Rare roast beef is a luscious extravagance for this reformed vegetarian. It transports me to childhood, to Saturday afternoons with my parents, roast beef cold cuts on dinner rolls and classic Westerns on T.V. It reminds me of my early fascination with the carving station at Santa Anita race track, where men in chef’s tocques sliced juicy meat onto miniature loaves of sourdough bread. It takes me to holiday meals of mom’s prime rib roast and Yorkshire pudding, and my dad’s “gravy bread” dredged in the bloody jus, which sounds kind of gross, but was the highlight of the meal for me.
When I tried to buy the smallest prime rib rack in the butcher’s case last Christmas, I gasped when I heard the price was nearly $100. Our great butcher at Marconda’s Meats recommended the beef shoulder instead, which cost $25. He said, “Salt and pepper. 350° oven for an hour. Slice it thin.” There was nothing to it, and our roast turned out beautifully. I thought it was even more tender than prime rib, except for a single tendon running through the center. We were able to feed family and friends like kings for a week.
I was at the butcher again this week, intending to buy some chuck to grind for tacos, when I saw that Piedmontese beef shoulder was on sale for $4.98 a pound. I couldn’t resist, and I knew it would be a nice surprise for The Husband. I cooked it a little differently this time, browning the meat first and rubbing it with Dijon mustard. These extra steps added a nice exterior texture and flavor.
Here is what I did:
Allow the meat to come to room temperature. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
Brown all over in a hot pan, about 2-3 minutes per side. Or, skip this step and put it right in the oven.
Slather with mustard.
Cook in an oven preheated to 350° about 15 minutes per pound for rare meat. If you like it more pink, cook about 18 minutes per pound. If you like it well done, I have no idea how to do that. I turned the roast over after 40 minutes, but I don’t know if it was necessary. The internal temperature of my roast reached about 115 in the middle and 125 near the edges. I wanted the center of the roast to be very rare, so the meat could be reheated later and remain tender and juicy. Let the meat rest 15 minutes before carving. Slice very thin for the best texture.
I understand the many important arguments against consuming meat. I have considered them, and have experimented with various levels of vegetarianism for many years. Now, I choose to eat small amounts of consciously and humanely raised meat. If you choose to eat meat, please seek out a good butcher and support sustainable agriculture.