One-quarter cow for a year’s eating means we forgo fancy prime rib and tenderloin roasts in order that we might enjoy steak from time to time. Which means roasting with less-familiar cuts — and at the holidays, proceed with caution. Happily we’ve notched some great successes with sirloin tip and cross rib roasts, which come out as juicy and tasty as you could hope for, and we enjoy eye of round equally well, never mind a reputation for less than top-rate flavor. A big bonus: the price is right. Other cuts considered to be in the same class include tri-tip, rump roast, and top round roast.

Along the way we’ve gleaned a few tricks and tips. Season or marinade a day ahead, longer for larger roasts. Allow the meat to come to room temperature before going in the oven, which encourages even cooking. Begin roasting at a high temperature — 450 degrees is a good starting point — to brown the meat, then lower the heat so everything cooks more or less evenly. It’s done when the thermometer tells you it’s done, and once the internal temperature hits 120-125 degrees for a smaller (3-ish pound) roast, pull for medium-rare or check frequently because temps start to shoot up faster than you’d think. Then let the meat rest for fifteen minutes or more before carving.

And of course, use your pan drippings. Just do it! Ours went towards a capery gravy for one holiday dinner; we’ll definitely do that one again. Horseradish sauce is a nice alternative, particularly when you’ve got roots in the garden.

Happy eating in 2011!

Recipe: Perfect Beef Sirloin Tip Roast

Beef sirloin tip roast, 3 lbs / sea salt & pepper / 1 clove garlic, minced / 2 tsps fresh thyme, minced / 2 tsps fresh rosemary, minced / 1 tsp balsalmic vinegar

Gravy: 1 tbls butter / 2 tsps flour / ½ cup beef stock / 1 tsp dijon mustard / 2 tsps capers, minced

The day before, rub roast generously with salt and pepper, garlic, thyme, and rosemary. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate. Two hours before roasting, remove from refrigerator and allow meat to come to room temperature.

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Unwrap meat and gently rub in vinegar. When oven is ready, place meat on a roasting pan in the middle of oven, fat bib up. After 15 minutes, turn heat down to 350 degrees. Roast about 25 minutes more, then begin checking internal temperature in the deepest part of the meat. Remove from oven when internal temperature hits 120 degrees for a medium-rare roast. Allow to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes or so. Tent with foil if meat is to rest for longer.

Meanwhile, pour pan juices into a small saucepan over medium heat. Melt butter with juices, then whisk in flour. Add stock, continuing to whisk. When reduced to desired thickness, add mustard and capers. Taste and add salt if needed. Feeds 4-6 heartily.

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