Whether it’s called spiced round in Nashville, spice roll in Tidewater Virginia, or daube de boeuf in New Orleans, chilled spiced beef served in thin slices has been deemed one of the South’s most elegant dishes since the mid-nineteenth century. While it’s been said that the cooking process originated at meat-packing companies in Nashville as a way of preserving beef before refrigeration came along, I’ve always suspected that it goes back much further, to England and France, where I’ve been eating cold, spicy beef dishes for as long as I can remember. While the dish is time-consuming and slightly tricky to prepare, it’s one that can highlight a formal buffet table like nothing else. Bottom or top beef round is often used, but I find that no cut has more flavor than brisket. With the beef, I like to serve an assortment of mustards.
Rinse the brisket well under cold running water. In a small bowl, combine the herbs and spices, add the salt and cayenne pepper, mix well, and rub the herb/spice mixture over all the surfaces of the meat. Roll up the meat lengthwise as tightly as possible, firmly bind with kitchen string, then wrap in cheesecloth and tie securely. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 6 hours.
Remove the plastic wrap, place the rolled beef in a kettle just large enough to hold the bundle, and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer till the beef is fork tender, about 5 hours, adding more water if necessary to keep the beef covered.
Transfer the beef to a deep bowl, pour a little cooking broth on top, fit a plate atop the meat, then place 8 to 10 pounds of weight (large canned goods, bricks, etc.) on the plate to press the meat down. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and chill 12 hours.
To serve, remove the cheesecloth and string, cut the cold beef against the grain in thin slices, and serve on an attractive platter.
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