Friday, April 26, 2013

Where's the Beef of My Dreams?

What is it about a roast beef dinner that just seems to bring back memories of your childhood, or those special  occasions when we were growing up. Roast beef happens to be one of my all time favorites, just don't seem to make as often as I like I always feel it should be for some fancy dinner party or holiday.
 But I just happened to be in the market and saw a piece of top round and said oh what the heck, and bought it.  Little did I realize it would rekindle my passion for roast beef and got me craving it once again! With a few pantry items I transformed this piece of meat into a classic without much work at all.  So whether you make this classic roast dinner for just a few, or feed the hordes it is perfect with minimal fuss. 

Herb Crusted Roast Beef With Pan Gravy

1 beef top round, about 4 to 5 pounds
1 Tbsp olive oil
Tbsp garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp dried leaf thyme
1-1/2 tsp dried leaf sage
1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crumbled
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 to 3 cups beef broth, low sodium
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Heat oven to 450°.
  2. Place the roast, fat side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. (I sometime scatter some cut up carrots, celery, and onion on the bottom of the pan just for added flavor).
  3. Combine the olive oil, garlic, thyme, sage, rosemary, sea salt, and pepper; stir to blend. Rub all over the roast.
  4. Roast the beef for 15 minutes at 450°.  Then reduce oven heat to 350° and continue to roast for about 35 to 45 minutes longer, or to 130° to 140° (for medium) on an instant read thermometer or temperature probe inserted in the center of the thickest part of the roast. See below for more detailed temperature guidelines.
  5. Let the roast rest for 15 minutes before slicing.
  6. Arrange the beef on a platter and serve with the pan gravy.

Pan Gravy

  1. Strain the pan drippings into a saucepan and stir in 4 tablespoons of flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. 
  2. Add the beef broth and continue cooking, stirring, until thickened. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Beef Roast Temperatures
125° = Rare
130° to 140° = Medium Rare
145° to 150° = Medium
155° to 160° = Well Done

Fanned Potatoes with Bacon and Onion

4 russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 small onion, sliced thinly
3 slices bacon, chopped
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

  1. Heat oven to 450°. 
  2. Peel then cut 1/4 inch from bottom and ends of potatoes, then slice potatoes crosswise at 1/4-inch intervals, leaving 1/4 inch of potato intact. 
  3. Gently rinse potatoes under running water, let drain, and transfer, sliced-side down, to plate. Microwave until slightly soft to the touch, 6 to 12 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through cooking.
  4. Arrange potatoes, sliced-side up, on foil-lined baking sheet. 
  5. Then in a bowl toss onion, bacon, oil, salt and pepper. Spread evenly over potatoes onion and bacon crisp and potatoes are beginning to brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.

**Prepping potato fans these potatoes may look difficult to make, there are a few simple, no-fuss tricks to ensure perfect potato fans every time.**

  1.  Trim 1/4-inch slices from the bottom and ends of each potato to allow them to sit flat and to give the slices extra room to fan out during baking.
  2. Chopsticks (placed along each side) provide a foolproof guide for slicing the potato petals without cutting all the way through the potato.
  3. Gently flex fans open while rinsing under cold running water; this rids the potatoes of excess starch that can impede fanning.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sunday Memories

Sunday memories growing up, as for many of Italian-American descent, can hold a special place in one's mind.  Especially that Sunday gravy, ok also known as tomato sauce that is cooked with meat. Of course the pride of every family, taking hours to cook, and the pride of the cook.  Of course preparation started around breakfast time and it was ready to serve by 3 pm.  

Depending on what your family liked in their gravy, this silky smooth and full-bodied sauce derives it flavors from the garlic and herbs, as well as the meatballs, sausage, braciole, and even some spare ribs that had been simmering in the pot all morning. 

As is everything Italian every family will have it's own twist, it's own variation on the same basic theme.  Where one will use a crushed tomato and a specific brand, who uses a plum tomato of another brand, who cans their own tomatoes at the end of each summer.  One thing is certain that family will swear that their gravy is the best, and never ever show them a jar of sauce, cause that is blasphemy. Though once the gravy is made just need a little pasta, some garlic bread and you are good to go.

Sunday is the day of the week know as the day of rest.  Though there was always something so comforting about Sunday dinner whether it was for a crowd, or just the immediate family.  It was home, family and tradition.  Though even if you are not Italian-American, Sunday can still mean family dinner, roasts, something special.  Even better news, You do not need an ounce of Italian blood to try this, don't let it overwhelm you.  Heck make extra, cause hint, it freezes real well.   


1 lb ground beef
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1 Tbsp fresh parsley
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
seasoned breadcrumbs 

  1. Mix all ingredients except the ground beef in a large bowl by hand. Once moist and well blended then add beef, be careful not to over work beef.
  2. Roll meatballs to about the size of a golf ball.
  3. Roll meatballs in seasoned breadcrumbs.
  4. At this point you have 2 options, you may place on a baking sheet and bake in a 375 degree oven fro about 20 minutes until browned. Or
  5. In a large fry pan with oil fry meatballs until well browned on all sides.  Drain on paper towel when finished.
  6. After cooked you may place in gravy, or wrap extra and freeze for a later date.

Braciole (Italian Beef Rolls)

5 Tbsp parsley, chopped
¼ cup Parmesan,finely grated
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
12 6"x 4" slices boneless beef chuck, pounded to 1⁄16" thickness
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup olive oil

  1. To make the filling, mix together parsley, Parmesan, and garlic in a bowl; set aside. Place a slice of beef on a work surface perpendicular to you.  
  2. Season with salt and pepper, and place about 1 tbsp. filling on the bottom half; starting with the filled half, roll beef up around the filling into a tight cylinder. Secure roll with butchers twine, and repeat with remaining beef and filling. 
  3. Heat oil in a large heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add beef rolls, and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. 
  4. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Proceed with your gravy as above. Freeze unused rolls until needed.

Sunday Gravy

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
4 Italian sausage links (may use hot or sweet or both)
2-3 braciole
3 (28-ounce) cans of San Marzano tomatoes
2 whole garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 cup red wine
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
Salt, to taste
7-8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

  1. In a large heavy pot over medium-low heat, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and add sausages. Cook about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until browned all over; remove from heat. 
  2. Repeat with braciole, cook about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until browned all over; remove from heat. 
  3. Pour the San Marzano tomatoes in a large bowl, and crush them with your hands (or use a food mill, or food processor if you prefer).  
  4. In the same pot, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil, add garlic cloves and saute for about 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and discard garlic. Pour in the tomatoes (with their juice), red wine, crushed red pepper, oregano and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, then add back your sausage, braciole, and after about and hour you may add in your meatballs.  Continue to cook stirring occasionally, for another 1-1/2 - 2 hours when all meat is tender.

Garlic Bread

1 loaf Italian bread
6 large cloves garlic, finely minced
6 Tbsp salted butter, softened
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice loaf lengthwise and lay open-faced.  
  3. In a medium bowl, combine butter, garlic and parsley. Spread in a thick, even layer over both halves of loaf.
  4. Place both halves on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Simple Ricotta Cheesecake

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
(or 1 prepared graham cracker crust)
4 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup sugar, divided
5 eggs, separated
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp lemon zest, freshly grated
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in a medium bowl.
  3. Press graham cracker mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and up the sides to form a pie crust, bake for 5 minutes.  
  4. Using a mixer, add ricotta a third at a time and blend until smooth.  Gradually mix in 3/4 cup sugar, reserving the remainder.
  5. Add egg yolks, one by one, to mixture until fully combined.  
  6. Then gradually add flour, then vanilla and increase speed slightly to combine well. Set mixture aside.
  7. Beat egg whites with remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  8. Whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form, then gently fold together whipped cream, egg whites and batter until combined.
  9. Pour batter into crust and bake at 325 for one hour, then turn off heat and allow cheesecake to cool in oven for 2 hours. 
  10. Refrigerate overnight and serve.