The Big One: Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding

Growing up, the one meal that we all looked forward to the most was roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. It wasn’t necessarily the tender beef, or the steamed vegetables with gravy, it certainly wasn’t due to the roasted potatoes (although they are certainly better than mashed!). It was the magic that is Yorkshire pudding. And many, many thanks to my mom, who is a wonderful cook and who taught me how to make this.

To this day, I will still fight with my siblings over the last Yorkshire pudding. In fact, when I made them as a part of our Thanksgiving dinner, my sister and brother-in-law almost came to blows over it. (Well, not really, but if it wasn’t for the ingenuity of a knife and cutting things in half… well, it could have gotten ugly.)

Anyway, to make my family’s classic meal this time, I began with a four pound roast. And as that is an unreasonable amount of meat for Kullervo and I to eat alone, and we’ve been looking for a good excuse to have some friends over for dinner, we invited our next door neighbors over to break some bread with us.

The roast beef that I had was four pounds of butt roast.

Now, if you’re buying a roast from the grocery store to make roast beef, I would suggest getting one that has a lot of fat on one side, because it makes for a delicious gravy. However, that usually isn’t possible with sustainably raised meat, because the fat naturally winds up being less pretty (and easy to remove), and there is also less fat to remove. So, in other words, what you look for at your organic meat market will be different than at your general grocery store.

I lined a baking pan with foil, and then I salted and peppered the roast. I wrapped the roast in foil and placed it in the pan. (If you have a fatty side to your roast, you want to put that side up if possible.) I put the roast in a 325* oven and forgot about it for a few hours.

About an hour later, I began the potatoes. I turned the oven up to 350*, and then I put some vegetable oil in another baking pan and put it in the oven to heat up. Then I peeled the potatoes and cut them in half, lengthwise. Before you put them in the oil, you need to make sure you dry them off really well, because water and hot oil, it turns out, still do not mix. I slid them into the hot oil, flat side down, and then I busied myself with something else for 30 minutes or so.

Next it was time to begin the Yorkshire pudding. I wanted to attempt to make 24, assuming (correctly) that a couple of them wouldn’t turn out for whatever reason (I blame the oven, but you can blame me if you want).

First, I turned the oven to 475*. You want it to be really, really hot. If you are using an electric oven, you will want to cook the Yorkshire pudding on the top rack. In a gas oven, I still cook it on the top, but I don’t know that that’s still necessary.

In a mixing bowl, I measured a cup and a half of flour, and then added some salt. I made a well in the middle with a fork, and then added two eggs. I stirred the eggs in as best as they would, and then I added liquid. Now, my mom makes it with water. This results in an extremely light and airy and crispy Yorkshire pudding. I have experimented throughout the years with using (skim) milk. Using milk gives the Yorkshire pudding a little bit of a thicker consistency, and also speeds up the cooking time. I have determined that a mixture of the two works best. So I slowly added a cup of milk and a cup of water, stirring it in. (Stirring it in this way, helps to ensure that you don’t have any lumps.) Two cups isn’t quite enough liquid, so I added a bit more water until I got it to the right consistency. I like it to be just slightly thicker than water–so, you can tell when you’re stirring it that it’s not water, but just barely. I think this is an extra half cup of water, but I haven’t measured it. I stirred it, and then I let it sit for a few minutes.

I poured some vegetable oil into muffin pans. This is another thing that I have never measured. My mom’s muffin tins are all so well loved that there is a line marked out from years of Yorkshire pudding. Mine are not so well-used that I don’t have to pay attention… so I try to cover the bottom of each muffin hole, but use as little oil as possible beyond that.

Then I put the muffin pans into the oven to heat up while the oven heated up, and I removed the roast. The roast actually winds up out of the oven for awhile–30-45 minutes–but it is still hot when you serve it. It’s like cooking magic (or retained heat). I also took this opportunity to turn over the potatoes to roast the other side. (Note: This picture was actually taken a bit later… I wound up turning these potatoes a couple of times to make sure that they cooked evenly, but this is what you want them to be looking like.)

When the oil was hot (you ideally want them to be almost smoking), I gave the Yorkshire pudding mix a quick stir, and then pulled the muffin pans out of the oven and ladled the mix into each pan. I try to fill them between halfway and two thirds full. They will rise a bit during cooking, and when they overflow it’s sort of a mess. Ideally, the oil will crackle a bit when you pour the mix in. I put the Yorkshire pudding into the oven on the top rack, and kept busy with the rest of dinner. Especially in an electric oven, when the Yorkshire pudding goes in, the oven door needs to stay closed as much as possible. I violate this rule sometimes, but at my own peril. Because I had added the milk, I figured that the Yorkshire pudding would need to cook for 30-45 minutes.

The last 15 minutes of making this meal can be pretty frantic, so I try to eliminate as much of it as possible by doing as much while the Yorkshire pudding is in as possible. I prepared the serving bowls (I try to serve the potatoes and the Yorkshire pudding in bowls lined with paper towels to help remove some of the oil from cooking). I started steaming the vegetables (carrots and broccoli go really well with the meal, as does cauliflower).

I poured off some of the liquid from the roast into a pot, and when the vegetables were cooked, I poured the water that was steaming them into the pot with the beef drippings. I heated that to boiling, and then made a gravy out of it. Now, you can feel free to use whatever method of gravy making you prefer, but I use Bisto. You can usually find it in the grocery store on a British aisle if you have one.

I made Kullervo carve the meat, and I had Oliver help set the table. The roasted potatoes came out of the oven, the Yorkshire pudding came out, and dinner was served.

So, how was it?

It was excellent. I enjoyed it, and I think that our company did too. The gravy was a bit too thick, but besides that, it was all really good!


February 14, 2011 at 6:58 pm 5 comments

Curried Lamb Casserole

I was on the phone with my (British) mom, and mentioned that I had a shoulder of lamb from my CSA, and asked if she had any good ideas about how I should cook it. She gave me the following recipe.

I chopped up onions (about 1 and a half small-to-mediumish sized), and tomatoes (3 roma), and cut the lamb into bite sized pieces. I also cut as much fat off of the lamb as I could. It was about a pound of meat to start with, and if I was to make this again, I’d probably want about two pounds.

I layered them in a casserole dish by putting half the meat on the bottom (I didn’t brown it first), then onions over it, and then generously sprinkled curry over the onions. I put tomatoes on top of that, and then layered them all a second time, using curry over the onions again.

I cooked it at 350* for about an hour.

And then I served it over/with rice.

I served mine next to the rice for two reasons. First, food really shouldn’t touch. Second, I was worried that I wouldn’t like it with all the curry in it, so I wanted to at least have something I would eat–the rice.

So, how was it?
It was really good. I was surprised. I can usually be counted on to not like exotic tasting things, and curry is exotic (to me).

The only things I would have changed would be to use more lamb, and to salt the lamb before I put it in. I didn’t, because my mom’s theory is that you can always add salt to taste after it’s cooked. But I think that cooking meat with salt gives it more cooked flavor, and so I should have salted it to start with, and then added more if it was necessary for the onions and tomatoes after it was cooked.

It was a really easy dish to prepare, very simple, but not unattractive, and surprisingly good. I will make it agai, I’m sure.

February 11, 2011 at 4:41 pm 4 comments

Rhubarb Crumble – A Second Attempt

After writing about making rhubarb crumble, and my general disappointment with it, my cousin let me know that one of her favorite desserts growing up was rhubarb crumble. And she had my aunt send me the family recipe for it… and we tried it out!

And before I go any further, I just want to say that it is amazing and delicious and you should go buy rhubarb and make it right now.

Anyway, I started with two pounds of rhubarb. It sounds like a lot, and looks like a lot, but it tastes so good!

I washed and cut it and put it into a casserole dish.

The recipe calls for a total of 3/4 of a cup of sugar. I sprinkled half of that over the rhubarb, and then drizzled two tablespoons over water over it all.

In a mixing bowl, I made Kullervo cut 6 tablespoons of butter (my aunt said unsalted, but I don’t believe in unsalted butter, so I used salted) into a cup and a half of flour. I mixed the rest of the sugar into the flour mixture, and covered the rhubarb with it, patting it down well.

I baked it in the oven at 375* for about 40 minutes, and then regularly checked it for doneness. It’s supposed to cook until the top is crispy and golden, but for some reason that never seems to happen in my oven, so I took it out when it looked like this.

Let it cool a bit before serving, and serve with custard or vanilla ice cream or evaporated milk. We had it with vanilla ice cream. And it was heavenly.

Many, many thanks to my beautiful cousin and my wonderful Auntie W.

February 11, 2011 at 3:56 pm 1 comment

Trout Fried in Oats

So, from the get-go, I’m going to own that I totally did this dinner all wrong. I was making trout fried in oatmeal… and didn’t even consider that maybe I was supposed to make oatmeal, and not just use oats. (What? Oatmeal cookies don’t require you to cook the darned oats first!) I decided to serve them with braised parsnips because braising is cool and Kullervo loves parsnips (and I love the word!).

The ingredients:

I had three trout, which I washed and then dried with a paper towel, and then sprinkled with salt.

I cracked an egg in a bowl and beat it, and in another bowl I mixed a half cup of oats with salt and pepper.

I dipped the trout into the egg and then rolled it around in the oats until it was as covered as oats are going to cover eggy trout.

I melted a couple of tablespoons of lard in my cast iron skillet, and then tossed the trout in there and cooked each side for 2-3 minutes.

When they were finished, I put them onto a paper towel to get rid of any extra fat hanging on, and then I put a little square of butter on each of them for extra deliciousness’s sake.

While this was going on, I also braised parsnips. I had Kullervo peel a pound of parsnips (note: fatter parsnips are much better for this than skinny ones!), and then use the peeler to slice the parsnips into super-thin slices. Here’s a super blurry picture of it:

I heated a couple of tablespoons of oil in a pan, and mixed in half a cup of my homemade chicken stock, and a little bit of yellow mustard (about a teaspoon). When they were hot, I added the parsnips and sauteed them for 4 minutes, stirring and flipping them a bunch.

Then, just like that, with only about 10 minutes of work (15 if you count the fact that I made Kullervo peel the parsnips), dinner was served!

So, how was it?

Trout is a generally inoffensive fish–it doesn’t have a really strong smell when it’s cooked, which makes it perfect for me. The oats were slightly crunchy… which of course would be avoided if I had used half a cup of oatmeal instead of oats… The parsnips were delicious, and the hint of the mustard flavor was surprisingly nice. The parsnips went well with the trout, I thought. My only complaint about them was that they were a bit greasy–going back, I might use a bit less oil to cook them in, or toss them into a paper towel to sort of clean them off before serving them.

I would (and will) definitely make this again, and even try with using oatmeal. Although, I will say, the oats weren’t bad and if you didn’t have time to make oatmeal, they work. If you could grind them up a bit so they weren’t so big, they would probably stick on a little better and make more of a batter-y outside.

February 9, 2011 at 5:23 am 2 comments

Rhubarb Crumble

Ahhh rhubarb. Red celery with a tart taste. We had to go to Whole Foods to find it, and Hazel was delighted. She walked around the store holding two stalks of red treasure.

I don’t remember if I had ever had rhubarb before this, but I was eager to finally try cooking a British dessert!

First, I took a cup and a half each of flour and brown sugar and put them into a bowl.

Next, I took a stick of butter. (Yay! Butter!!!!)

I cut the butter into small pieces (really, the smaller the better here, trust me!). I rubbed the butter into the brown sugar and flour mixture until it was the consistency of breadcrumbs.

Next, I moved onto the rhubarb. I washed it and cut it into pieces. I wanted them to be small enough that you could get a few into your mouth at one time, but not, like, pureed or anything crazy like that. I also tasted rhubarb for the first time at this point, and I have to admit–without sugar to sweeten it, it’s very mouth-puckery.

I put the rhubarb at the bottom of a pie pan, and poured a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, half a teaspoon of cinnamon, and half a cup of sugar over it.

Then I put the sugar/butter/flour crumbs on top of it, pushing it down to seal out any of the rhubarb stuff. It seemed like there was an awful lot of it–I didn’t use it all and still felt like I was dealing with a mountain of crumble on top. I baked it at 300* until the rhubarb started to bubble up around the edges.

So, how was it?

Well, it was really really sweet. Like, hurts your face sweet and leaves a sort of gross taste in your mouth sweet. I served mine hot with ice cream, and the ice cream tempered it well, I thought. You could also serve it with custard or whipped cream (although I might suggest going for a non-sweet whipped cream).

Overall, I just didn’t love it. It was fun to try, and it was quite pretty with the intense red of the rhubarb. If I did make it again, I’d probably use less sugar and less crumble on top. Or maybe using light brown sugar instead of dark brown sugar would have helped it.

February 7, 2011 at 1:50 am 3 comments

Bacon Fraize

What’s fraize? It sounds French, so why is it in an English cookbook? Yeah, I don’t know, but anything that has bacon in it and is supposed to be like pancakes is good enough for me.

So, I took some bacon and cut it up into pieces.

I fried it. And when it was almost cooked, I took it out.

I mixed up some flour, an egg, and some milk and salt in a bowl. Then I put some of the bacon back into the pan, and poured some of the flour mixture over it, letting it spread out over the pan.

When that side was flippable, I flipped it and cooked the other side.

When it was done, I folded it in half, and cooked another. When they were all done, we ate them, along with our regular Saturday morning pancakes.

Personally, I preferred regular pancakes. I’d rather have pancakes with bacon on the side than mix them up. (But I’m also a ‘don’t let anything touch!’ person when it comes to food.)

It is nice, though, because Kullervo really likes a hot breakfast, but having something somewhat substantial is better than not, and plain pancakes are not substantial. But bacon and eggs? Win! And it’s a variation on other ways of having it, providing him with variety for breakfast, but not a huge time commitment to make it.

February 5, 2011 at 9:48 am 3 comments

Creamed Finnan Haddie

If it wasn’t obvious from the name, this is good ol’ Scottish food. It is supposed to be made with smoked haddock, but all I could find was smoked whiting, and decided that Kullervo would never know the difference.

I have a couple of rules about cooking with fish. After making Kullervo something with shrimp that I, by myself, beheaded, deveined, and amputed, and couldn’t get the shrimpy smell off of my hands for days at a time… I decided that I was not going to do that part ever, ever again. I spent an hour that night gagging, because taking a sea-bug’s legs off is gross at best and seems awfully cruel at worst. If Kullervo wants to eat disgusting sealife, he can. But I take minimal part in the gross aspects of preparing it.

Anyway, I took a pound of smoked whiting (which, because it was smoked, didn’t smell as bad as it could have) and cut it into bite-sized pieces.

This all went into my trusty cast-iron pan with half a chopped onion, some peppercorns, a cup of milk, lemon juice, and parsley. I covered the pan and poached the fish for about 10 minutes.

I put the fish pieces on a plate and handed it over to Kullervo to skin and bone. Here’s the outcome of his efforts.

The fish, after the gross parts were removed

The gross parts

I served it with parsley sauce (which is a basic white sauce with parsley, chicken stock and lemon), and a few slices of toasted sourdough bread.

I probably should have taken a picture after Kullervo mixed the parsley sauce with the fish, but I think that by that time we were ready to begin a brutal game of backgammon. Plus, after dealing with fish in the morning… I needed some coffee.

February 4, 2011 at 4:16 pm 1 comment

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