What are some of the foods you always prepare for the holidays? If you are a blogger, please consider sharing some of your recipes.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
How to Face the Holidays – Part II (Spiced Beef)
Yesterday I posted the Country Christmas Cake recipe from Laurie Colwin’s book, More Home Cooking. Today I’m sharing her other Christmas recipe for Spiced Beef. The following is quoted directly from the section of the book entitled How to Face the Holidays:
And now to the spiced beef. Like all of Elizabeth David’s recipes, this one is perfectly expressed, perfectly correct, and perfectly delicious. The fact that I produced this rather magnificent thing shocked even me. My mother was also extremely impressed, as were the six friends who gathered on Christmas day and ate every scrap of the beef, which was cut paper thin.
This recipe is another example of something that takes just a few minutes’ work and pays you back a million times for your meager efforts. That is my idea of heaven: a huge payoff for not too much work.
For Spiced Beef, go to the butcher and get the leanest 6 pounds of bottom round he has. Some supermarkets sell what is called “natural beef,” which is grass-fed, slaughtered young, and tested for pesticide residues. If you can find this, or any organic beef, get it.
Take the beef home, put it in a crock with a cover, rub it all over with ½ cup dark brown sugar, and chill it. Rub it with the sugar once a day for two days. Then crush together 1 cup coarse sea salt and ½ cup each of black peppercorns, juniper berries, and allspice. Rub the meat with this mixture. Continue to chill it, rubbing and turning it for 10 days. This whole operation takes about 10 seconds per day.
When you are about to cook the beef, wipe off the spices (or keep some of them on, which makes it more pastramilike) and put it in a casserole into which it just fits. Pour in a cup of water, put a piece of wax paper under the lid, and roast the meat at 290 degrees F. for 5 hours.
Leave the beef to cool in the juice. Then take it out, wrap it in max paper, and put it on a board. Put another board on top of it, weight it with about 5 pounds (cans will do nicely), and chill it overnight. The beef will pack down and can be sliced thin enough to see through. It has, according to Elizabeth David, “a rich, mellow, spicy flavor which does seem to convey to us some sort of idea of the food eaten by our forbears.”
The following concluding paragraph in the article refers to both the recipe above and the Country Christmas Cake recipe yesterday:
These two delicacies have that profound, original, homemade taste that cannot be replicated, no matter what you spend. They make the person who made them feel ennobled. After all, it is holiday time. Aren't we meant to draw together and express our good feelings for one another? What could be better than to offer something so elementally, so wholesomely down-home and yet elegant? And both go a long way: You can feed a lot of loved ones with them.
So this is my way around the holidays. If I did nothing else, I would still make this cake and spiced beef and fill my head with visions of candles and pine boughs. The sun goes down at four o’clock, the air is damp and chill, but in the pantry my cake is mellowing, and soon I will spice my beef as centuries of people have done before me.
Even if you don’t make the cake or the beef for the holidays, I hope you have enjoyed reading about them.
I plan to make both recipes because, like Colwin, it’s my way around the frenzy of the holidays and also fondly remembering the time when people gave as gifts jars of homemade jam and knitted mittens.