Prune, Peppercorn and Fresh Herb-Rubbed Roast Beef
Start to finish: 2 hours 45 minutes, plus 48 hours to marinate
NO MATTER WHAT IT COSTS, a holiday roast should taste rich. So we challenged ourselves to transform a thrifty, low-cost cut into an impressive meal. The answer was eye round, a roast often deemed too lean to be tender. The cut is taken from the hind leg of a steer, so there’s little marbling, the usual key to keeping meat moist. To roast this tough cut and get succulent, perfectly cooked results, we marinated the meat in ingredients that would do the work for us. We started with a sticky, sweet puree of prunes. That may sound unusual, but prunes are high in hygroscopic sorbitol and fructose, which—along with salt and soy sauce—amplify the way the meat absorbs flavor. The puree also adhered well to the roast, promoting moisture retention and a caramelized crust. Ketchup and anchovies added rich umami, while rosemary, thyme and black pepper- corns provided a familiar holiday backdrop. To boost the marinade’s effect, we poked the roast repeatedly with a fork. And trimming the silver skin and fat from the roast also helped keep it tender. The roast beef tasted best after marinating for 48 hours, but 24 will work, too. Thinly sliced and served with a fresh horseradish sauce, the eye round was as toothsome as beef tenderloin, without the expense.
- 8 ounces pitted prunes (about 1½ cups)
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 3 anchovy fillets
- 5- to 6-pound beef eye round roast, trimmed
- Fresh horseradish sauce, to serve (optional)
For Horseradish Sauce:
- 1 cup sour cream
- ½ cup freshly grated horseradish root (3-inch piece)
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
In a food processor, blend the prunes, soy sauce, ketchup, salt, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and anchovies until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a 2- gallon zip-close bag. Poke the roast all over with a fork, then place in the bag. Turn to coat, then refrigerate for 48 hours.
Heat the oven to 275ºF with a rack in the middle position. Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. Remove the roast from the bag and transfer to the rack. Discard the marinade in the bag and evenly brush any marinade sticking to the roast’s surface. Roast until the meat registers 125ºF, 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours.
Transfer the roast to a carving board, tent loosely with foil and let rest for 30 minutes. Thinly slice and serve with fresh horseradish sauce, if desired.
Don’t check the roast too frequently. A succulent roast relied on even cooking at a low temperature; opening the oven door interrupted that process. Instead, use an oven-safe thermometer to monitor the meat’s temperature during cooking.
Fresh Horseradish Sauce
Start to finish: 5 minutes
Makes about 1½ cups
WE PREFERRED the brightness and intensity of fresh horseradish in this sauce, but prepared horseradish worked well, too. If you use bottled, reduce the vinegar to 1 tablespoon. Look for fresh horseradish root in the produce aisle, often near the fresh ginger. For maximum flavor, peel and finely grate the root with a wand-style grater.
In a bowl, stir together all the ingredients. The sauce can be refrigerated up to 2 days.
Rye-on-Rye Sticky Toffee Pudding
Start to finish: 3½ hours
Makes about 32 halves
TO UPDATE BRITAIN’S sticky toffee pudding—a steamed, too-often bland dessert hidden under a gluey, cloying syrup—we em- ployed a bit of reverse-engineering, starting with the sauce. Instead of the traditional cream, we gave the toffee glaze a taste from home by spiking it with rye whiskey. The whiskey’s spice and heat cut through the sweetness of the dark brown sugar and corn syrup; orange zest added brightness. For the cake it- self, we wanted to mirror the flavor of the rye, so we used a blend of rye and all-purpose flours. Dates that are steeped in coffee, then pureed, gave body. Together, the nutty rye and bitter coffee balanced the cake’s sweetness. To improve the dessert’s presentation, we made it in a Bundt pan. Covering the pan with foil kept the cake rich and moist, similar to a traditional steamed pudding.
For the cake:
- Butter and all-purpose flour, for the pan
- 8 ounces pitted dates (about 1½ cups)
- 1 cup brewed coffee
- 142 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
- 117 grams (¾ cup) rye flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 198 grams (1 cup packed) dark brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) salted butter, melted and cooled slightly
For the toffee sauce:
- 198 grams (1 cup packed) dark brown sugar
- ⅔ cup light corn syrup
- 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons rye whiskey
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled
To make the cake:
Heat the oven to 325ºF with a rack in the middle position. Lightly coat a 12-cup nonstick Bundt pan with butter and flour. In a medium saucepan over
medium-high heat, bring the dates and coffee to a boil. Remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, the baking
powder, salt and baking soda.
Transfer the coffee-date mixture to a food processor, add the sugar and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, vanilla and allspice. Then, with the processor running, add the butter. Pour the date mixture over the flour mixture and whisk gently until thoroughly combined. Transfer to the prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake until firm and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Remove the foil and cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes.
Don’t chop the dates. Their texture was unpleasant in the finished dish. The food processor is the best bet. And be sure to check your dates for pits.
To make the sauce:
While the cake cools, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar, corn syrup, zest and salt. Bring to a boil, then cook until the mixture hits 240ºF, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce to low and add the whiskey, 2 tablespoons at a time, allowing the bubbling to subside before adding more. Whisk in the butter 2 tablespoons at a time until melted and smooth.
Invert the cake onto a serving platter. Brush the top and sides generously with the warm toffee sauce. Slice and serve drizzled with additional sauce. The sauced, cooled cake can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 3 days. Cooled sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. To reheat, wrap the cake in foil and place in a 300ºF oven until warmed. Microwave the sauce until bubbling.
Charred Brussels Sprouts
Start to finish: 25 minutes
A WELL-SEASONED cast-iron pan was key to this recipe. A stainless steel skillet didn’t hold the heat well enough to properly char the sprouts. And to comfortably accommodate the recipe, the pan needed to be at least 12 inches. Tossing the sprouts with oil and honey before cooking pre- vented them from drying out. Large sprouts took too long to cook. Stick with small to medium.
- 1 pound small to medium Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 teaspoons honey
- Kosher salt
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 anchovy fillets, minced
- Red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
In a large bowl, toss the sprouts with 1 tablespoon of oil, 2 teaspoons of honey and ½ teaspoon of salt. Set aside.
In a 12- to 14-inch cast-iron skillet, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, the garlic, anchovies and ¼ teaspoon of pepper flakes. Set over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic begins to color, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape the mixture, including the liquid, into a bowl and set aside.
Return the skillet to high heat. Add the sprouts (reserve the bowl) and use tongs to arrange them cut-side down in a single layer. Cook, without moving, until deeply browned and blackened in spots, 3 to 7 minutes, depending on your skillet. Use the tongs to flip the sprouts cut-side up and cook until charred and just tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
As they finish, return the sprouts to the bowl and toss with the garlic mixture, the remaining 2 teaspoons of honey and the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper flakes.
Don’t omit the anchovies. You may not like them on their own, but as they cook they fade into a rich, salty background flavor.
PHOTO CREDIT: CONNIE MILLER OF CB CREATIVES