That was my Thanksgiving dinner. Not very traditional is it?
I know that in America turkey is traditional. Most people cannot imagine a Thanksgiving without turkey, I mean, it IS Thanksgiving after all. But that would be most people. So, if you think that roast beef and Yorkshire pudding sounds more appropriate in the house of a Brit, well, you would be right.
When I mentioned to my parents that I wanted to have this instead of turkey, my mom told me that it would be up to my dad and I to make it. She said that she would handle the dessert. You see, she’s French. She doesn’t have anything against a good roast beef and Yorkshire pudding but she knows that my dad, who coincidentally enough comes from Yorkshire, would get the job done right. Needless to say, my dad was quite pleased with this arrangement.
So it came to be that the full brunt of the responsibility of the roast and the puddings were on my father and I’s shoulders. I had never made a Yorkshire pudding and knew that to live up to my dad’s expectations, we needed a good recipe and technique. He had very fond memories of his mother’s puddings, and that would be a hard thing to beat. As I said, he is from Yorkshire, so I was counting on him.
If we were to do this, we would do it right. Traditionally the Yorkshire pudding is served on it’s own before the meal, almost as a sort of appetizer. The pudding would typically be quite large and have an equally copious amount of gravy poured over it. The diameter of the Yorkshire puddings my father so fondly remembered was quite large, nearly seven inches across. That’s quite a difference compared to the small, muffin sized ones more often seen today. Now, there is nothing wrong with the smaller size, but we were trying to recreate the Yorkshire pud’ of his mother so small ones were out of the question.
So, once the roast was cooked, the fat (or “beef drippings” as they are affectionately called) was collected and poured it into 8-inch tins. Batter was ladled into the heated tins and we quickly placed them in the oven. My father supervised the oven to make sure that under no circumstances was anyone to open the oven door until they were done. We closed the door and waited. Suddenly, we saw the batter rise up the sides of the dish.
That brings me to another point. Though they may not generally be considered the best cooks, the British can be fairly passionate about certain foods. Last year the BBC reported that a scientific study was undertaken to determine the height of a perfect Yorkshire pud. The Royal Society of Chemists released a statement proclaiming that they have to be at least 4in tall. With that in mind, we nervously watched the dough creep up the sides of the pan, then rise up and out of the dish. We made it! 4 inches all around! Success!
The best way to remove the puds from the pans is simply to pick them up by one of the edges that has risen out and place it on the individual (preheated) plates. Pour the hot gravy over it and tuck in!
serves 5 or 6
2.5 lbs 3.5 lbs rib of beef (still on the bone)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 – 2 Tbsp olive oil
Makes three 8-inch puddings or 12 muffin-tin sized ones.
1/2 lb all purpose flour
1/3 tsp salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
10 oz whole milk
around 4 tbsp beef dripping (or vegetable oil), for lining the pan
few thyme sprigs
4 cloves garlic
2 red onions, cut into eighths
4 tomatoes, halved
1/2 bottle of red wine (about 1 1/2 cups)
5 cups beef stock (low sodium is preferred)
Make the Yorkshire pudding batter earlier in the day (or at least 4 hours before eating). Remove the remove the meat from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature a few hours before cooking.
Directions for the Yorkshire pudding batter.
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. In another bowl beat the eggs, then add half the milk and beat until smooth. Beat in the rest of the milk and leave the batter to rest.
Directions for the Roast.
1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. Season the beef with salt. Place a large stainless steel, heavy bottom saucepan over med-high heat, and add the oil. Sear the roast on all sides, about 2 minutes on each side.
3. Put the roast onto a small roasting pan and place in the oven. Cook for about 15 minutes per pound for rare, 20 minutes per pound for medium.
4. Add about a half cup of the beef stock to the still hot saucepan over medium heat and scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to get the browned bits (aka the fond). Once it simmers, remove from heat and set aside for the moment, this will be used for the gravy.
5. Once the beef is cooked, transfer to a plate to allow the juices to settle. Tent loosely with foil. Pour the juices from the roasting pan into a gravy boat to separating the fat from the juices (or use a jar and spoon the fat off the surface). You may need to allow the fat to settle and rise to the top. Set the fat aside (for the puddings) and add the juices to the pan with the one cup of stock.
Directions for the gravy.
1. Transfer the collected juices from the pan into a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the thyme, garlic, onions, and tomatoes adding a bit of the stock if needed. Cook for about five minutes.
2. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Add all the stock and boil for about 20 minutes or until reduced by half.
3. Use a stick blender to blend all the ingredients to create a thick, rich stock. For a thinner consistency, pour the gravy through a sieve, pressing the vegetables to extract any juices.
4. Bring back to the boil and reduce to a gravy consistency. Check the seasoning.
Directions for Yorkshire puddings.
1. Increase the oven to 450F.
2. Put about a teaspoon of the beef fat into 3 8-inch round pan. Oil can be used instead, but fat is best. Or use a 12-hole Yorkshire pudding tray (or muffin tray). Place the pans into the top shelf of the oven. Make sure there will be enough clearance for the rise once the batter is added, at least 4-5 inches from the rack to the top of the oven. Meanwhile, give the batter a whisk.
3. Once the oil is very hot (almost smoking) open the oven and pour about a cup into each of the three 8-inch pans (or fill the cups in the tray to about 3/4 full). The batter should sizzle as it enters the tins. Work quickly to avoid losing heat and close the oven door. Do not open it until they have risen. Opening too early may cause the puddings to collapse.
4. Baking time is about 15-20 minutes. Though the best way to tell is by looking through your oven window. The Yorkshire puddings will have stopped rising and appear golden brown and crispy.