In the world of beef roasts, marbling is king. The internal automatic basting power of tiny fat pockets melting into the meat is amazing.
So what are the options for roasting healthier, leaner cuts of meat? There’s the pork tenderloin, which is the leanest choice. But it is so mild in flavor that it sometimes doesn’t quite scratch the roast beefy itch. There’s beef tenderloin, which also is super lean and a mighty tasty roast. But I can only imagine a world where I could justify spending over $100 on my family’s dinner on a regular basis.
So for our usual Sunday supper, I turn to the top round or bottom round roasts, which are inexpensive and lean. But they do require a little extra care in order to compete with the flavor and texture of fattier cuts closer to the center of the cow.
After years of practice, I have a few tips:
• If you can dry age the roast for a couple of days in the refrigerator, the taste will be intensified and mimic higher quality cuts. Just pat the meat dry, sprinkle on some seasoning salt (or salt and pepper) and let it sit, uncovered, in the refrigerator.
• Let the roast sit at room temperature for an hour before cooking.
• Use a three-phase cooking method. First, brown the roast on all sides in a large Dutch oven to create a tasty crust. Second, slow-roast at a low temp (250 F) until the internal temperature is about 10 degrees below your final liking (120 F for a final temp of 130 F, about medium-rare). Remove the roast, and raise the oven temperature to 475 F and finish the roast with a blast of heat for 10 minutes.
• Tent the roast and let it rest for 10 to 20 minutes before slicing thinly. Pour a little juice over those slices and you are in (thrifty, healthy) beefy nirvana.
LEAN ROAST BEEF WITH MARSALA GRAVY
Start to finish: 2 1/2 hours (30 minutes active)
2 1/2- to 3-pound top or bottom round beef roast
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons seasoning salt (such as Lawry’s Seasoned Salt)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup beef stock, divided
1/2 cup dry Marsala wine, divided
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Use paper towels to pat the roast dry. In a small bowl, mix the garlic powder, seasoning salt and pepper, then rub the mixture all over the roast. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
Heat oven to 250 F.
Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high. Rub the oil over the roast, then set into the pan and sear on all sides until a crust is formed, about 15 minutes total. Transfer the roast to a rack fitted in a roasting pan.
Return the pan to the heat and pour in 1/2 cup of water. Simmer, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon, just until the pan is deglazed and any bits on the bottom are loosened. Pour the liquid into the roasting pan. Add half of the beef stock and marsala wine to the roasting pan. Set the roast in the oven and cook until it reaches 120 F to 125 F at the center, depending on desired finished temperature (which will be 10 degrees higher), about 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the pan from the oven and increase the heat to 475 F.
Once the temperature has been reached, place the roast back in the oven and cook until the top is nice and crusty, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, transfer the roast to a carving board, cover it loosely with foil and let it rest while you make the gravy.
To make the gravy, place the roasting pan over medium heat on the stovetop. Add the remaining wine and stock, then whisk to release any stuck bits on the pan. In a small glass, mix the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water, then add to the pan. Simmer, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Slice the roast and serve with the gravy.
Nutrition information per serving: 270 calories; 90 calories from fat (33 percent of total calories); 10 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 95 mg cholesterol; 410 mg sodium; 3 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 35 g protein.
Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, “Supermarket Healthy.” http://www.melissadarabian.net.