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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Roast Beef Sandwiches Au Jus with Roasted Leeks

Not really a big fan of roast beef sandwiches, but they can be delicious once in a while.  And last night was, in fact, one of those whiles.

I took out my trusty Le Creuset roasting dish, coated my roast in my standard flavoured olive oil, and then applied a simple spice rub.

The rub was just fennel seeds and black peppercorns, which I milled in my mortar and pestle, until relatively fine.

Freshly coated (rubbed), my roast was looking pretty good already, and it had only been a couple minutes.

You can see the butcher's twine on there still... sometimes I'll take it off, but today I left it on.  There is no steadfast rule to removing the string.  Really it should be considered on a case-by-case basis, I think.  Sometimes the twine is all that holds the cut together, and removing it would just cause a ragged piece of meat to cook unevenly.  In those cases, you should leave the string on just to have a relatively uniform shape to cook evenly.  However, there are times when you'd want to remove the string.  Particularly if you're going to cut the meat up further, or tenderize it, or do any sort of pre-cooking manipulation.

Because I wanted to roast some vegetables in with the meat today, I left the twine on, just to keep it all neat and tidy.  It really isn't a big deal, and is a very simple matter to just snip it off after cooking.

Anyway, I loosely crushed some cloves of garlic and threw them in the pot, spending a minute or three getting them to know the beef.  A little gentle caress there, a tickle on the underbelly, and then all set up for some epic all-night snuggling, the garlic and beef were well acquainted before even getting close to the oven.

I also coarsely chopped some white onion, leaving them quite large really, and the pot soon became un ménage à trois.  

At this point things were getting pretty intimate in there, and so I just quickly tucked some bay leaves in and around the roast, and then shut my eyes and the lid.

Into the oven at a hot 450° for about 10 minutes, the roast and veggies got seared nicely.  When I lifted the lid, things were steamy indeed, so I decided to douse them in a generous splash of red wine to cool off.

They were sufficiently mellow now, and ready to enter the now-cooled-to-375° oven for the long haul.

They didn't really need that long... I was aiming for about medium-rare (roughly 150°) so it was probably in for less than 45 minutes.

While that was roasting, however, I cleaned and cut up some leeks.

The following is one of the ways I learned to prepare leeks.  I plan on detailing another method (for cooking as well as cleaning) in a subsequent post, likely later this week sometime.

So... as with most leek dishes, you only really want to use the white and pale green parts.  So off go the green bits.

I plan on making some leek soup this week, so I actually have a use in mind for the green leaves, but normally it wouldn't be considered wasteful to just discard (compost) them.  My use, you ask?  Stay tuned for my next post.  ;)

Now comes the leek-cleaning.  I've heard horror stories of how hard it is to clean leeks.  I've watches many elaborate videos extolling the lengthy process of ensuring the stalks are fully rinsed and free of sand and dirt.  

It's really not that hard.

In this methodology, and because I am slicing them lengthwise (sort of like matchstick-style, but thicker), this is the way I cleaned them:

Find the naturally occurring slit in the outer-most sheath.  Directly underneath that leaf, is the second sheath.  Gently rotate this leaf around, until its naturally occurring slit is visible, which will then of course expose the third sheath.  Each of the "leaves" in the stalk will have this slit, and will (pretty much faithfully) be at 180° to the ones before and after it.  So, continue to rotate each leaf until all the slits are lined up, and you'll be able to make one nice, clean, slice to cut them in half.  This way keeps them very intact, and easy for uniformly-sized sticks later.  If you're going to just dice or chop your leeks, then this obviously isn't important.

Anyway, this also makes it easy to clean by just rinsing.  What I did was just hold them under the faucet while peeling them backward slightly.  Think of flipping through a booklet.

So once or twice on one side, and then flip it over and do the same on the opposite end, and you're done!  Not a speck of sand left.  And it's cool.

Anyway, after cleaning the leeks, I left them to dry - face down - on some paper towels.  

If you're going to cook vegetables in something oil-based rather than water-based, it is a good idea to get them as dry as possible beforehand.

Anyway, after those dried for about 20 minutes, and right before they were ready to be added to the roasting pot, I sliced them lengthwise and made some oh-so-pretty leek sticks.

About 15 minutes is all they needed in the pot.  I unceremoniously dumped them along the sides, as well as on top of, the roast beef, and then quickly popped the whole thing back into the oven.

15 minutes later, I carefully checked the temperature on my beef saw it was more like medium (it was about 155°) and took it out to rest on a separate plate, covered in tin foil.

This is what the roasting pot looked like without the beef:

Look at all that loveliness coating the sides.  The consummation of all that roasty love, mingling in liquid form  (I wonder at the etymology of consommé now!!!)

Anyway, I took the leeks out, and plated them.

And then came the jus.  For those stubborn anglophones out there, or those who just don't know, 'jus' is literally translated as juice, but in culinary speak it typically refers to a meat reduction sauce.  Basically a really runny, really concentrated, gravy...

So, I added a fair bit of water in order to raise the liquid levels to what I will call "easy-wall-scraping-height".  I think you know to what I am referring - basically I want to be able to whisk the sides of the pot into the liquid.  That is, after all, where most of the flavour is going to be.  Some gentle tilting and tipping of the pot is still needed to immerse the sides to be whisked, but all-in-all I want to make sure I've gotten it all.

It's OK if you add too much water at this point, because you can just cook it off to get it more concentrated.  That is why we use water instead of another type of liquid... water evaporates very easily over high heat.

Anyway, I stirred and whisked for a good 10 minutes, getting all that good stuff off the sides of the pan, and reducing the liquid down by almost half.  Remember that this mixture still has the roasted garlic and onion in it.  I then added a pinch of salt and pepper, and then added another small splash of red wine, and let it cook down just a little more (about five minutes).

At this point, I lightly fried some Italian bread, carved (sliced thinly) the roast beef, and put them together on a plate.  The jus got nicely housed in a medium-sized ramekin.  

Throw some frites on there and it would look almost like authentic pub fare!

The garlic and onion were finally reunited with the beef, and looked on smugly from their vantage on top of the sandwiches - which we decided to serve open-faced just for ease of eating.  The leeks could have also gone on top, but were just as happy to sit on the side.

I finished the whole thing off with a pinch or three of salish salt (smoked grey salt) because I don't like to salt meat until right before eating.  And then it was ready.

In a pub, this would likely NOT be open-faced, and you'd be expected to eat it with your hands; however, it worked very well this way, and with knife-and-fork.

Very rich and beefy... and with a high leftover potential.  
It's rare that I get excited at the prospect of making leftovers... but sometimes you just know you've got some good ideas of what to do, before the day even comes!  Well... simmering the leftover beef in the leftover jus will just be delightful whenever leftover night comes...

However... that is neither here, nor there.  This night's roast beef sandwiches au jus were just plain delicious.