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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Anywhere from 24 to 5-6 hours before you plan on eating trim access fat off the roast (I leave some on, though). Salt it with the tablespoon of kosher salt and set it on the wire wrack placed over a roasting pan. Put this in the fridge, uncovered. The salt dissolves, pulling out some of the natural moisture to the surface of the meat, before it reacts with the proteins and the liquid absorbs back into the meat, taking the salt with it. Don't skip it.
Remove the beef from the fridge and let it come to room temperature on the counter for at least 2 hours before you plant to cook it.
***About now is a good time to start the demi-glace.
Set a cast iron skillet that the roast can eventually fit in the oven and preheat it to 225°. Tie the roast in butcher's knots with twine, and rub it down with 2 tablespoons of softened butter. Insert an oven-safe digital thermometer probe into the beef and set it for an internal temperature of 115°.
Slow roast the beef in the oven for about 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 115°. Remove the beef from the oven and cover tightly with foil, still in the pan.
Remove the cast iron skillet from the oven and heat over medium on the stove for 10 minutes. Cut the ties off the roast, add the oil to the cast iron and, once it's rippling hot, sear the beef a few moments each side until caramelized and browned (literally mere minutes per side).
Remove the roast and let it rest on a cutter board, covered with foil, for 10 minutes before slicing it as thinly as you possibly can.
For the "demi-glace"
Roughly chop the carrot, celery and onion (or pulse in a food processor--drop in the carrots and pulse a few times, then celery, then onion). Heat the butter and oil in a 2-quart heavy bottomed pot until hot and the butter has melted and begun to sizzle. Tip in the vegetables and saute a few minutes until they begin to soften.
Add in the black garlic and squash it in the pan with a rubber spatula. Stir in the tomato paste and herbs, cooking just another minute or two. Deglaze the pan with the brandy, scraping up any brown bits. If you're using wine, pour that in too and reduce for a few minutes.
Pour in the beef stock, season with a bit more salt and simmer over low for about 1-1/2 hours. Strained, you should have about 2 cups. This can be made in advance, and stored in the fridge (it makes removing any access fat from the top easier, too).
To finish the demi-glace, make a brown roux by combining the butter and flour in a saucepan over medium-low heat (start to reheat the stock if you made it in advance, too). Stir it occasionally until the butter melts and the flour absorbs the fat, turning into a thin slurry. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until you have a roux close to the color of the stock you fortified earlier.
Squash another clove or two of black garlic, add it into the brown roux and immediately stir it in. Right away, pour the stock in slowly, whisking the roux as you do, until you have a smooth sauce. Bring to a gentle boil for a few moments, then simmer over low for at least 10 minutes.
The demi-glace can be finished before the roast is done–let's say about 30 minutes–and just kept warm covered over the lowest of the lowest flames your stove can muster.
Preheat oven to 375 - 400°. Grease a casserole with butter (roughly 2-quart volume). Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt liberally. Drop in the cauliflower and boil for 3 - 4 minutes. While that's happening, fill a large bowl (not glass) with ice and cold water. When the cauliflower's time is up, drain it and immediately dump it into the cold water.It should have only just begun to soften in this time.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a saucepan until hot and sizzling, and start to warm the milk and cream (in the microwave or stovetop). Add the chili and stir for a minute or two before sprinkling in the flour. Stir to combine and cook for about 3 - 5 minutes, until the raw flour taste is gone.
Splash in the sherry and vigorously whisk it into the roux before pouring in the warm milk, slowly, while you continue to whisk. Season it with salt and bring to the gentlest of boil before reducing the heat and simmer about 5 minutes, until it's thick.
Shut off the heat and whisk in the grated Parmiginao. Fold the cauliflower in gently so it's as evenly coated as you can get it before transferring to the casserole dish.
Bake in the oven for about 30 - 40 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown. Let it sit out of the oven for 5 minutes or so before digging in.
The cauliflower can be blanched and shocked an hour or so in advance. I lay it out on some paper towel or microfiber towels to dry them out as much as possible.