Thursday, March 20, 2008

Meat and Potatoes

We were never a big meat and potatoes family.

In fact, we rarely had beef at home. Back when my mother was the primary cook in the house, she probably cooked with beef four times a year at most. This was the number of times she cooked her famous braised short ribs with peppercorns, which was and still is lipsmackingly good. Even our spaghetti was most often cooked with ground pork instead of ground beef. We were just not big beef-eaters.

That is not to say we don't like beef. We reserved our beef-eating for the luxury of eating out. Going to a steakhouse with the family was a special occasion. Having beef brisket with noodles at a local noodle house was something of a treat as well.

Last year when we had the meal plan, we started cooking more with beef and I enjoyed discovering the various cuts of beef and how they differ in flavour. We probably cooked more beef in the last six months than my mother had in ten years. I love the flavour of beef.

BUT. . .Not all is well with this love affair.

Right now, the romance is being complicated with the whole politics of meat-eating, especially beef-eating. Yes, I've seen all those unhappy steers in a giant feedlot on TV. They look like how someone will look after they've lost their fortunes in a casino. Yes, I've read Fast Food Nation. And seen the movie, and I do believe that there is excrement in the meat, given the number of E. coli cases these days. Yes, I've read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. And I do realize that our obsession with meat has contributed to the environmental problems we have now.

So we have cut back on the beef and we do buy organic beef when possible. We probably have beef once every two weeks at home, instead of the once a week clip we had when we had the meal plan. Beef continues to be a luxury for us, and when we do get organic beef, we stick to the cheaper cuts of beef. Usually this would be ground beef -- hence the sudden resurgence of my spaghetti and meatballs as a staple in our house.

Although I am not sure if "organic beef" is better than "conventional beef" (I am not sure, for example, whether cows slaughtered to be organic are also on cramped feedlots and fed on corn), this is the best we can do for now. Our local grocery meat department does not carry any pasture-raised or grass-fed beef, so we have no easy access to grass-fed beef as of now. Hopefully, the "certified organic" sticker on the beef packages mean something in the long run.

Mean something more than less money in my pocket! That "certified organic" sticker means a higher sticker price -- so no wonder that when I go down to Costco and look at their display of beef and beef cuts, I get so tempted by their prices!

Once in a while, I succumb to the lure of the low prices, especially when we have to do food for a large number of people. We've had their prime rib roasts, their burgers, their flank steaks. Today, we had a top sirloin oven roast, and this is very good value for the money. Very easy to do too for dinner and there is going to be some leftovers for sandwiches the next day.

All I do is a rub for the roast. The simplest one to do is salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil. I put everything in a little container and grind them together to form a paste. Today, I added a five-peppercorn mix and some balsamic vinegar as well.

Rub everything on the beef, all over.

I usually try to cram garlic in, and here I am cutting slits into the beef so I can squeeze cloves of garlic in there.

My work is done! This was easy and I even tied the roast back up! (I don't usually do it, so sometimes the beef gets to be an odd shaped mass when it comes out.)

It's time for the oven to do its work. I put the oven on 450 to form a crust for 30 minutes, then turn it down to 300. Usually it takes about an hour and a quarter for a 5 pound roast. Just check the temperature when it gets to an hour. We usually stop the roasting at 130 degrees.

I served the beef with some roasted potatoes and roasted broccolini and tomatoes. Why roasted? Because it was easier and I did not want to get pots and pots I have to wash after I've cooked these items. I admit the broccolini would have been better done on the stovetop, but I do not mind the slightly charred buds. It was probably just left in the oven for a couple of minutes too long.

pre-oven; we used the same pan used for the potatoes

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