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December 12th, 2017

The Kosher Gourmet

Succulent secrets: A brief how-to guide to roasts, the Tuscany way. ( 3 AMAZING, AUTHENTIC RECIPES!)

Domenica Marchetti

By Domenica Marchetti The Washington Post

Published March 1, 2017

Succulent secrets:  A brief how-to guide to roasts, the Tuscany way. ( 3 AMAZING, AUTHENTIC RECIPES!)
During a visit to Florence last summer, I was reminded of just how appealing a roast - beef or veal - can be, thinly sliced and adorned only with pan drippings. My jet-lagged family and I followed my friend Emiko Davies on a hot day in late July as she ducked through a doorway beneath a green-and-white-striped awning. Davies, a longtime resident of the city and author of the cookbook "Florentine: The True Cuisine of Florence".

Although it was barely lunchtime, the place was already packed with a mix of locals and intrepid tourists sitting elbow to elbow at communal tables. The menu, handwritten (in Italian only) on butcher paper and taped to the wall, listed the day's selections. Seeing that we weren't quite ready to face a bloody bistecca, Davies instead ordered several platters of sliced roasts to share, plus traditional sides of roasted potatoes and stewed cannellini beans. The food, like the trattoria itself, was no-frills: no special sauces, no fancy garnishes, no clever twists on classics. But it was genuine, and really, really good. Especially those roasts, all juicy and tender and succulent - just what you want a good roast to be. We polished them off.

A few days later, another roast stole the show. This one, a turkey breast, was the centerpiece of a luncheon prepared by my friend Giulia Scarpaleggia, a food writer who shares recipes and snippets of life in the Tuscan countryside on her blog, Juls' Kitchen. She served it sliced and cold, with a tonnato (tuna and mayonnaise) sauce on the side. Even without the dollop of sauce, the turkey was tender and rich, with meaty flavor.

Weeks after we had returned home and gone back to our usual habit of grilling steaks and chops, I was still thinking about those roasts. With winter in full swing, I decided it was time to crack the code on how to make them.

Simply prepared roasts have a long history in Tuscan cuisine. "Rosbiffe," the Italian adaptation of roast beef, is a more recent import, arriving in the 1800s with a large British expatriate community that settled in Florence. Pellegrino Artusi, author of the famous 19th century cookbook "La scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangiar bene" ("Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well"), lived in Florence for most of his life and devoted an entire chapter to roasts. "Roasting preserves the nutritional qualities of meat better than any other method of cooking, and the meat is also easier to digest," Artusi wrote.

The success of a roast depends on the quality of the meat, says Andrea Falaschi, Davies's butcher in San Miniato, not far west of Florence. "Our recipes aren't complicated," he says. "Simplicity is our strength; it's the beauty of our cuisine. But we start with the best primary ingredients."

Florence is famous for its Chianina beef, says Davies, which comes from an ancient breed of cattle raised in Tuscany and in parts of Umbria, Lazio and Abruzzo. One of the world's largest breeds, Chianina are known for flavorful meat.

As for "rosbiffe," it is possible to buy U.S.-raised Chianina beef, but it is not easy to find at retail markets. Grass-fed beef, which is available at many farmers markets and supermarkets, makes a good substitute. It is leaner and not as buttery-soft as typical beef raised on grain, with a more pronounced beefy flavor. Because of its leanness, it is best cooked slowly at a moderately low temperature.

Dave Burton, a butcher at the Organic Butcher of McLean, offers an alternative for those willing to splurge a bit: Wagyu roast beef. Derived from a Japanese cattle breed, Wagyu is richly marbled with fat. However, the whole-muscle cuts typically used for roast beef, such as top round and eye round, are not as fatty. Wagyu eye of round makes an especially good roast beef, Burton says, because it gives a typically lean cut, one that's prone to dryness, just enough fat to ensure a good roast.

Veal is more complicated; it is more expensive and less popular in the States than in Italy. Italian veal is older - more like young beef - and is rosier in color and tastier than the young milk-fed veal sold here. Many Americans are put off by the poor, cramped conditions in which veal calves are raised. But it is getting easier to find humanely raised veal that is more like what is sold in Italy.

If you are not tired of turkey, try roasting a boneless turkey breast. Scarpaleggia's turkey roast sold me on this less-expensive alternative. You can buy a butterflied boneless breast to roll and tie yourself, or look for one that it is already tied in mesh. Once you've chosen your roast, follow a few simple steps (see sidebar below), and within a couple of hours you'll have a beautiful Tuscan-style roast at your table. All that's left is to open a bottle of Chianti.

Tips for roasts:

I consulted with Tuscan cookbook authors Giulia Scarpaleggia and Emiko Davies, as well as Davies's Florentine butcher, Andrea Falaschi, and David Burton, a butcher at the Organic Butcher in McLean, VA. to compile this list of tips for successfully making a Tuscan-style roast:


• Make sure the meat is at room temperature.


• Tie the meat with kitchen string. (I tie at 1-inch intervals.) This will ensure even cooking, plus it makes for a more attractive roast that slices neatly. If the roast is encased in plastic mesh, discard it for cooking and tie the roast with kitchen twine. If the mesh is cotton, it can stay in place.


• Season with a mixture of fresh - not dried - herbs, plus salt and pepper. Rub the seasoning all over the meat (think of it a massage), making sure to coat it evenly.


• Choose the right roasting pan or pot. Many Tuscans cook their roasts in a pot on the stove top, in a method (oddly) known as arrosto morto, or "dead roast." Choose a heavy-bottomed pot into which the roast fits snugly, so any juices that accumulate during cooking don't evaporate, but is not crowded. For oven roasting, select a hefty roasting pan, a ceramic baking dish or an ovenproof skillet. Again, be sure the roast fits snugly in the pan but is not crowded. A roasting rack is optional; it promotes even cooking, but pan drippings tend to evaporate more quickly, especially in a hot oven.


• Sear the meat. Most roasts benefit from an initial browning on the surface to enhance flavor and create a crust. This is easily done on the stove top in a little hot oil or fat. Turn the meat to brown it on all sides. (The exception here is the accompanying recipe for the pork, which is browned in the oven at the end of roasting to crisp the skin.)


• Roast at a low to moderately low temperature: low heat for the stove top and anywhere from 275 to 350 degrees in the oven. That will allow the roast to cook properly and evenly without becoming tough.


• Let the roast rest for 15 minutes before serving; it helps redistribute the juices and makes for a juicier roast.


• Slice the meat thinly, arrange the slices overlapping on a warmed serving platter and spoon the pan juice on top. (Again, the exception here is the pork, which can be either cut into thick chops or removed from the bones and sliced thinly.)


TUSCAN-STYLE ROAST BEEF ("Rosbiffe")

MAKES 6 to 8 servings

Like most Tuscan dishes, this roast is minimally seasoned, so using top-quality meat is of paramount importance. Look for naturally raised beef that has not been treated with antibiotics. If you can afford an extra few dollars, buy Wagyu beef, which is richly marbled and yields a tender roast.

Roast beef was introduced to Tuscany by British expats in the 19th century and has been a favorite in the region ever since.

It's helpful to have an instant-read thermometer.

From cookbook author Domenica Marchetti.

Ingredients

  • One 3-to-4-pound top round roast or Wagyu top round roast, tied with kitchen twine at 1-inch intervals (see headnote)

  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, or more as needed

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed

  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil or olive oil

  • 3/4 cup Sangiovese or other robust red wine

  • 2 sprigs rosemary

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

Steps

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Season it all over with the 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper, or more as needed.

Heat the oil in a heavy, ovenproof pot or small roasting pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the meat and brown it on all sides, using tongs to turn it every couple of minutes, about 6 minutes total.

Pour the wine into the bottom of the pot (not over the meat), then toss in the rosemary and garlic. Transfer to the oven and roast, uncovered, for 1 to 11/2 hours (about 20 to 25 minutes per pound) or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 120 (rare) to 125 degrees (medium-rare).

Use tongs to transfer the beef to a cutting board; tent it loosely with aluminum foil. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes, then discard the twine and the spent rosemary. Cut the meat into thin slices, slightly overlapping them on a platter as you work.

Spoon the pan juices over the slices - mashing the roasted garlic in them first, if you wish - and serve.

Nutrition | Per serving (based on 8): 230 calories, 38 g protein, 0 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 100 mg cholesterol, 620 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar

STOVE-TOP VEAL ROAST (Arrosto Morto di Vitello)

MAKES 4 to 6 servings

The odd name of this dish - "arrosto morto" is Italian for "dead roast" - is nothing more than a reference to the fact that it is cooked on the stove top rather than in the oven. It's a classic preparation, made famous by 19th-century Italian gourmet and cookbook author Pellegrino Artusi.

It's helpful to have an instant-read thermometer.

At the butcher shop, look for the more expensive pasture-raised veal, sometimes called "rose veal," which is pinker and more flavorful than commercial veal.

From cookbook author Domenica Marchetti.

Ingredients

  • One 2 1/2-to-3-pound veal top round or chuck roast, tied at 1-inch intervals (see headnote)

  • 1 rosemary stem

  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted margarine

  • 2 tablespoons finely diced pastrami

  • 1 clove garlic, lightly crushed

  • 3/4 cup dry white wine, such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano, or more as needed

  • Chicken or beef broth (optional)

Steps

Pat the veal dry with paper towels. Insert the stem of rosemary underneath the string so that it lies along the length of the roast. Season the meat all over with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil and margarine in a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven just large enough to fit the roast snugly over medium-high heat until the margarine is melted and begins to sizzle. Add the roast and brown on all sides, using tongs to turn it every couple of minutes. (Brown the ends, too.) This may take a total of 20 to 25 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a deep plate. Add the pastrami and garlic to the pot; reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the pastrami has begun to crisp and render some of its fat.

Return the meat to the pot and pour in the wine (not over the meat). Reduce the heat to low, partially cover and cook for 1 to 13/4 hours (about 30 minutes per pound), until the internal temperature of the meat registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. This will yield a fully cooked, tender roast with a faintly rosy center. (If the liquid in the pot becomes scarce during cooking, add another splash of wine or a splash of chicken or beef broth.)

Use tongs to transfer the veal to a cutting board, and tent the meat loosely with aluminum foil. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes.

Discard the string and rosemary. Slice the veal thinly and arrange the slices, slightly overlapping, on a platter. Spoon the pan juices, including the bits of pastrami, over the slices and serve.

Nutrition | Per serving (based on 6): 300 calories, 29 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 16 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 130 mg cholesterol, 510 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar


STOVE-TOP ROASTED TURKEY BREAST (Arrosto Morto di Tacchino)

MAKES 4 servings

Roasted with aromatic vegetables and herbs like an Italian veal roast, a boneless turkey breast presents a nice alternative to a more expensive centerpiece for a small dinner party.

It's helpful to have a meat thermometer. If the turkey roast you buy is bound with plastic mesh, remove it and replace it with kitchen twine tied at 1-inch intervals. If the mesh is cotton, you can leave it on.

When it's not holiday time, boneless turkey-breast roasts are most often sold frozen in supermarkets, and they are often bound with mesh rather than string. You can also detach one breast half from a whole, bone-in turkey breast.

Ingredients

  • One 2 1/2-pound boneless turkey breast, tied with string or bound with mesh (see headnote)

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs (a mix of parsley, sage and rosemary)

  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine

  • 1 small carrot, scrubbed well and finely chopped

  • 1/2 celery rib, finely chopped

  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano, or more as needed

  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala

  • Chicken or beef broth (optional)

Steps

Pat the roast dry with paper towels. Rub 1 tablespoon of the oil all over the turkey, then sprinkle the fresh herbs all over it. Season with the salt and pepper.

Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the margarine in a small, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat; once the margarine has melted and begins to sizzle, add the turkey breast and brown on all sides, using tongs to turn it every couple of minutes (about 6 minutes total). Transfer to a plate.

Add the finely chopped vegetables to the pot; reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables have begun to soften and turn translucent.

Return the meat to the pot and pour in the wine and Marsala. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pot and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour (about 15 to 20 minutes per pound) or until the internal temperature of the meat taken near the center registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. The meat should be fully cooked, with no hint of pink in the juices when pierced. (If the liquid in the pot becomes scarce during cooking, add another splash of wine or a splash of chicken or beef broth.)

Use tongs to transfer the turkey to a cutting board; tent it loosely with aluminum foil. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes; cover the pot during that time to keep the pan juices warm. If you'd like to create a smooth sauce, use an immersion (stick) blender to puree the pan juices and cooked vegetables.

Remove the string, as needed, and cut the turkey into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Arrange them, slightly overlapping, on a platter. Spoon the pan juices or sauce over the slices and serve.

Nutrition | Per serving: 520 calories, 67 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 21 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 175 mg cholesterol, 870 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar

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