Monday, January 5, 2009

Thoughts from a snowy day, including roast beef

Like Keja, I am feeling uninspired about eating seasonal food right now. We live in New England. Currently it's 23 degrees and in the middle of snowing a projected 6 to 10 inches before nightfall. And I'm supposed to eat what? Sticks from the backyard? A snowball? I am not prepared with a freezer full of supplies. Hopefully I will be this time next year, and once our meat CSA starts in a few weeks I'll feel better, but right now all I can tell you about is that I'm making hard cider in the fridge. My son discovered it when I poured him a glass of cider a few weeks ago and he said that it tasted funny. I checked, and sure enough, it was starting to sparkle. So, I've kept it going, releasing the gases it builds up every day.

I know that buttermilk lasts ridiculously longer than the date stamped on the top would indicate. Months longer, literally. As long as it smells fine and doesn't have mold on it, shake it up and you're good to go.

I want to try a garbage can root cellar. My parents did this one year, without a ton of success, but I think it deserves a second chance. As I recall, you fill a garbage can with soil and bury carrots, beets, potatoes, etc., in the soil. Does this sound right?

I have gotten better about buying non-perishable things on sale, whether I need them or not. We have limited storage space in our kitchen, so it goes against my inclination to keep only what we'll need soon, but it is pretty handy to have bags of flour and chocolate chips on hand, and rather than put them on the shopping list every few weeks, since I use them a lot, I just keep in the back of my mind that if they're on sale, I buy them. I should probably put the flour in the big freezer, to avoid rancidity.

And a recipe. This one is about roast beef, which we had for Christmas. A standing rib roast is my very favorite cut of meat, period. Cut into steaks, it's called a ribeye or a Delmonico. A boneless roast is the same as prime rib. We had bone-in, which is both cheaper by the pound and tastier because it's on the bone. Then, you can make stock afterwards. It's very simple to make. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Salt and pepper the roast and put in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until nicely browned all over. Turn the oven down to 300. If you are putting vegetables in with the meat, add them now. Cook at the lower temperature until the meat is 126 degrees for medium rare. If it's taking too long, you can put it up to 350, but don't go any higher, and only do this if you're desperate.

A few notes on cooking meat:

- a time per pound equation is a completely unhelpful way to gauge how long something will take to cook, no matter what type of animal or cut. A long thick roast, weighing 8 pounds, will not take twice as long to cook as the same thickness roast that's only 4 pounds. It likely won't take any longer. Go by thickness. Chris Schlesinger (of East Coast Grill fame) and John Willoughby wrote a great cookbook called "How to Cook Meat" and they go into detail about judging how long something will take to cook. I highly recommend getting this book and keeping it within easy reach.

- meat thermometers and most cookbooks outright lie about what internal meat temp corresponds to rare, well-done, etc. If you follow their instructions, you will overcook and (in my opinion) completely ruin otherwise lovely pieces of meat. Use this guide and you'll have perfectly cooked beef: 120 is rare, 126 medium-rare, 134 medium, 150 medium-well, 160 well done. Again, I recommend "How to Cook Meat" for the guidelines on internal temps for other types of meat.

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