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Celebrating the roast beast



Raconteur, eccentric, socialite, gastronome and all-round practical woman extraordinaire, M.F.K. Fisher once remarked that her idea of being rich was having a whole roast chicken in the fridge.

I’d second that and add that there’s something luxurious about having a cold roast anything — lamb, pork, beef, whatever — on hand, to be picked at and sliced on anytime, particularly by the light of the fridge at 1 a.m.

Now that the annual roast turkey or two is long gone, a reminder about the goodness and ease of roast meats is warranted, especially for those of a certain age.

Once upon a generation or two ago in the WASPier sectors of Canada, a cozy Sunday dinner without the family gathered round a hearty roast beef or pork complete with gravy and a side dish of roast potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and maybe even a parsnip or two would have been unheard of.

Roasting a roast on Sunday meant a house filled with goodness and warmth, metaphorically and otherwise, and, for the moms who did most of the meal planning, cruising all week: Leftover roast beef dinner on Monday, roast beef — or roast beast, as some used to tease — sandwiches for bagged lunches, and, as the week wore on, bits of beef in gravy served over mashed potatoes or toast.

Hot roast beef sandwiches — a slurry of beef slices piled on white bread   and swimming in rich brown gravy — were a staple of the best corner diner. Some might say it was a rather ignoble fate for roasted meat, once considered by the French and English to be the centrepiece of any feast.

But times and food fashions evolve, and I’d bet my best sandwich bread that most people out there under the age of, say, 25 barely know how to roast a roast, never mind make gravy.

Roast anything isn’t difficult. Covered pan, uncovered, low oven, high — there are as many approaches as there are moms and cuts of meat. So with help from two expert roasters — Grant Cousar, co-owner of Whistler Cooks and Eric Bamberry, Nesters Market butcher — we’ll share a few of them here.

Essentially, roasting means cooking meat in a way that preserves the internal juices. Of course, the original method was on a spit, likely a sword, over an open fire and, if you’ve ever been to a lamb or pig roast, you’ll know how good that is. But now we’ve learned to roast by radiant heat, that is to say in the oven, which most of us have along with a pan of some sort.

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