The idea of a roast conjures images of Sunday evenings when a hunk of fragrant meat emerges from the oven in a transparent Pyrex dish, surrounded by potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery, then placed on the countertop to both rest the meat to retain the juices and to permeate the air with the smell of home, calling all to the table to feast. Once rested and sliced across the grain, the juices infuse the meat with rich and unique flavor.
Likewise, a one-pot meal in a Dutch oven cooked slowly over low to medium heat recalls images of the French paysanne (peasant) style of cooking, like the uber-traditional dishes coq au vin (rooster marinated in red wine with vegetables and served over egg noodles) or boeuf bourgignon (chunks of beef marinated in red wine and served with vegetables), both of which Alton Brown affectionately refers to as “big bowls of France.”. Every culture has its own one-dish braised meals,
These are two methods of tenderizing otherwise tough and/or gristly cuts of meat: the dry roast and the braise. Both have their merits, and both work in similar ways.
Dry roasting involves a large hunk of meat – a London broil, a large turkey/chicken, a rump roast of pork, or my favorite, a leg of lamb. The meat may be rubbed with spices or herbs before being subjected to the oven. Dried herbs usually work best because the delicate fresh herbs like basil, chervil, or parsley, when put in the oven, tend to burn easily and turn bitter. The exception to this is rosemary, which is stiffer and holds up better under the heat. The meat is then roasted without liquid for a generally long period of time, over an hour in most cases. The best recipes for this? Pork or brisket (see Mealtime in Melbourne for the address of Burrito Beach, where to find the best brisket burrito in the world), leg of lamb rubbed with garlic and rosemary, and Boston butt roast, studded with cloves and rubbed a paste of cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cumin, and coriander mixed with a little olive oil and S&P. The great thing about the dry roast is its versatility – not only can something be roasted in the oven, but a grill is also a great place for roasting, especially over smoke or charcoal to impart that woodsy, earthy, smoky flavor. The oven or grill is at a low temperature, breaking down the striated proteins in the meat and encouraging tenderization.