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Clean Up Your Act (Roast Beef and Port Wine Sauce for Two)

May 29, 2014

Eye of the round: the hardest working cut of beef. Tasty, and a bit tough if overcooked. Precisely what we’re not doing today. Let’s get the boring nitty-gritty out of the way first. Many of our government- and industry-backed suggested internal cooking temperatures for all meats are just too high (editor’s note – we recommend that you still should take care and follow suggested minimum cooking temperatures – but if do you choose to follow the recipe below, please know that you do so at your own risk!).

Historically, these temperatures were needed to kill harmful parasites, spores and bacteria that were part and parcel of the livestock yards and the slaughtering processes. Trichinosis in US-raised pigs had been eradicated many decades before cooks would even consider cooking pork to anything less than well done, and many of the diseases attributed to undercooked beef are actually caused by improper handling and not systemic infections. Poultry suffers from the same predicament: it’s not what’s in the meat, it’s what ends up on the meat during slaughtering and packaging. If we know where the danger lies, we can avoid it, or mitigate its presence altogether, because overcooking meat, and eye of the round specifically, is ruinous at best.

First off: wash your cutting boards, wood or otherwise, with HOT water and dish soap. Soap is a surfactant, not a disinfectant. The difference? Surfactants are slippery. Food particles and other unpleasantries slide off the board when it’s rinsed. Cutting boards that are not wood can go through your dishwasher which uses much higher water temperatures and bleach, a disinfectant, to clean your dishes, pots and pans. Contrary to popular belief, wood boards are no more likely to transmit bacteria to your raw foods so long as they are washed after each use. Wooden cutting boards are terrible surfaces for bacterial growth, and recent published tests to this effect have bore these truths out. There’s a reason that Petri dishes do not use wooden disks as growth media.

Second: rinse whole cuts of meat under cold water to remove surface contaminants and pat them dry with paper towels. The recent headlines warning of the “dangers” of rinsing raw poultry so as not to splash possible contaminants onto your counter are as absurd as suggesting you not wash your hands for fear of accomplishing the same. If you’ve had a jolly old time of it and gotten water all over your countertop, washing the counter with soap and hot water will clean up the mess. It also stands to reason that you wouldn’t rinse your chicken breasts or other raw meat with other food in the sink or within water splashing proximity.

Last: keep your raw foods separated from each other. Vegetables might be barely cooked, if at all, whereas cuts of beef can be seared at high temperatures for a short amount of time. Pork is best cooked somewhere between medium rare and medium, while poultry should be cooked until it is no longer pink in the middle. Overcooking dries out and toughens even the best cuts of meat, so diligence is a priority. Problem particles like E. coli reside on the surfaces of the meat and are killed within seconds, if not immediately, when searing heat is applied. Of course ground meats are different since every single shred is an entire surface, and bacteria and other contaminants can be on any of those surfaces.

Speaking of searing, these outrageously thick cuts of meat sear for 5 minutes on the first side, and then a short range of cook times on the second for differing doneness. Of course, grill temperatures vary, and slightly thinner cuts will cook more quickly. We’ll use the rule of thumb for these roasts. With your hand open and relaxed, squeeze the fleshy chunk of meat where your thumb attaches to your palm. Unless you are a body builder, this resistance is pretty much “rare.” Touch your thumb and pointer finger of the same hand together. If you squeeze the fleshy chunk, this resistance is “medium rare.” Thumb to middle finger: medium. Thumb to ring finger: medium well. Thumb to pinky: well done. After you turn your roasts over, three minutes on the second side should result in a nicely rare roast. Four minutes for medium rare. Five for medium and so on, although it is highly recommended that this roast not be cooked beyond medium rare for the proper texture. Gently squeeze the roasts after the first 3 minutes to see where they correspond to the “doneness” gauge you just performed on your hand. As always, a short rest allows the extreme heat on the surface to penetrate a bit farther into your roast. On a large piece of meat, this carry over cooking can significantly alter the doneness, so roast accordingly.

Food safety isn’t mysterious or difficult. It’s certainly not impossible to keep food-borne illnesses out of your kitchen. And it doesn’t take a different cutting board for every different kind of meat and vegetable. Household dish detergents work perfectly for cleaning boards and surfaces, and proper cooking ensures the most stubborn disease hangers-on are toast, literally.

Roast Beef and Port Wine Sauce for Two

  •  1 2-inch thick eye of the round roast, either cut from a whole eye of the round, or purchased at the meat counter
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper
  • kosher salt

Turn on your gas grill, or light your charcoal grill. Liberally season the roast with salt on both sides. Place the pepper on a salad plate and press both sides of the roast into the pepper, coating both sides evenly. Let the roast rest at room temperature until you are done with the port wine sauce.

Port Wine Sauce

  • 1½ cups tawny port
  • 2 large shallots, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp digon mustard
  • 1 tbsp butter, very soft
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Mix the mustard, butter and flour in a small bowl and set aside. In a 1-quart saucepan, simmer the shallots and port until the liquid has reduced to a cup, about 10 minutes. Strain the shallots out of the port and return the port to the pan. Whisk in the mustard mixture and bring the port-mustard mixture back to simmering, stirring continuously. After the sauce thickens, remove it from the heat and stir in the vinegar.

Grill the roast on high for 5 minutes on the first side. Turn the roast over and grill for 3-5 minutes on the second side depending on your desired doneness. Allow the roast to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing.

Slice the roast in thin slices. Serve with the warm port wine sauce on the side

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