Boast Roast for Sunday Lunch, A French Tradition

Cooking, Recipes By Feb 16, 2012

In France, families gather at mother’s or grandmother’s house on Sunday for a traditional midday meal.

Part of the pleasure, especially for the host or hostess, is that guests and family arrive with contributions to the meal. And, most often, those offerings aren’t cooked at home. They’re purchased along the way. Upscale takeout is nothing new in France.

Ride the Metro (the Parisian subway) late on a crowded Sunday morning, and you’ll see passengers juggling fancy to-go boxes tied with ribbons or string. Small fabric shopping bags bulge with cheeses wrapped in thick paper. They’re off to Sunday lunch en famille.

Americanized versions of a French Sunday lunch can be the source of great joy.

In a French home, there can be four or five courses, but I’m content with a buffet-style meal, plus dessert. I prepare the roasted meat and the salad and rely on friends and family to provide the rest.

A Sunday roast brings back so many fond childhood memories for me, happy gatherings with well-seared roasts as the menu’s centerpiece. Experience tells me that the smell of roasting meat and the pan juices that form around it, whet appetites long before the meal is served.

“All About Roasting” by Molly Stevens (W.W. Norton, $35) is a new cookbook that demystifies the art of roasting meat. It offers well-detailed recipes that produce roasts with perfectly caramelized exteriors and juicy interiors. Here’s a taste of some of my favorites, so far, including a very tasty way to roast inexpensive chicken drumsticks. I can’t wait to test many more recipes from this informative book, and get some meat-juice splotches on its pristine pages.

One steadfast tip to ensure meat cookery success: buy an instant-read thermometer.

Pork tenderloin is a lean cut that lends itself well to filling with flavorful stuffing before roasting. For this roulade (from the French word rouler which means “to roll”), the tenderloin is cut lengthwise, almost in half, opened like a book and pounded until thin. Once stuffed it is rolled like a jellyroll, tied and roasted. I like the fact that the meat can be stuffed and rolled several hours in advance and refrigerated, then pan seared and roasted for 18 to 24 minutes.

Pork Tenderloin Roulade with Fig-Cherry Stuffing
Yield: 4 servings
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onions or shallots
Kosher salt
1/4 cup coarsely chopped (about 1/2 inch) dried figs
2 tablespoons finely chopped dried tart cherries
1/4 cup ruby port
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ounce prosciutto, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 pork tenderloin (1 to 1 1/4 pounds), trimmed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons ruby port
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 to 2 tablespoons crème fraiche or heavy whipping cream
1. Position oven rack to center; preheat to 325 degrees. If you are stuffing and rolling the pork in advance, wait to heat the oven 30 minutes before roasting.
2. For stuffing: Heat butter in small skillet over medium heat. Add onions and pinch of salt; cook, stirring frequently until onions, soften, about 6 minutes. Add figs, cherries, port, rosemary and bay leaf. Lower heat to gently simmer until fruit is soft, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to vigorous simmer and simmer until most of liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Add zest and several grinds of pepper. Set aside to cool. When cool, remove bay leaf and stir in prosciutto. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
3. Butterfly and stuff pork: Cut tenderloin lengthwise in half, stopping about 1/2 inch before it is cut into 2 pieces. Open it like a book and cover with plastic wrap. Pound with mallet or bottom of sturdy saucepan until meat is about 1/4- to 1/3-inch thick. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Spread stuffing evenly over pork, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border on the long side farthest from you. Starting with the long side closest to you, roll into a snug tube shape. Secure with cotton string is several places.
4. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil, tilting pan to cover surface. Add pork, seam side up. Brown, turning with tongs to brown all but one side (the side with the seam), about a total of 8 minutes. Turn seam-side down and place in oven. Roast, turning after 10 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted at the thickest point reaches 145 degrees, 18 to 24 minutes. Careful, the handle will be hot. Transfer pork, seam side down, to cutting board, preferably one with a trough.
5. Prepare sauce: Off heat, add butter to skillet. Holding handle with potholder, tilt skillet to distribute butter. Return to medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring a few times, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add port, scraping the bottom of skillet to dissolve any drippings (and any bits of stuffing) and cook until almost evaporated, about 1 minute. Add broth and any juices from the cutting board and simmer vigorously until reduced by a little more than half, about 4 minutes. Add crème fraiche or cream; simmer for a minute or so. Taste and season as needed.
6. Cut pork into 1/2-inch thick slices (if blade tears meat, use a serrated knife), snipping strings as you go. Stir any juices that are released into the sauce. Arrange 2 to 4 slices on each plate and spoon sauce over meat. Pass any remaining sauce at the table.
Nutrition information (per serving): 390 calories, 55 percent of calories from fat, 24 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 70 mg cholesterol, 22 g carbohydrates, 21 g protein, 356 mg sodium, 2.1
Source: adapted from “All About Roasting” by Molly Stevens (W.W. Norton, $35)

“Authentic tandoori chicken takes its name from a tandoor, an enormous cylindrical clay pot used in Indian cooking,” writes Molly Stevens. “The ‘oven’ is heated by a layer of hot coals on the bottom of the pot and skewers of poultry or meat are then suspended above the coals to roast. The combination of the very hot dry air and the heated clay gives the foods cooked in a tandoor a distinctive earthy character. Even without a tandoor at home, you can come deliciously close to the real thing by starting with a traditional yogurt-based tandoori marinade, roasting at a high temperature, and serving the chicken on a bed of charred onions with fresh cilantro and lime.”

Tandoori-Style Roasted Chicken Legs
Yield: 6 servings
2 1/2 pounds bone-in, preferably skinless, chicken drumsticks, thighs, or a combination of both
1/2 cup plain yogurt, whole milk or low-fat
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger (from a 1- to 1 1/2-inch piece)
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon garam masala, see cook’s notes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika, sweet or hot
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Roasting and serving:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided use
1 large white onion (about 12 ounces)
1 tablespoon peanut oil or canola oil
Kosher salt
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges
Cook’s notes: Garam masala is a spice blend that can include cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and cloves. It is now available in many supermarkets in the spice section.
1. Marinate chicken: Cut diagonal slashes, about 1/2-inch deep into fleshy parts of one side of the drumsticks (or thighs, if using). Make 3 to 4 slashes in each piece, about 1 inch apart. Place chicken in  zipper-style plastic bag. In small bowl, combine yogurt, garlic, ginger, lime juice, cumin, garam masala, salt, paprika and cayenne. Toss chicken with marinade, massaging the pieces so that the marinade gets into the slits and evenly covers all surfaces. Refrigerate sealed bag 4 to 6 hours.
2. Position oven rack to center and heat oven to 500 degrees (475 degrees convection). Let chicken sit at room temperature as oven heats (30 minutes).
3. Roasting: Arrange chicken pieces (with the side up that would have had the skin on it) 2 inches apart on broiler pan or on a wire rack set above a heavy duty rimmed baking sheet, leaving on as much of the marinade as possible. You can scrape any extra marinade onto chicken, as long as it doesn’t puddle up on the pan; it will cook down and make a sort of crust on the chicken as it roasts. Drizzle top of chicken with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. Roast, flipping the chicken after about 10 minutes and drizzling with another tablespoon of butter. (Start the onions at this point, see Step #4.) Continue roasting until tender and cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes total. The best doneness test is to cut into a pieces with a paring knife to see that it’s cooked throughout and the meat pulls away from the bone easily ( 180 to 190 degrees – not touching bone – on instant-read thermometer).
4. Charred onions: Cut onion in half lengthwise and trim ends, cutting the base at an angle to remove the root end. Slice each half crosswise into 1/4-inch half-moons. With your fingers, separate the half-moons into shreds. Heat a heavy 8- or 9-inch skillet (cast iron preferred, not nonstick) over high heat until very hot, about 2 minutes. Add oil and immediately swirl the pan to distribute oil and add onions. Do not stir until onions begin to color, then add a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally until charred in spots and slightly softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer to warm serving platter and cover with foil.
5. Place chicken on serving platter, nestling the pieces among the onions. Drizzle the remaining butter on top, sprinkle with cilantro, and arrange lime wedges around the edges. Cover with foil and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
Nutrition information (per serving): 350 calories, 40 percent of calories from fat, 15 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 85 mg cholesterol, 18 g carbohydrates, 21 g protein, 420 mg sodium, 2.5 g fiber
Source: adapted from “All About Roasting” by Molly Stevens (W.W. Norton, $35)

In my childhood home, we had a leg of lamb two Sundays a month. I loved those Sundays. This recipe studs the meat with little “bouquets” made of rosemary sprigs, slivered garlic and anchovies. Don’t be put off by the anchovies; they taste delicious, offering just-right saltiness. Plan ahead when making this version because it tastes best if it is seasoned 1 to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator to let the flavors meld.

Roast Leg of Lamb with Anchovy, Rosemary, Garlic and Piment d’Espelette
Yield: 8 to 10
1 whole bone-in leg of lamb, 7 to 8 pounds, preferably with hip bone removed, with 1/8-inch layer of fat, see cook’s notes
5 large garlic cloves, peeled, cut into thin slivers
4 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry and cut into 20 little pieces
4 leafy sprigs rosemary, cut into twenty pieces
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons piment d’Espelette, see cook’s notes
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
Cook’s notes: My local supermarket rarely carries legs of lamb. I guess it is because it is so darn expensive. Markets such as Whole Foods, Bristol Farms and Gelson’s have them. I tested the recipe using a smaller bone-in leg for this recipe, one that is severed at the knee, weighing only a little less than 4 pounds. I use 2/3 of the amount of garlic, anchovy, rosemary and salt, and reduced the roasting time by about 25 minutes (roasting it only 48 minutes after turning the oven temperature down). Yes, my guests will get smaller servings, but I make up for it by providing loads of vegetables.
Piment d’Espelette is a brick-red powder made from chilies from the town of Espelette in the Basque region of France. It is milder than cayenne; its light heat is nuanced with sweetness. It is available at Savory Spice Shop in Corona del Mar (928 Avocado Avenue), or from several sources online. If you prefer, substitute hot paprika (not smoked paprika).
1. Using the tip of a paring knife, make 20 small holes on all sides of lamb. Stuff each hole with a slicer of garlic, a bit of anchovy and a small sprig of rosemary, leaving the tips of the rosemary sticking out. (It may help to gather the seasonings into a little “bouquet” and use the point of the knife to tuck a “bouquet” into each hole.) Season surface with salt and piment d’Espelette. Set in a large baking dish and refrigerate, uncovered or loosely covered, for 1 to 2 days. Let lamb come to room temperature for about 2 hours before roasting.
2. Arrange oven rack in the lower third of oven and  heat to 450 degrees (425 degrees convection).
3. Roasting: Rub surface with olive oil. Place lamb with the rounder, meatier side up in roasting pan just large enough to accommodate it (it’s fine if the top of the shank rests on the edge of the roasting pan.) Roast 25 minutes and then pour wine over lamb. Lower temperature to 325 degrees (300 degrees convection). Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in the meatiest part of the leg reaches 120 to 125 degrees for rare, about 1 hour from the time you lowered the oven heat; or 130 to 135 degrees for medium rare, about 1 1/4 hours.
4. Remove lamb to carving board, preferably one with a trough, to rest for 20 to 35 minutes. Tilt roasting pan and spoon off as much of the clear fat as you can. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the pan drippings (if they are too stuck to the pan to scrape up, add 1/4 cup water to dissolve them). Set aside the pan drippings to drizzle over the carved lamb. Carve and serve drizzled with the pan drippings, or layer the slices in the roasting pan so they soak up the pan juices and serve family style (I really like this soak-in-the-pan approach), from the roasting pan.
Nutritional Information ( per serving) : 410 calories, 53 percent of calories from fat, 24 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, 98 mg cholesterol, 15 g carbohydrates, 33 g protein, 400 mg sodium, 1.9 g fiber
Source: adapted from “All About Roasting” by Molly Stevens (W.W. Norton, $35)

I had to include my super-fast technique for roasting tri-tip. It’s a foolproof technique that gets the delicious job done without much time or trouble. The tri-tip or triangle tip roast is a small muscle off the bottom sirloin. It is a fairly tender cut that contains marbling and has a rich flavor. I never measure the mustard; I just slather it on with a silicone spatula to make a coating that is about 3/8-inch thick; make sure not to contaminate the mustard in the jar. Spoon it into a dish before spreading it on the meat.

Cathy’s Fast Tri-Tip Roast
Yield: 6 servings
1 tri-tip roast
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
Cook’s notes: The tri-tip or triangle tip roast is a small muscle off the bottom sirloin. It is a fairly tender cut that contains marbling and has a rich flavor. Included in the topping for flavor is herbes de Provence, a combination of herbs found in southern France (marjoram, oregano, thyme, and summer savory is the basic idea). Many gourmet shops carry it, as well as some supermarkets, but if you can’t find it, substitute “Italian herbs,” a prepared blend found in most supermarkets.
1. Position oven rack to middle of oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees (preheating is very important for the success of this technique). Trim excess fat from roast. Coat both sides generously with mustard and season with herbes de Provence. Place in a shallow roasting pan and roast in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes for medium rare. (Meat should register 130 to 135 degrees on a meat thermometer when inserted at thickest point.)
2. Remove from oven to cutting surface and allow to rest 10 minutes before slicing. Slice thinly on the diagonal.
Nutrition information (per serving): 380 calories, 54 percent of calories from fat, 23 g fat,  9 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol,  4 g carbohydrates, 41 g protein,  344 mg sodium, 1.9 g fiber

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