Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Anyone Can Roast

Roasting is probably the easiest cooking technique, with the most satisfying results. Your oven does most of the work while you spend time on the side dishes or dessert. Roasting involves cooking food in an uncovered pan in the oven. It is a dry cooking technique, as opposed to wet techniques like braising, stewing, or steaming. Dry, hot air surrounds the food, cooking it evenly on all sides. Depending on your recipe, you can roast at low, moderate, or high temperatures. It is the ideal method for large cuts of meat or poultry: rib roasts, ham, whole turkeys or chickens, or tenderloins. Smaller cuts, such as boneless chicken breasts or fish fillets, tend to dry out in the oven (they're usually better sautéed). Roasting is also ideal for dense vegetables such as potatoes, beets, and winter squash, as it concentrates their natural sugars and intensifies their flavor.
My chef friends have taught me that pan roasting is the best cooking method for large cuts of meat. It saves time and delivers a thick cut of meat to the table perfectly seared and juicy medium-rare throughout. The technique is rarely explained in cookbooks but is taught in every culinary school and is used by professional chefs every day. It involves searing all sides of the meat in fat in the roasting pan on the stove before putting it the oven to roast. Since it shortens the roasting time, it requires a meat thermometer to ascertain when the meat is cooked to the desired doneness.
To pan roast, the meat must be at room temperature. The oven must be preheated so it is at the correct temperature (usually 350° F) when the meat is ready. Preheat the metal or cast-iron pan on the stove and, once hot, add enough fat (canola or other oil, margarine, duck fat or pork fat, and so on) to coat the pan. Wait a minute or two for the oil to get good and hot, season your meat with salt and pepper, and place it in the pan. Make sure there is a lot of room around the meat. If you crowd the meat, it will steam and not sear. Sear all sides of the meat and then place in the oven. This will produce a good crust and a moist, juicy interior. Use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat and remove it from the oven about five degrees cooler than the desired final temperature. Remove from the oven and allow to rest loosely covered (or tented) with aluminum foil. This "carryover cooking" will finish the process. Do not wrap the foil tightly around the roast, or it will steam and change the flavor and texture.  Another bonus of pan roasting is using the resting time to make a quick pan sauce with the drippings. De-glaze with the liquid(s) of your choice (wine, stock, and so on), reduce, check for seasonings and finish the sauce with a pat of butter or maybe a splash of cream.
Chefs disagree on whether meat should be basted or left alone. In my opinion, if you purchased good quality, well-marbled meat, a standing rib roast (beef, veal or pork), should not be basted because one of the best features is the salty crust that forms over the meat as it roasts, and it could be washed away if over-basted. On the other hand a lean piece of meat could dry out without basting. Whole chickens or turkeys need frequent basting (every 15–20 minutes). 
All roasted meat should rest for 10 to 20 minutes (tented) after it is removed from the oven. Larger cuts―a standing rib roast, for example―retain enough internal heat so that they continue to cook out of the oven, up to 5 or 10 degrees or so. Smaller cuts like pork tenderloins do not have enough mass to continue cooking more than a couple of degrees.
But the main reason meat should rest is to allow the juices to redistribute. If you slice into a roast immediately upon removing it from the oven, all the juices pour out onto the platter and the meat dries out.
About doneness
For rare roast beef, lamb, or veal take the roast out at 120º and allow it to rest tented until it has reached 130º , for medium rare remove at 125º and rest until 135º, for medium 135º and 145º and medium well 150º and 160º. Roast pork should be served medium - removed at 135º and served at 145º or medium well 150º and 160º. Chicken and turkey removed at 160º and served at 170º.

Roasting vegetables
Roasting vegetables in a very hot oven gives them a caramelized exterior and flavor while keeping the inside moist and tender. Some vegetables, such as onions, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables, are especially good when roasted. I like to coat the pan (Pyrex or other roasting pan) with olive oil, salt and pepper before adding the vegetables. I roast them, uncovered, about 30 minutes, shaking the pan or stirring once or twice. 

Roasting potatoes with the beef
Potatoes make a tasty side dish that goes very well with beef, and they are very easy to roast in the oven alongside the meat. (Do not try this with pork—it is too fatty). About an hour and a half before the meat should be done, peel, quarter (if large) and parboil potatoes for approximately ten minutes. Remove the potatoes from the boiling water and place them along the sides of the beef. The potatoes will absorb the drippings along with their flavor, and will turn deep golden brown as they bake. Baste the potatoes often until they are tender and ready to eat. (If they finish cooking before the meat is done, remove them when ready and heat them up in the pan once the meat is removed for its resting time). They will take up to one hour and fifteen minutes to fully cook in the oven. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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