Classic Roast Beef

roast beef
Remember how good slices of roast beef smothered with gravy tasted when you were a kid? If you're like me, you haven't eaten this meal in years, and maybe even decades. Other than a holiday standing rib roast, most people now forgo the once archetypal Sunday supper of roast beef, including me. Eating copious amounts of beef is no longer fashionable, with the good reason that it's simply not healthy for you. But when I was confronted with an eye of round roast recently, I just couldn't help myself. Nutrition and food fads took a back seat for the night: I had to make a traditional roast beef with gravy.

So what was I doing with an eye of round roast in the first place? Well a few months ago I bought an 1/8 of a grass-fed Sonoma cow. A friend called to say that someone had backed out at the last moment of their share, and when pressed to find someone who would buy into a cow at the last second, she thought of me (which makes sense if you know me). So I now have a freezer full of various cuts of beef -- from soup bones and ground chuck to short ribs and eye of round.

Remembering that my mother always used the eye of round for her roast beef, I started to reminisce about my childhood dinners. The idea of beef with gravy and potatoes sounded too good to pass up and so I started searching for a recipe. After digging out numerous cookbooks (including my mega The Essential New York Times Cookbook and some cumulative family meals cookbooks) and searching online, I was surprised to find that there are hardly any current recipes for roast beef. I hear America's Test Kitchen has a great slow-bake method, but I don't have that book. And so I did what I should have done in the first place; I called my mom. Her recipe was simple: salt and pepper the roast and then bake at 325 for 20 minutes per pound. That's it.

Easy enough, but I was fearful that the roast would be dry, so I updated the directions a bit, cooking the meat as I do a chicken: in an enamel cast-iron Dutch oven with the lid on and then raising the temperature and uncovering for 10-15 minutes so the outside browns nicely.

The dinner couldn't have been a bigger hit with my family. My kids devoured their first helping and then had seconds while raving about the gravy. The meat was tender and juicy inside but with a nice crust on the outside, and there was plenty of jus to make a large batch of gravy. Plus there were leftovers for sandwiches the next day.

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Now I'm not going to be making roast beef on a regular basis, but I am looking forwarding to revisiting this comforting childhood favorite in another month or two.

cutting your roast beef

Updated Classic Roast Beef

Makes: Enough for 4-6 people

Ingredients:
1 2 1/2 - 3 pound eye of round beef roast
Salt
Freshly cracked ground pepper
1/2 tsp your favorite dried herb (I used thyme)

Beef Gravy
Dripping from the roast beef
3/4 - 1 cup beef stock or broth
2 Tbsp flour (plus more if needed
1 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Sprinkle salt, pepper and herbs on your roast and set in a baking pan (I used a large enamel cast-iron Dutch oven, but you can also use a regular pan and then cover the roast tightly with foil).

3. Cook roast for 20 - 25 minutes covered. Turn up heat to 400 degrees, uncover the roast and then set it back in the oven. Bake for 15 more minutes to brown.

4. Check temperature (you want your roast to be 145 degrees in the center if you like it medium rare or 140 degrees if you like it rare in the middle. I'm not providing temperatures for medium - well done because then the rest of the roast will be too dried out) and then remove the roast from the oven when ready.

5. Set roast on a board or plate to rest (tenting with foil) while you make your gravy.

6. Set roasting pan on the stove top. If the drippings have a lot of fat in them, drain all but about 1 Tbsp fat out. If you don’t have much fat, add 2 Tbsp butter instead of one in the next step.

7. Heat pan to medium and incorporate the butter into your pan drippings while you add in the flour to create a roux. Add in your beef stock or broth and stir until the gravy is smooth. If it’s too watery, mix about 1 tsp flour into 1/8 cup of broth or stock to create a slurry and then add to the gravy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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8. After your roast has rested for 5-7 minutes, cut it into slices and serve topped with gravy.

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