A couple of days ago I went to the store feeling more adventurous than usual. Let’s be clear about this: my idea of adventure in the kitchen is making something I’ve never made or never made well, which includes almost the entirety of makeable things. I would be perjured if I said it wouldn’t be an adventure to attempt a dinner of steak and steamed vegetables. Thinking about this now, I feel my pulse quicken. Adventure!
So, when I looked in my refrigerator and found a two-pound roast I went looking for my safari hat. What is this cut of meat? How do I make it edible? How do I make it delicious? All I knew about roasting fit into a single word: slow. What am I supposed to do with that?
Earlier this year as I browsed the shelves at my neighborhood Goodwill bookstore I recognized the title and author of a book: “Let’s Cook it Right” by Adelle Davis. This book has a copyright date of 1947 and it is very hard to find despite being a fantastic resource. It was probably consigned to history because it degrades women or something: “Every woman knows that heat rises and causes a cake to brown more quickly at the top of an oven than at the bottom.”
Anyway, I’m trying to finish this article before the roast is done so I will carry on with the story. I sought Mrs. Davis’ advice on the matter of roasting a roast. “To roast meat means to cook it with dry heat.” Wow, I didn’t know that. She goes on to discuss the mechanics of roasting in contrast with searing, steaming and frying. She teaches about the use of a thermometer and explains the need for a roasting rack.
I don’t have a thermometer or a roasting rack. I can make do without the thermometer (hadn’t mankind roasted things prior to the invention of the oven thermometer?) but I have just learned that a roast done in a pan cannot be said to be roasted. The meat should be brushed (I have no brush) with vegetable oil (I have oil) and set on a rack (I have no rack) where it will drip into a pan (I have pans and/or pan substitutes) but it must not sit in a pool of juice or contact a cooking surface. I guess that means I can’t simply put the roast in a pan.
With the oven pre-heated and the meat oiled, I wondered what I could use for a rack. Doesn’t an oven come with racks? Yeah, they stretch across the space in the oven and support things like cookie sheets. I could put the meat on one rack and the pan on a lower rack. This wouldn’t be good; the racks had not been cleaned and it would be awkward to use them and to clean them afterward. What else could work as a rack?
Coat hangers. Of course that was my first thought: I’d made an egg helicopter out of coat hangers and plastic wrap in the eleventh grade and it won the competition. Anything but coat hangers, please.
Guitar strings. I could suspend the roast in a net of steel wires tied to the rim of a pot. No, I didn’t have enough spare strings for that.
Almost ready to give up and chop the roast into very poor steaks for grilling or frying, I noticed my ample supply of clean silverware. Here was a solution: in a large saucepan, lay the roast across a deep bed of stainless steel forks. Problem solved!
My roast has been in the oven for an hour. It looks and smells wonderful on the outside but its internal temperature is anybody’s guess. I guess the route to tender meat is to turn down the heat and turn up the time. Meanwhile I’ve made a shopping list: roasting rack, oil brush, meat thermometer, oven thermometer, broiling pan, safari hat.