Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Asado Negro and less expensive beef

I (J.) love roast beef. I mean really, really love roast beef. If roast beef came in an easily peelable yellow skin, I’d put one in my backpack and eat it for breakfast.

Times being what they are, most of us can't go right out and buy an expensive cut for a roast. However, there are plenty of less expensive, flavorful and juicy cuts that your local butcher provide you with that will work well for this recipe.

Several cuts are well suited to oven roasting. The most elegant choice is a tenderloin roast, which is lean and tender, but very expensive. A rib roast (sometimes called a prime rib roast) isn't as lean and tender, but it's juicier and more flavorful. A good compromise between the two would be a rib-eye roast, which is basically a boneless, low-fat rib roast. Other candidates for roast beef are a top loin roast, top sirloin butt roast, tri-tip roast, round tip roast, and rump roast.

Depending on where you are, there are typically some very good deals on roasting cuts, typically found in conjunction with a coupon. This is how I (J.) have found the best beef prices.

N. and I try not to have the same thing too often, and try to incorporate something we’ve not had in a long time - if ever - into our weekly menu. We’ve never, however, made roast beef. Since I don’t actually know how to make a roast beef, we turned to our recipe sources.

There are about a lot of recipes for roast beef just out there, floating in the universe. Aside from a very few differences, they’re all just about the same. Just when we thought we were becoming conventional adults, it seems that N. and I have developed a more adventurous palate. Or at least more worldly.

We decided on Asado Negro from the Whole Foods recipe site. While new to us, Asado Negro is a time-honored Venezuelan roast beef that is just about perfect for our taste, such as it is this week.

If you’re having roast beef sometime in the future, throw everyone a curve ball and have serve this instead. Be forewarned: if you’re having this for dinner, start no later than early-morning the day you plan to serve it.

4 pounds beef chuck, tied for a roast
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3 stalks of celery, washed, peeled and thinly sliced
1 leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced and washed
2 white onions, peeled, cut in half and sliced thinly in half rounds
3 dried bay leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
1 cup cabernet sauvignon wine (an inexpensive Chilean one would do nicely)
2 cups of white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
2 large green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut in half inch cubes
8 medium white button mushrooms, sliced thinly
sea salt, to taste
ground pepper, to taste
5 parsley sprigs, washed, leaves removed and roughly chopped (for garnish, optional)

Using a sharp paring knife, make incisions on all sides of the roast and insert the slices of garlic. Combine the celery, leek, onions, bay leaves, olive oil and Worchestershire sauce in a sealable plastic bag. Add the roast, pressing out as much air as possible and seal the bag. Place in refrigerator overnight for best flavor, or for at least for 3 hours.

In a deep pot over medium high heat, combine sugar and water, stir infrequently and cook for about 30 minutes or until a dark caramel color is reached. Carefully add the wine, vinegar and brown sugar (the hot caramel will splatter) and cook, stirring just until there are no sugar lumps in mixture, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Remove the beef from marinade (reserving the marinade) and season with salt and pepper all over. Heat an oven safe medium-sized pot with a lid (large enough for the roast and vegetables) over high heat. Add the butter and vegetable oil. Sear the meat over high heat until brown on all sides. Remove to a plate.

Pour off any excess fat, leaving about 3 tablespoons in the pan. Add the reserved marinade and cook over high heat until the onions turn translucent, about 10 minutes. Return beef to pan with cooked marinade and scatter the bell pepper and sliced mushroom pieces on top and around the beef. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour the caramel-wine sauce over the beef, cover pot and place in oven for about 1 hour.

Remove from the oven, baste the beef with the juices, reduce oven temperature to 275°F and cook for another 1 1/2 hours, basting every 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes. Place roast on cutting board and slice into ½-inch thick pieces. Place all cooked vegetables (but not the sauce) in an ovenproof dish and arrange beef slices over them and set aside. Taste the sauce, which should be of an almost syrupy consistency. If not, place in a pan and reduce over low heat until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper if needed. Remove bay leaves from sauce pour over beef slices.

Return to the oven for 30 minutes at 275°F. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley and serve immediately.