Monday, July 04, 2005

Fourth of July Cookout: London Broil

This is a favorite of mine for large groups, and it's what I served at my July 4th cookout (which was actually last night on the 3rd, since I think a get-together is a lot more fun if you don't have to worry about going to work the next morning). The first time I ever tried cooking London Broil was at a gathering of old friends for a weekend outing in a cabin on the Chattahoochee River, and it was hit. When you slice the beef thinly and lay it out on a big platter, it creates a gorgeous mound of meat--perfect for a group of hungry carnivores.

Though you can find cuts of beef labeled "London Broil" at many supermarket meat counters, it's really a way of cooking meat and not a particular cut. A top round roast is what's generally used, though flank steak will do nicely, too. Since I like my beef rare, I look for a roast that's as thick as possible (at least 2 inches). I generally allow a pound for every three people, which usually guarantees at least a little bit left over for sandwiches the next day (which are delicious).

The first step is to marinate the beef. I'm not picky about the ingredients and use whatever's on hand---you really just need some sort of acid, a little oil, and spices. Yesterday morning, I put the meat in a flat plastic container and sprinkled it liberally with kosher salt, black pepper, and paprika; diced some garlic and shallots and tossed them on top; then, drizzled it all with some olive oil, red wine vinegar, and the juice from half a lemon. I put the container in the fridge and took it out every few hours to turn over the meat. If you can start the roast marinating the night before it's best, but even if you only have an hour or two the marinade will add good flavor.

I grilled my London Broil over hot charcoal, allowing about five to ten minutes per side. I never time these things, instead waiting until the color looks good and the meat is just starting to firm up when I press on it with my fingers. I've found touch testing the absolute best way to gauge when the meat is ready (here's a good description of how to do it)--it takes a little practice, but it's pretty easy to get the hang of.

For serving, I took the meat into the kitchen to my big cutting board and sliced it as thinly as I could across the grain, holding the knife at a forty-five degree angle. Since most roasts are a little thinner at each end than in the middle, you usually end up with a good range of doneness (from medium to rare in my case), and the juice from all the slices pools up nicely in the bottom of the serving platter--I like to put a spoon on the platter so people can ladle a little on their meat. I served it with my favorite roasted potatoes, sourdough bread, and a green salad. A great way to celebrate the Fourth.

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