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Home Plate: Boxing Day Beef and Yorkshire Pudding

  • Yorkshire pudding and sliced roast beef.<br/><br/>Hillary Nelson for the Monitor

    Yorkshire pudding and sliced roast beef.

    Hillary Nelson for the Monitor

  • Sliced roast beef.<br/><br/>Hillary Nelson for the Monitor

    Sliced roast beef.

    Hillary Nelson for the Monitor

  • Sliced roast beef.<br/><br/>Hillary Nelson for the Monitor

    Sliced roast beef.

    Hillary Nelson for the Monitor

  • Yorkshire pudding and sliced roast beef.<br/><br/>Hillary Nelson for the Monitor

    Yorkshire pudding and sliced roast beef.

    Hillary Nelson for the Monitor

  • Yorkshire pudding and sliced roast beef.<br/><br/>Hillary Nelson for the Monitor

    Yorkshire pudding and sliced roast beef.

    Hillary Nelson for the Monitor

  • Yorkshire pudding and sliced roast beef.<br/><br/>Hillary Nelson for the Monitor
  • Sliced roast beef.<br/><br/>Hillary Nelson for the Monitor
  • Sliced roast beef.<br/><br/>Hillary Nelson for the Monitor
  • Yorkshire pudding and sliced roast beef.<br/><br/>Hillary Nelson for the Monitor
  • Yorkshire pudding and sliced roast beef.<br/><br/>Hillary Nelson for the Monitor

Boxing Day, Dec. 26, is celebrated in the kinds of places where the populace sings “God save our gracious Queen” instead of “My country tis of thee,” even if, as in Canada, that population has long since stopped being ruled by the House of Windsor.

There is some debate about who first put the box in Boxing Day; it may have begun with alms boxes in early Christian churches. By the Middle Ages in England, apprentices were going around with a box at Christmas collecting tips from customers. Over time, the custom became more widespread, so that servants and tradesmen were also tipped during the holidays. This tradition was still referred to as the “Christmas Box” even though there was no actual box involved.

During the 19th Century and the height of the great manor house culture in England, Boxing Day was when servants were finally allowed a few hours off after all the work leading up to Christmas. Unless, of course, those servants had anything to do with the horses and the hounds, because Boxing Day was also when the wealthy gathered for the biggest fox hunt of the year. Because the Christmas table in England always features goose or turkey, Boxing Day dinner is traditionally roast beef with Yorkshire pudding.

Several months ago, we invested in half a grass-fed cow. Rather than having the butcher turn the tougher, leaner cuts, like the shoulder (or “chuck”) and the thigh (or “round”) into hamburger, I asked for them as roasts. Tough, lean meat isn’t the easiest meat to roast, but it can be done and the results are delicious.

The trick is to cook it very, very slowly, in a 250- degree oven, then to let it rest for a half hour, then to cut it into super-thin slices.

When meat is cooked this way, it holds on to all its juices and what little fat marbling it has. Which means that there are essentially no pan drippings. This is a problem when it comes to making Yorkshire pudding, because Yorkshire pudding is essentially a pancake batter cooked in very hot beef drippings.

It’s also a problem when it comes to gravy because gravy is usually made by scraping all the savory bits from the bottom of the roasting pan and combining them with some additional liquid and some thickener.

Still, it’s worth the loss of the pan drippings to have a lovely rare, delicious roast from an inexpensive cut of meat. For the Yorkshire puddings, I’ve replaced the beef fat with some clarified butter (vegetable oil works well, too). And for the gravy, I’ve swapped in some homemade beef stock, though good quality canned beef stock will work well, too.

Don’t think these recipes are only worth trotting out once a year on Boxing Day, especially the Slow Roasted Garlic Beef. Try making it on a Sunday, and the leftovers sliced thin will make terrific sandwiches for days to come. This recipe requires an instant read thermometer. Make sure you purchase one that can be calibrated.

Slow Roasted Garlic Beef

1 3½-4 pound inexpensive beef roast, such as a round or chuck

2 tablespoons olive oil

1-2 tablespoons kosher salt or coarse sea salt

1 head garlic, broken into cloves and peeled

If possible the day before cooking, sprinkle salt generously all over the beef, place it on a few layers of paper towel on a plate, cover it lightly with more paper towels and place it in the refrigerator. This dry-brining process helps to keep the meat moist when it cooks.

When ready to cook the meat, preheat the oven to 250 degrees. With a mortar and pestle or in a blender, puree the garlic with a few teaspoons of salt and 1 tablespoon of the oil.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium high heat and add the remaining oil. Brown the beef well on all sides in the skillet. When the beef is browned, place it on a clean plate and rub it all over with the garlic paste.

Place the beef on a rack then place the rack on a sheet tray and place in the oven. Cook the beef for about one hour, or until it registers 115 degrees in the center. When testing the temperature, remove the beef from the oven and close the oven door so the oven retains its heat.

When the meat is 115 degrees, return it to the oven and turn the oven off. Leave the meat in the oven until it registers 130 degrees in the center, about one half hour longer depending on the size of the roast.

Remove the meat from the oven, place a tent of tinfoil over it, and allow the meat to rest for at least one half hour before slicing. While the meat is resting, make the Yorkshire pudding and gravy, if desired.

Slice the meat as thinly as possible, across the grain. Serve immediately with Yorkshire pudding and gravy. The meat may also be served cold.

Yorkshire Pudding

1 stick butter or 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1½ cups flour

1∕4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs (room temperature)

1½ cups milk (room temperature)

Place a muffin tin on a sheet tray and set aside.

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl, then make a well in the bottom of the bowl. Crack the eggs into the well then whisk the eggs in the well, gradually incorporating in the flour a bit at a time. When about half the flour is mixed in, begin adding the milk to the well, whisking in the flour gradually at the same time. Continue the process until all the milk is whisked in and the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into a container with a spout for easy pouring later. Set aside for a half hour.

While the batter is resting, if using butter, you will need to clarify it. Either melt it in a small pot or in a heatproof bowl in the microwave. When melted, remove all the light colored froth that collects on top of the melted butter and discard. The clarified butter is beneath this froth, and beneath the clarified butter is a watery substance. Separate the clarified butter from the water, by pouring it off into a measuring cup with a spout. Discard the water. Set the clarified butter aside in a warm place.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the tray with the muffin tin on it in the oven for at least five minutes to heat. Remove the tray from the oven (close the oven door) and pour a little clarified butter or vegetable oil into the bottom of each muffin tin. Return to the oven until the butter or oil is sizzling hot.

Remove the tray from the oven and divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. Return to the oven and cook without opening the oven door for 15 minutes (if you open the door, the pudding may fall).

After 15 minutes, the puddings should be well risen and brown. If a moist center is desired, remove them from the oven and eat immediately. If a drier pudding is desired, lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 12 puddings.

Beef Gravy

1 clove garlic, cut in half

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon flour

2 cups good quality beef stock, heated

salt and pepper to taste

Rub a heavy saucepan with the garlic, discard the garlic or reserve for another use. Melt the butter in the pan, then whisk in the flour. When the mixture is bubbling, gradually whisk in the hot stock. Allow the mixture to simmer and thicken. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper as desired. Serve immediately.

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