Roast Beef

The success of roast beef depends on the best-quality beef, with very good marbling and about twenty-one days’ dry-aging. Use a large rib roast from the loin end. The two controversies about roasting (baking) beef are whether to salt the meat first, and at what temperature to cook it. It is said that if you salt the beef before putting it in the oven, all the juices will come out. I have never seen that happen, and if you do not salt the meat first, or at all, it has little taste. Some say to salt the meat halfway through the cooking process—very difficult and dangerous. I believe in salting before cooking, which produces the best flavor and a salty crust. Should you start with a hot oven and then turn down the temperature? Or use the low-temperature method throughout the cooking? The low-temperature method produces very tender but tasteless mush, so I believe in searing the beef and then turning down the temperature. That way, you get wonderful crisp fat and “outside” pieces, as well as a range of meat cooked well-done to rare.

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Ingredients

  • 1 beef rib roast of 5 to 7 ribs
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
  • 12 bay leaves
  • 4 slices stale bread

Method

Rub the rib roast all over with the vodka. This begins to break down the fat and makes the meat very flavorful and tender. Rub in the salt and pepper. Cut some small pockets evenly in the fat and slip in the bay leaves. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 425°F.

Put the beef in a roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes. Then turn down the heat to 325° and cook 12 to 15 minutes per pound for rare to medium rare, at which point the juices will run slightly pink when you stick a skewer or fork into the meat. When the beef is cooked, it is very important that it sit in a warm place (on the oven door or in the oven with the door open) for 30 minutes, so that the meat can soften and reabsorb all the juices that, if the meat were cut now, would run out.

Place the bread slices under the roast before carving and serve the juice-soaked bread with the beef.

Another dish that one does not get to try very often but that is definitely an old favorite is scrambled eggs done the French way, cooked slowly over hot water, incorporated with a good deal of butter and a little fresh cream, so that they have an ethereal texture and flavor quite unlike the rubber-mat, dry “egginess” of short-order scrambled eggs. A recipe for a version with smoked salmon. My all-time favorite variation of this dish, though, first served to me by Richard Olney in a house perched in an old, terraced olive grove above the village of Solliès-Toucas (near Toulon), is made with black truffles. With those eggs we drank a tired, old Bordeaux, making a memorable marriage of the wine, the eggs, and the earthy, fallen-leaves perfume of the truffles.