Let’s have a roast. (TOP SIRLOIN AND MARCHAND DE VIN )

February 28, 2010

These days we see a renewed respect for humanely produced food, animal and vegetable alike. The questions of when, how and where did this come from are no longer smudged lines in a product’s history. And though it may seem like extra work to find out such details, I have full faith that some day soon it will become as commonplace as checking the date on milk. Whole, organic, grass fed, hormone free, non-antibiotic milk, of course.

So sometimes when I want the skinny on what I am putting in the oven, I wind up making fingerprints on the glass cases at Dickson’s Farmstand, located in the Chelsea Market. I started out as a neighbor, working a few doors down from these serious meat men and now we are friends, taking time to discuss dishes, the best cuts for the job as well as the various methods of getting a great product to the table. But this is not special treatment. When the lines queue up at Dickson’s, everyone is regarded as a friend and all of these fine points are regularly discussed with great care.

That is how I ended up with these two lovely top sirloin roasts, I needed a well-priced and flavorful cut of beef for an event I was catering. The beef was to be sliced, sauced (recipe below) and served over a bit of leek veloute, a roasted potato cake by its side. For portioning, I allow at least 1/2 pound per person, especially for a fancier dinner where not every slice is going to be gorgeous and plate-worthy (but definitely perfectly mouth-worthy). Several steps go into cooking a great roast. They are not complicated but should be followed well, decisions are best made in advance so there is no second guessing when time is precious.

It is important to take the meat from the fridge at least one hour before cooking to come  to room temp. This helps it cook faster, more evenly and more precisely but don’t sweat it if there isn’t time for that to happen, especially if you have a meat thermometer. That will really keep you from going wrong even if the timing is a little off. It’s the ticket.

Then sear. Do not be timid, get hot, get smoky and brown it up on all sides. After browning I use a spice rub, since the best method for this cut is a ‘dry roast’ and you want to get all the flavor you can onto the meat. I never remember exactly what I use but I am pretty sure it was a mild mixture of garlic powder, mustard, thyme, cumin, ancho powder, salt and pepper. That is my loose outline for a basic rub in addition to whatever is laying around and/or catches my fancy. Maybe a drop of cayenne, a dash of  Tony’s? Use your creative license.

From there, the following irreverant method works out great! A simple trick of cooking the roast high and mightily at 500F for 5-6 minutes per pound and then turning the oven off for two hours. Do not open the oven door, don’t even think about it. The beef will be a perfect medium rare when you take it out of the undisturbed oven two hours later. I really liked this style and it yielded buttery, tender pink beef. You can always flash cook it a little more at the end if it’s too rare but you can never un-cook it… so might as well err to the side of less-done.

More traditional methods (for medium rare boneless beef roasts) are quite varied, some cooks favor high temperatures for less time (400F / 10 minutes per pound) and others go for lower temps for longer periods of time (300F / 20-22 minutes per pound). The most important step is to consult an instant read thermometer after the first 45 minutes of cooking and every 20 or so thereafter to get the temperature spot on. There are so many variations to be had, it really is best to use the thermometer in combination with your intuition because who knows how wacky your oven is, how the shape of the meat cooks, the starting temp…etcetera. The following chart from themeatsource.com is very helpful for getting it right, an excerpt from a post dedicated to top sirloin. Dickson’s offers this chart representing a variety of animals.

Below is a cooking chart for top sirloin roast recipe. Remember you should always use an instant-read thermometer to check the doneness of a roast. The internal temperature will rise about 5-10 degrees during resting time, remove the roast 5-10 degrees before desired doneness. themeatsource.com

Doneness Description Meat Thermometer Reading
Rare Red with cold, soft center 125-130 degrees
Medium-Rare Red with warm, somewhat firm center 135-140 degrees
Medium Pink and firm throughout 140-150 degrees
Medium-well Pink line in center, quite firm 150-155 degrees
Well-done Gray-brown throughout and completely firm 160-165 degrees

When cooked to desired doneness (accounting for the 5-10 degrees of carryover cooking), it is mandatory to let the meat rest for about 15 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to be reabsorbed and redistributed into the meat and not be lost with the first cut. Ok! Now you have the earned the right to slice up your materpiece and enjoy. The following recipe is an awesome and easy sauce. Marchand de Vin (Winemerchant’s Sauce) goes exceptionally well almost any grilled or roasted beef, a great acidic kick to cut through the rich flavors of well-raised meat.


(adapted from The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander)

1/2 cup shallots, minced

1 tablespoon sherry or sherry vinegar

1/2 cup red wine

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

juice of 1 lemon

pan juices from cooked meat (optional)

6 tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces

salt and cracked black pepper

  • Place first four ingredients in a pan and reduce liquids until the almost gone, but shallots are still moist.
  • Add parsley, lemon juice and meat juices, if using. And stir in butter until just melted.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

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