Eye of the round is a tricky cut of meat to cook. It can get stringy and, if over-cooked, pretty dry and lacking taste. My Mom was a master at preparing it. It was her favorite cut for what back home we call “carne assada.” Her recipe was made on the stove, and always resulted in tender slices of meat swimming in a dark brown sauce with a flavor to die for. I know exactly how she made it, but never ever managed to replicate it myself. Oh, well. Slow cooking in a moist environment is definitely a great choice. You can also shred the meat and use it in fajitas or “roupa velha” – the Brazilian version of “ropa vieja.” See a version here.
A while ago I stumbled on recipes that use this very cut of meat in a totally unexpected way: in place of roast beef tenderloin. Can you imagine that? One of the cheapest and most looked-down cuts of beef posing as The King? It would be like me taking the stage in place of Annie Lennox. Scary thought. Anyway, the method intrigued me. Finally tried it and was quite pleased with the outcome. The timing can be a bit tricky, so at least the first time you make it, don’t plan on serving it for guests – do it when you have a flexible schedule. Take notes, and when the dinner party is on, buy a similar size of meat and prepare to shine as a hostess…
SLOW-ROASTED EYE OF THE ROUND BEEF
(inspired by several sources)
for the roast beef:
1 piece of eye-of-the round roast (3 to 5 pounds)
salt and pepper to taste (use a heavy hand on spices in this preparation)
olive oil spray
for the sauce:
1/2 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)
1 to 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp minced fresh chives
salt and black pepper to taste
Season the piece of beef heavily with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge overnight, or for an hour minimum.
Heat the oven to 225 F. Spray the beef with a light coating of olive oil and sear on a heavy skillet over high heat on all sides. Transfer roast to a rack over a baking sheet and place in the oven. If you have a probe thermometer, stick it inside the meat and set your gadget to let you know when the meat reaches 115 F (for rare), or 125 F for medium-rare. In this preparation, you do not want the meat cooked past medium. It will take anywhere from 75 minutes for rare, to a little over 2 hours for medium-rare.
Turn oven off; leave roast in oven, without opening door, until meat-probe thermometer or instant-read thermometer inserted into center of roast registers 130 to 140 degrees, depending on your preference. This will take another 30 minutes or so.
Transfer roast to carving board and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Slice meat crosswise as thinly as possible and serve with horseradish sauce, if so desired.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: You know that instruction that says “allow the meat to rest for 20 minutes?” That’s the one I did not follow, and paid a price with some excessive leaking of meat juices when I sliced it. Oh, well. Do as I say and not as I do. I was too anxious to slice and see if the meat was cooked the way I expected. Which indeed it was. The probe thermometer works like a charm, it beeps when the desired temperature is reached, so no need to even open the door of the oven from time to time. Since for this method the oven is kept at a reasonably low temperature, the less you open the door, the better.
If you are not into the sharpness of horseradish, omit the sauce, serve it with sautéed mushrooms, maybe make a reduction of red wine to go with it. I have to say that I was very pleased with the match meat/horseradish, and intend to keep it as a classic pair in our kitchen from now on. So easy to put together! Plus, we always have prepared horseradish in the fridge because we regularly buy fresh oysters and serve them with chili-horseradish sauce. Nice to have one more use for this ingredient. If you have fresh horseradish available, you can use it grated with the creme fraiche. I would eye-ball it and taste as you go. That stuff is potent.
The other day I was reading a cookbook by Gordon Ramsay, and apart from nice recipes, he offers quite a bit of culinary wisdom. One observation in particular might be worth sharing. It is easy to make spectacular meals with expensive items. Filet mignon, top of the notch sea bass, sea scallops. But coming up with great recipes using humble ingredients? That can be a challenge, but one that he as a chef faces with enthusiasm. This take on roast beef is a good example making the best of a less than stellar cut.
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