I will rarely slavishly follow a recipe’s directions — it’s just not my style, too fussy and doesn’t feel me — but in the case of a big, British, uber-traditional roast beef, I knew had to get it right.
It all began on a recent trip to NYC, where we bought a used copy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s weighty tome The River Cottage Meat Book. It’s not perfect — his long-winded rhetoric could definitely use a judicious round of heavy editing — but there are some gems buried in all of the redundant technical chatter. For one, he presents a near-flawless argument for dry-aging meat, and his menu for roast beef looked particularly tantalizing (admittedly because of all of the tasty side dishes, including my favorite: Yorkshire pudding).
So, we decided to do it. Exactly by the book. (One link to the recipe can be found here). And after plenty of research, we decided to buy a hefty five pound roast — dry-aged no less than 30 days — from La Jolla’s butcher, Homegrown Meats. It wasn’t cheap (I’ll spare you the knowledge of just how much it cost), but the rich, deeply concentrated flavor of grass-fed, dry-aged beef is utterly indescribable. As a once-in-a-lifetime thing, it’s worth doing.
Naturally, I was in charge of the Yorkshire pudding (surprisingly easy, and results astonishingly moist) laced with glistening roast beef drippings, pan-fried leeks with shards of kale, buttered peas with torn mint, and hand-folded horseradish cream (made with creme fraiche and fresh horseradish root, be super careful when you shave it up, it cleared my sinuses rather furiously). I also made a quick appetizer of mashed potato croquettes (in homemade breadcrumbs with parsley), which was pared with Adam’s sauteed lobster tail. On his part, Adam was in charge of the wine (definitely the most important task), sauteed mushrooms, thick red wine gravy, as well as jointly keeping an eye on the roast.
British food, in my opinion, is not one of the world’s…. greatest cuisines, but this meal — so quintessentially English in nature — happens to be one of my very favorites.