There are many ways to prepare roast beef. Some are more effective for tougher cuts of beef and other ways most effective for choice or prime beef in the best cuts. Degree of doneness is also highly variable, from rare steamship rounds of beef and cuts like medium rare prime rib all the way to the opposite extreme of being drier and well done, or, thoroughly cooked in moisture to develop tenderness, like pot roast. This recipe is intended to produce well done but tender beef roast from cheaper cuts, specifically boneless chuck roasts, or from better cuts like sirloin.
Let’s start with a five pound boneless chuck roast, which has been partially de-fatted (Simply cut off any excess outside fat) and to which cracked peppercorns and coarse sea salt have been rubbed onto both sides. Use Pam® to spray each side generously after the addition of the salt and pepper, to hold the seasonings in place. Put the beef into a large ovenproof skillet that has a well fitting lid. Chop one large onion into small pieces for later use and set it aside.
The general idea is to thoroughly sear both sides of the seasoned roast in a covered skillet on top of the stove on high heat. This takes from two to four minutes per side. The PAM® sprayed on earlier helps the searing process and in turning the meat over to sear the second side. After searing a small amount of water is added (about ½ to ¾ cup) and the covered skillet is put into a 375º F oven. After thirty minutes, the chopped onion is added and mixed with skillet liquids. The roasting continues for one additional hour, with stirring after the second thirty minutes to mix the caramelizing onions with beef drippings and to check that the skillet contents around the beef are not turning too dark. Reduce the heat for the last thirty minutes to 325ºF.
Check the roast beef for doneness. It should be very tender. If not, roast it for an additional thirty minutes, covered. If the skillet contents are becoming too dry then add ¼ to ½ cup of water to keep the drippings from burning/becoming too dark during the final roasting process. Repeat this process as necessary until the beef is very tender. Why the variable roasting times? Meat thickness determines how long it will take to cook through and become tender.
Remove the beef from the skillet to a platter, cover it with aluminum foil and put it into a 200ºF oven. Place the plates you plan to use at dinner into the oven to pre-warm them, along with any serving dishes you will use for cooked vegetables, etc.
Now let’s assume you cooked four very large finely diced russet potatoes in one quart of canned beef broth, boiling on medium heat for ten minutes, to make mashed potatoes to accompany your roast beef. Once the potatoes are cooked the liquid/beef broth is to be poured through a strainer into the skillet used to roast the beef, which also captures the cooked potatoes in the strainer. That method captures the potato starch for the gravy and some amount of vitamins and the beef broth.
Make the mashed potatoes with softened butter, milk, salt and pepper. Mix at medium and then high speed in a large bowl using an electric mixer. For four very large potatoes use ½ stick of butter, ½ tsp. Salt, and ½ tsp. Pepper. Add up to ½ cup milk after thorough mixing, a little at a time while continuing mixing at high speed until you have the desired consistency. Vary the milk as necessary, seeking whipped potatoes that are soft and moist but which also hold their whipped shape well. Too much milk will create a soupy mess. Too little milk will yield mashed potatoes that are too firm and dry. Transfer the finished mashed potatoes to a bowl, cover it and put it into the 200ºF oven with the roast beef.
If you de-fatted/removed the excess fat from the beef prior to roasting you will not have to remove any fat from the skillet before making the gravy. De-glaze the skillet with the potato/beef broth added earlier, which means scrape the skillet bottom gently to unstick the beef drippings so they can be blended well into the broth prior to adding thickeners. Do that blending with a plastic spatula or wooden spoon. Do not have heat on under the skillet.
Prepare a mixture of thickeners to convert the skillet contents into very rich and tasty gravy. Use six tablespoons of flour and two tablespoons of cornstarch in a bowl with one cup of water, adding the water gradually while mixing to produce a smooth thickening sauce.
Add the thickening sauce gradually to the skillet while stirring continuously with a wooden spoon to avoid clumping of the thickeners. Turn on the stovetop heat to high and continue stirring the gravy to keep it uniform in thickness. When the gravy comes to a medium boil it is done. You may choose to strain the gravy or not depending on its consistency … if you have lumps you didn’t mix the thickeners properly or you didn’t stir continuously or you didn’t wait to heat the juices before adding the thickeners … we all must learn from our errors. Transfer the gravy from the skillet into a two-quart bowl directly or through a strainer and place it, covered, into the oven that contains the roast beef platter. Note that it was not necessary to add salt or pepper to the gravy due to pre-seasoning the roast beef prior to searing. Seasoning adjustments can be made by each individual later at the table to suit their wants.
Make whatever other vegetables, salads, etc. that you want to serve with the meal. When they are done serve the entire meal at once … The beef can be pulled apart easily as it will be very tender. The warmed plates and other serving bowls/contents will make the meal even more enjoyable.
The gravy is to die for delicious on the already delicious beef and the mashed potatoes. The secret was the onion, the beef broth from the potatoes and the pre-seasoning of the beef and, of course the searing process.
Yes, I love medium rare prime rib, steaks, etc., but this old fashioned recipe from my childhood creates an equally delicious but very different roast beef from what is typically served today in homes and restaurants. My grandmother Cora and my mother, Dorothy, pleased family and friends many times with this great tasting roast beef dinner. And my children love it. It will go on …