We seldom cook roast beef, not because we dislike it, but because the process can be nerve-wracking. It must be roast on the bone and must be perfect, rosy rare inside and crusty outside. Fifteen minutes of overcooking ruins the roast. It also is expensive. Since this is a special treat, we only buy prime beef, which is both difficult to find and expensive. You will need a meat thermometer.
For the roast:
- 4 – 4½ lb rib roast on the bone
- ¼ cup olive or neutral oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 teaspoons flour
- 2 teaspoons dried mustard
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
For Yorkshire pudding:
- 1 ¼ cups milk
- 1 cup flour
- 3 eggs
- 2 Tablespoons beef dripping, lard, bacon fat or olive oil
For the gravy:
- 2 Tablespoons minced shallots
- about ½ cup red wine or ale
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 2 cups beef stock or consommé
- ½ teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet
- minced chives or scallions
- Whisk together the oil, generous helpings of salt and pepper, flour, mustard and thyme, and paint the roast with the result. Let it stand uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.
- Make the pudding batter at least an hour before you cook it by blending the milk, flour, eggs and half the drippings together (an immersion blender is ideal) until you have a thin smooth batter.
- Let the beef stand at room temperature for several hours before you roast it.
Preheat the oven to 400°.
- Put the roast into the hot oven in a shallow pan and cook until it turns a deep and crusty brown; that should take from 20-30 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to 300° and continue roasting just until the temperature in the center of the beef barely reaches 120°, usually in 30 more minutes.
- Remove the beef from the roasting pan and let it rest, tented with foil, for at least half an hour.
- Ten minutes before you think the roast will be done put the dish for the Yorkshire pudding into the oven. It should get really hot before you pour in the batter.
- Increase the oven temperature to 450°, ensure that it reaches that level, then swirl the remaining Tablespoon of drippings into the hot dish before pouring the batter into it. Cook the pudding until it turns golden and rises to an implausible height.
- To make the gravy, pour off all but a film of the drippings in the roasting pan, set it on the stove over medium heat and fry the shallots until they soften.
- Pour in the wine or ale, increase the heat to high, deglaze any debris sticking to the pan and let the wine all but evaporate.
- Reduce the heat back to medium, whisk the flour into the shallots and gradually stir in the stock. After the first ladle of stock add the Kitchen Bouquet and Worcestershire.
- Whisk the gravy until it thickens a little, check for salt and pepper (it may not need any) and let the gravy simmer until you are ready to serve the beef and pudding. Finish the gravy with some minced chives or scallions if you have them.
- Uncork (or unscrew) your best Pinot Noir with this one. As the English say, ‘Burgundy: Beef.’
- Roast potatoes are traditional and essential. For roast beef (and really nothing else) we parboil and peel them. Boil the potatoes for a scant ten minutes and when they cool enough to handle rip shallow furrows into them with a fork. Most of the skin will peel away: no harm results if patches of skin remain. Quarter or halve the potatoes into roughly even chunks. Melt goose fat, lard or olive oil in a shallow roasting pan until very hot, toss the potatoes with a generous shake of salt to film them in the fat and put them in the oven when you start the roast. You will need to turn them after 15-20 minutes so they do not burn at 500°.
- Sliced or quartered mushrooms make a nice addition to the gravy. Brown them over high heat in a little butter and add them after step 11.
- Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests serving a dish of leeks and greens with roast beef. We think he has a point but do not follow his recipe. Instead, cut about four leeks into quarter-inch rings, soften them in butter and stir in what started out as about four cups of chopped chard or beet greens. Salt and pepper finish the dish.
- Jane Grigson served roast beef with Yorkshire pudding too, but with horseradish sauce instead of gravy, and parsnips and potatoes roasted with the meat. She hated green vegetables with roast beef. We are not so sure about that but the roast parsnips are a nice addition.
- There are lots of ways to coat the beef before roasting. Some people use garlic and fresh herbs; Jane Grigson likes a smear of dry mustard and sugar stirred into Dijon mustard in the ratio of 2:2:1, coated in turn with beef dripping from the last roast.
- Porter or stout are other alternatives to wine or ale in the gravy.
- We do not understand why the meat thermometer works with beef and fails with turkey, but it does on both counts.
- Julia Reed has a simpler recipe for Roast Ribeye:
“….simply preheat the oven to 500°, rub a boneless rib roast with lots of butter and salt and pepper, and cook exactly five minutes per pound. Then turn the oven off, but don’t open the door, and leave the meat inside for another hour and a half. It will be crusty on the outside and a perfect rare to medium-rare on the inside, and the entire amount of prep work is less than five minutes.” From Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns and Other Southern Specialties (New York 2008, 72).