Monday, April 03, 2006


We had a few friends over for dinner Saturday night, and it was a Truly Beefy Evening.

For the Main Event, I decided to make a London Broil. Usually, I’ll grill a flank steak when I’m jonesing for London Broil, but this time I decided to try something different: a Top Round.

Top Round is a cut with a nice, beefy flavor, but you have to work with it to ensure that it doesn’t develop a cast-iron texture or a Funky Pong. Following the recommendations of Cook’s Illustrated, I sprinkled each of my two (count ’em, two) slabs of Top Round with about two teaspoons of salt – one on each side – then wrapped the meat up in plastic wrap and left it to sit in the fridge for a few hours. For the last hour before cooking, I took the meat-slabs, dropped ’em into a Zip-Lock bag, and let them sit in a bucket of 100-degree water (that’s Fahrenheit, not Celsius) for the final hour before grilling. This shortens the cooking time dramatically and improves flavor, while not allowing bacteria to multiply as they would if I were to let the meat warm up by letting it sit out at room temperature.

Meanwhile, I prepared a Sauce Chasseur. Between SWMBO and me, this has been one of our favorites since the early days of our marriage. Here’s all you do:

First, chop up a few shallots and add ’em to a pan in which you’ve melted a tablespoon of butter. Then add two cups of sliced mushrooms, and let the whole mess cook down at medium-high heat for ten minutes, during which time the mushrooms will expel their water. Then add 1/3 cup of dry white wine and let the mixture cook for another few minutes. Dump in a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes. [I drain the tomatoes before throwing them in – you can also use crushed tomatoes if you prefer that texture.] Next, add 1/2 cup of beef stock or broth and 1/2 teaspoon of dried tarragon. Simmer the sauce for five minutes or so, then take two teaspoons of cornstarch or arrowroot, stir it up in a few tablespoons of cold water, and add the mixture to the simmering sauce, stirring well. Set the whole mess on a low burner while you attend to other things. You can double these quantities if you want to make a Heap o’ Sauce...I have found that there can never be too much Sauce Chasseur.

Time to grill the meat. Remove it from the Zip-Lock bag and its plastic wrap, then coat each side with olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper. Set it on a preheated grill on high heat and turn the Mighty Slab every minute until it’s nicely seared. Lower the heat and cook until medium rare, still turning every minute or so. The frequent flipping of the Meat-Slabs keeps the muscle fibers from shrinking unevenly, which would result in a curled-up, unattractive London Broil.

Take the meat off the grill and let it rest about 10 minutes. Carve into thin slices at a 45° angle across the grain and arrange on a platter. Any meat juices that run off during the carving process should be reserved and added to the sauce. Scatter the sliced-up London Broil liberally with freshly chopped parsley and serve it forth, accompanied by the Sauce Chasseur.

For sides, I opted for Mashed Carrots and Parsnips and Steamed Asparagus with Sea Salt and Olive Oil.

The carrots and parsnips are simple. Peel some good-sized carrots and parsnips – about four or five apiece – and cut into chunks. Boil in salted water for 35 minutes, or until tender. Drain and mash, adding two tablespoons of butter and a tablespoon or two of freshly chopped parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. [I find that pulsing the mixture in a food processor a few times yields a texture that’s not too smooth, and yet without unpleasant large chunks.]

Asparagus is versatile. You can grill it: Lair Simon likes to marinate the spears in olive oil, salt, and blackening spices for a couple of days before grilling, whereas I, being lazy, will simply brush ’em with oil immediately beforehand. But this time I went for the steamer. I’ve got one of those asparagus pots that is tall and slender, with a metal basket that fits neatly inside it. I simply trim off the woody bottom part of the stalks, rinse everything, and stick ’em in the basket. There only needs to be enough lightly salted water to cover the bottom inch of the stalks; the upper parts will steam. Once the water boils, five minutes is plenty. I take out the basket and shock the spears by putting them in ice water - this ensures a bright green color. All they need is a drizzle of olive oil or white truffle oil and a scattering of sea salt and they’re good to go, at room temperature or warmed up if you prefer.

A fine old-vine red Zin provided a good counterpoint. Chewy wine, tender beef.

I’ll spare you the agonizing details of the rest of the meal: the Macallan Cask Strength single malt, the smoked salmon and wasabi cream cheese canapés, the bittersweet chocolate mousse. But suffice it to say that there is nothing like a Truly Beefy Evening among friends.

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