Eric Akis: Homemade beef dip, roasted on the barbecue

Eric Akis

Beef on a bun with jus for dipping is a popular dish served in pubs and diners. But I like to make it at home and when I do that in the summer, I take the cooking outdoors.

I start by choosing my beef roast. The cuts that work well include top round, sirloin tip or top sirloin roast. They are more moderately priced cuts that provide very flavourful meat to stuff into buns.

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To prepare the roast for cooking, I start by making a rub for it. Step two is to preheat my barbecue and set the roast in a barbecue-safe cooking pan. I used a cast iron skillet. The roast is then brushed with a bit of olive oil and coated with the rub.

To cook the roast, I used the indirect-heat method, where you set the skillet with the roast in it on one side of the barbecue, and then turn the heat off underneath it. The other side of the barbecue is left on and the lid is closed. This technique turns your barbecue into sort of a convection oven, where heat rises up on side of the barbecue, hits the lid, and then swirls around the roast, tastily cooking it without flames hitting the bottom of skillet.

Because cuts such as top round and sirloin tip are fairly lean, it’s best to cook them rare to medium-rare. If you go much past that, they can dry out and toughen. Top sirloin is a more tender cut, so opt for that if you like your beef cooked more on the medium side.

After the roast has cooked and rested, slice it as thinly as you can. This ensures that meat is easy to bite through once in the bun. If you thickly slice it, particularly those leaner cuts, it will be hard to chew through without the bun falling apart in the process.

You also need to slice the roast against the grain. When you closely look at it, you should be able to see distinct lines (grains) running through the meat. If you slice the roast in the same direction as those lines, when eating those slices you’ll have to bite through stringy fibres.

When buying buns, choose ones sturdy enough to hold the meat, but soft enough to easily bite through. If they are crusty, chewy buns, the meat will likely slide out of them when you try to bite through them.

To make jus for the beef, once the roast is out of the pan, set the pan on the stovetop and combine and simmersome beef stock, barbecue sauce and Dijon mustard in it. Quite a tasty combination that can you drizzle on the meat once in the bun, and also serve alongside it, in a cup, for dipping.

I also served the beef buns with potato salad, rich with such things as asparagus, carrot, eggs, sour cream and other good things.

The recipes for the beef on a bun and potato salad both serve six. If that’s too many portions for you, simply enjoy the leftovers the next day or two.

Skillet Barbecue Beef on a Bun

Nicely spiced beef cooked in a skillet on the barbecue is thinly sliced and piled into buns and accompanied with jus, for dipping. Beyond the potato salad recipe below, for a summer meal, you could also serve the beef on a bun with corn on the cob.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: about 53-69 minutes (see Note)

Makes: six servings

1 Tbsp chili powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

• pinches onion powder and garlic powder

2 1/4 lb (1 kg) top round, sirloin tip or top sirloin roast

1 Tbsp olive oil

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 cups beef stock

1/2 cup regular barbecue sauce

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

6 hamburger, potato or brioche buns, split and warmed cut side down on the barbecue

• mayonnaise and horseradish, to taste

• baby salad greens or baby arugula, to taste

Combine chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, cayenne, onion powder and garlic powder in a small bowl. Preheat your barbecue to medium-high (about 375 F to 400 F in the chamber).

Pat the roast dry with paper towel, and then set in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or other barbecue-safe cooking pan. Brush the roast with olive oil. Now sprinkle and rub the roast with the chili powder mixture. Season the roast with salt and pepper.

Set the roast on one side of the barbecue. Turn the heat off underneath it; leave the other side set to medium-high. Close the lid and cook the roast to the desired doneness, about 50 to 65 minutes, for rare to medium-rare (see Note). (As the roast cooks, watch the temperature in the chamber and adjust the flame as needed to maintain the desired temperature.)

Transfer roast to a plate, tent with foil and let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, drain any fat in the cooking pan. Set the pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Add the stock, barbecue sauce and mustard, whisk to combine, and bring to a gentle simmer. Gently simmer this jus three or four minutes, and then reserve on low heat.

Spread cut sides of the bottom buns with mayonnaise and horseradish. Top bottom buns with baby salad greens (or baby arugula). Very thinly slice the beef. Set some sliced beef on each bottom bun. Drizzle beef with a little bit of the jus. Set on tops buns and serve these beef bunwiches with a small bowl of the jus for dipping.

Note: Beef roasts vary in thickness and shape, which affects cooking time. That’s why the surest way to gauge doneness is to use an instant-read meat thermometer, inserted into the centre of the thickest part of the roast. A rare roast is done at 120 F to 125 F; medium-rare will be 125 F to 130 F; and medium will be 135 F to 140 F. Remember that the meat will continue to cook when you let it rest before slicing.

Nugget Potato Salad with Asparagus and Grainy Mustard

In-season, B.C. nugget potatoes star in this salad strewn with bits of sliced asparagus, grated carrot, chopped eggs and other taste enhancing things.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Makes: six servings

1 1/4 lb small to medium nugget potatoes, such as Warba, scrubbed and quartered

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsp sour cream

2 Tbsp cider or rice vinegar

2 Tbsp whole-grain Dijon mustard

• splashes Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco

6 to 8 blanched asparagus spears, thinly sliced in the bias (see Note)

1/2 cup grated carrot

1 medium celery rib, diced

2 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped

2 medium green onions, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, dill or tarragon

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Set the potatoes in a pot and cover with a generous amount of cold, lightly salted water. Set over medium-high and bring to a boil. Lower heat until water is gently simmering. Simmer potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain potatoes well and cool to room temperature.

Place the mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco in a medium to large bowl and mix to combine. Add the potatoes, asparagus, carrot, celery, egg, green onion, parsley (or dill or tarragon), salt and pepper and gently toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate salad until needed. It can be made many hours before serving.

Note: To blanch the asparagus, cook the spears in boiling water one to two minutes. Drain well, cool in ice-cold water, and drain well again.

eakis@timescolonist.com

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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