Roasting

Roasting

By
Justin North
Contains
6 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781740665377
Photographer
Steve Brown

There are few sights to rival a gloriously bronzed roast emerging from the oven in a cloud of savoury steam.

From a humble chicken to a magnificent rib of beef, roast meats are the meal of choice to celebrate festive occasions, holidays, birthdays – or even just the traditional day of rest.

Roasting is one of the simplest culinary techniques in the French kitchen. Strictly speaking, it’s a method of cooking a piece of meat – or poultry or fish – by exposing it to a naked flame (which we call spit-roasting) or to the radiant heat of an oven. These days spit-roasting tends to be seen as a bit of a fun gimmick for parties and most discussion of modern roasting centres on oven-roasting.

This is one of the most fundamental skills learned by apprentice chefs and really hinges upon an understanding of timing and temperature, rather than any complex techniques. These factors depend upon the weight of the meat and how well cooked you want it to be. But irrespective, you should always make sure the meat is at room temperature before you start cooking. If the meat is cold it will take longer to cook and will tend to steam, rather than roast. It’s also essential to preheat your oven to the appropriate temperature.

The meat should be well seasoned with salt and pepper and set on a rack or trivet in your roasting pan. This makes it easy to spoon the roasting juices back onto the meat as it cooks, a technique known as basting, which helps keep it moist.

One of the characteristics of this method of cooking is the high temperature. The French approach starts the meat off in a blast of high heat. This method causes the inherent sugars to caramelise and the surface of the meat to brown, and that’s what makes it so tasty. After around 15–20 minutes the temperature is reduced for the remainder of the cooking time.

Assessing when the meat is done is perhaps the trickiest thing for the home cook. A meat thermometer certainly takes most of the guesswork out of assessing when it is done, but you can also do what we chefs do: insert a giant skewer right to the centre of the meat, or to the thickest part of a bird’s thigh, and leave it for 20 seconds. Remove it and hold it to the back of your hand. If the skewer feels cold, the meat is not yet cooked through to the centre. If it is warm, the meat is rare, if it feels hot it is medium-rare, and if it burns and you end up with a blister it’s well done!

When the meat is cooked to your liking it is very important to allow it to rest before carving. Transfer it to a carving board, cover it loosely with a large piece of foil and leave it in a warm place for 15–20 minutes. I can’t stress how important this resting is: it allows the muscles to relax and all the juices (and the flavour) to settle back down into the meat. Don’t worry about the meat getting cold. As long as you don’t cut into it, and you leave it in a warm spot, it will stay hot inside. And remember, this resting time is the perfect opportunity for you to make the gravy from all the tasty bits of sticky sediment and flavoursome pan juices that have collected in the bottom of the roasting pan.

You need to choose prime-quality cuts for this high-heat method of cooking. When it comes to poultry or game, try to choose free-range, cornfed or organic birds and not battery-farmed birds. The difference in flavour really is worth the extra few dollars.

With beef, fillet (tenderloin) is the most expensive cut, of course, but to my mind it is not as flavoursome as other joints and the softer texture often verges on being mushy. Personally I like a roast that you can really get your teeth into! Top of my list would be rib roasts, as I find that meat cooked on the bone has a wonderful depth of flavour and juiciness. Next, I’d choose rump, rump tip or sirloin, all of which have a good covering of fat and nice internal marbling. And if you want to go all-out, try roasting a piece of Wagyu sirloin, dry-aged for 6 weeks.

Take a similar approach with veal and lamb – roasted leg, loin, sirloin or rump are all outstanding choices. With pork, do make sure you buy from a good butcher and, above all, avoid the flabby, lean-bred, mass-produced supermarket pork. Thankfully rare-breed and organic pork is making a bit of a comeback – and with it, flavour returns to the Sunday roast!

Recipes in this Chapter

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