This post was sponsored by Better Than Bouillon as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
Today we’re preparing Top Round Beef Roast, which we’ll be pairing with a thick brown gravy. This classic combination is perfect for small holiday gatherings or as a satisfying Sunday dinner.
We’ll be putting together today’s roast and gravy with a little help from our new friends over at Better Than Bouillon, but more on them in just a second.
Getting Started – Primary Ingredient Notes and Tips
1) The Top Round Roast. As the name implies, Top Round Roast comes from the ‘round’ of the cow, which is the hind area just above the shanks. This area of the cow is used for movement and support, and thus is under constant ‘tension’ when the cow is standing still, and receives exercise whenever the cow moves. Thus, the area tends to contain very, very little fat, while the ‘muscle meat’ tends to be very well developed. This leads to the area being tough (developed muscles), and being short on flavor (low fat), in comparison to other areas of the cow. However, this also has the effect of the making the meat perfect for ‘low and slow’ roasting. Regardless, there are a few ways to get around the meat’s general toughness and lack of fat. The first and most common method is to rub the roast down – thoroughly – with butter. This has the effect of introducing ‘fat’ into the roast, which it lacks naturally on its own, whilst also giving the outside of the roast just a hint of crispness during roasting. The second method is what we’re doing today, which to blend together oil and herbs, and then rub the roast down with that. While this doesn’t add quite as much ‘fat’ back into the roast, it does make for a much more flavorful roast, in my opinion.
2) Better Than Bouillon Beef Base. This is the ‘secret weapon’ of today’s gravy. Better Than Bouillon offers a long line of premium paste concentrates, all of which give your recipes a ‘cooked all day’ flavor without actually having to take the time to roast or simmer anything for hours on end. I’m using the Beef Base flavor, which packs a full ‘punch’ of roasted beef with a full bouquet herbs in just a single serving, which is equivalent to a bouillon cube or broth. Better than Bouillon products come available in a range of flavors, including Roasted Turkey Base, Roasted Chicken, Roasted Garlic, Seasoned Vegetable Base, and a host of others. They also have Reduced Sodium Options, a line of organic products, and Vegetarian and Vegan options as well, ensuring there’s something for everyone and every recipe. These products can add flavors to main courses, such as today’s gravy, or be used in soups, appetizers, sauces, or as the seasonings for roasted or grilled vegetables, or as rubs for steaks, roasts, or poultry – the possibilities really are endless. For more info, or to order, check the Better Than Bouillon website, and be sure to use their product locator to find convenient vendors near you, or simply order online!
Roux Primer – The Basics
Since a good gravy is so important for today’s roast, I decided to cover some of the basics of ‘roux.’
1) Roux – What Is it? In its most basic form, roux is simply fat and flour that has been heated together to form what used to be called a ‘table sauce.’ In ages past, ‘table sauce’ was simply a very basic ‘gravy’ that people would apply to things like meat, potatoes, or roasted vegetables ‘at the table.’ These table sauces would often feature the drippings from the main course as flavorings – and very little else. Today, the phrase ‘table sauce’ has largely fallen out of use, and gravy has become less and less common on everyday dinner tables. Roux, however, remains a foundational ‘ingredient’ to this day. It’s the starting point of ‘sauce espagnole,’ ‘tomate,’ ‘bechamel,’ and ‘velouté,’ which are three of the five sauces dubbed the ‘Mother Sauces’ of French cuisine. Here in the New World, roux is a cornerstone of Creole and Cajun cooking (where bacon or pork fat typically takes the place of butter or oil), and even in ‘homestyle’ recipes like macaroni and cheese. Shockingly, roux also features more prominently than one might think in several Mediterranean cuisines, including Northern Italian, Turkish, and Greek cooking (especially on the island of Crete in the form of ‘staka’).
2) There are three types of roux…unless there are four. Roux comes in four classifications – white, blonde, brown, and dark brown. Some, however, consider dark brown roux to be ‘burnt roux,’ and only recognize the first three types. Regardless, they all contain the same base ingredients (flour and fat), but are differentiated by cooking time. White roux is generally cooked for about five minutes, sometimes not even that long, while brown roux is cooked for upwards of thirty minutes. Generally speaking, white roux is not eaten on its own, but is instead used as an ingredient, typically as a thickening agent in various white sauces, such as the aforementioned bechamel. ‘Blonde’ roux, also, is generally used as an ingredient, such as in velouté sauce, since it has a ‘darker’ or ‘nutty’ flavor and a heavier texture than white roux. Finally, brown and ‘dark brown’ roux are what you can begin to recognize as ‘gravy.’ Deeply flavorful and ‘pleasantly textured’ on its own, once you flavor it with pan drippings and herbs, you’ve got yourself a proper ‘table sauce.’ However, brown and dark brown roux are also sometimes used as an ingredient in dishes like gumbo.
3) How to Make It? Begin with equal parts flour and ‘fat’ (fat can be butter, oil, vegetable oil, or a combination of butter and oil). It is ‘very’ important that you divide these parts by weight. Thus, one cup of fat (butter and/or oil) requires one cup of flour, and so forth. Begin by melting the butter in a sauce pan, and then add in the flour (add the flour all at once). Whisk this mixture until a thick, paste-like mixture has come together. Continue whisking until it has achieved the color you desire. Brown roux needs to be stirred constantly and vigorously to keep it from burning. Thus, the longer you cook your roux the more attention you need to give it. Do not leave ‘any’ type of roux cooking unattended. Seasonings and/or pan drippings, are added in with the flour.
For Those Who Prefer A Less Thick Roux. It is worth noting that some people find the sheer thickness of brown (and dark brown) roux unpalatable. For this reason, many chefs suggest using vegetable oil as the ‘fat’ in roux that’s cooked for thirty minutes or more. Using vegetable oil results in a slightly thinner roux.
4) Sprucing It Up. Today, we’re sprucing up the roux with Better Than Bouillon Beef Base, which packs it with roasted beef flavoring. This is the easiest way to spruce up your roux, which in turn produces a deliciously seasoned, full-bodied gravy. So, be sure to spruce up your holiday by heading over to Better than Bouillon.
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