There’s something so fitting about this roast for Halloween. I mean, for one you get to call it roast beast and, given the holiday, not sound like a total idiot. Not only that, but a roast so rare is a little devilish; it’s gruesome, carnal, fun—everything Halloween should be.
A rib or prime rib roast are cream of the crop, Kings of the Roast. But royalty comes with a price tag to match, and while there’s nothing wrong with splurging, there are less expensive cuts of meat that do perfectly well and shouldn’t be ignored (Dan). Eye round is that cut for this. It doesn’t have much marbling, and in fact what little fat it does have is on the surface of the roast, and it can be a tougher cut if cooked too much but for a good medium-rare roast it’s incredibly tender. That, with it’s naturally clean beefy flavor, makes for an incredible roast.
To get even more flavor into the beef, I rub it down with salt and set it in the fridge, uncovered. The salt pulls some of the juices out of the beef, which dissolves the salt eventually. After a bit more time the juices get reabsorbed into the meat, taking the salt with it, seasoning the meat throughout. Leaving it uncovered in the fridge dries the outside of the meat out a bit, which makes for a deeply browned, crunchy crust. Speaking of the crust, I don’t sear the roast first before chucking in the oven to roast—nope. A while back we started reverse searing our steaks at home; you put them in a low oven for longer than you think you should, so the internal temperature is just below where you like it. Once it is, you pull it out of the oven and slap it in a screaming hot skillet to get a crust on it. I was skeptical—and if I’m being honest, still am from time to time—but every time, without fail, it comes out flawlessly. Without. Fail. So I do the same here.
You’ll need a digital oven probe thermometer (one where you insert the probe into the beef, which connects to a digital reader that sits outside of the oven) which you’ll set to go off at 115°. In a low oven of about 225° it’ll take about 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours, after which time you’ll take it out and sear it in a screaming hot cast iron skillet. Speaking of which, I put mine in the oven when I preheat it for the roast and keep it in there until I need it. At that point, I remove the beef, cover it and put the cast iron over a medium flame to get really hot—they take a good long while to get hot and preheating them in the oven not only speeds up the time it needs on the stove top to heat adequately, but also ensure more even distribution of heat.
And then there’s the black garlic. It has the taste of slow roasted garlic, with a bit of a bitterness, and no trace of the acrid bite of raw garlic. Slightly sweet, slightly bitter—a little like tamarind without the sourness—and with an aroma and taste that lingers and builds. It’s cooked incredibly slowly—weeks and weeks—at a low temperature in a humid environment until a chemical reaction happens, causing it to turn black. Some claim it’s fermentation, while others say it’s nothing more than the Maillard reaction or caramelization in slo-mo and that, because no microbial action occurs, is not actually fermentation. The latter makes the most sense to me—it doesn’t have the same weird funk of fermented foods—but being that I’m not a scientist, I won’t go into it any further. What’s important is that it has an incredible, unique flavor. It’s not something that at first taste, someone unfamiliar with it would be shell-shocked by this foreign flavor—“it’s probably just roasted garlic, right?”—but another bite, another taste, another and another and another—“no, this is something different”.
It finds its way into a demi-glace here. Technically, it’s a cheater demi-glace, so if you’re a stickler for French food and tradition lets just call it a sauce. A traditional demi-glace is made out of a combination of a brown stock (roasted veal and beef marrow bones, vegetables and herbs, simmered for hours in wine and water) and an espangole (made from brown stock, more bones and herbs, and a brown roux); it’s a laborious endeavor to make from scratch entirely, but you can’t argue its worth. That said, I streamline it by fortifying a good-quality, rich, store-bought stock with wine and aromatics—and, of course, black garlic—before whisking it into a brown roux. It ain’t your mama’s gravy, let me tell you.
I know there’s not really a traditional dinner for Halloween—other than candy, of course—but I think that’s changed in my house. Served along side a Spicy Cauliflower Gratin (bbbrrrraaaiiiiinnnnssssss) it’s the perfect dinner to ring in the night of frights.
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