flap from the top rib, next to the rib eye (scotch fillet) which explains its good flavour and that in order to get a nice round rolled shape, some of the brisket is added in. In the old days, butchers used to spear the roast with wooden skewers held in place with twine to hold the roast together - but simply tied on the outside with loops of twine works just as well, then there is no need to remove the skewers before carving.
In order to tenderize a tough piece of meat without drying it out, it needs to be cooked long and slow, very slow. Pretty much regardless of weight, a rolled roast needs about 3 hours at 140c and we covered ours with foil, lifting it off for the last half hour to slightly brown the roast. There was also plenty of meat juice with which to make the gravy.
Because of the long cooking, this will never be rare or medium rare, the meat will be fully cooked through, but when done right, retains all its juices and becomes oh so tender with magnificent beef flavour. As it's rolled, when carving, there is a tendency for it to unroll or fall apart. To counter this, slices need to be at least 1cm thick, so a single slice becomes a portion.
Bother your butcher and get him to tie one up, you won't be leading the fashion field, but you will be wearing your comfiest slippers.