Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy Boxing Day!  On the second day of Christmas, Ma Nature gave to me my first driveway shoveling of the season.  Wasn’t that thoughtful of her? She shouldn’t have!

The first day of Christmas proved quite pleasant round about Port Swiller Manor.  Cousin C came along to dinner and spent most of teh time telling anecdotes about Robbo Family history, of which her knowledge appears to be almost inexhaustible, and explaining the nomenclature of family trees to the gels with hobbit-like eagerness.   As for the rest, I wasn’t dragged out of bed in the pre-dawn blackness, so my post-Midnight Mass fatigue was kept to a minimum;  bickering among the gels was generally kept under control; and I managed to get all the china and silver cleaned up before collapsing into my post-feasting coma.  In other words, a good time was had by all.

Of course, what I’m sure friends of teh decanter are really asking at this point is, “Tom, how did it go?”

Well, I will tell you.

Let me preface things with this observation.  In all my researches and all the advice I got about roasting the beef on teh grill, there was one clearly dominant theme: temperature regulation.  “You’ve got to keep your temp steady,” said the collective kibitzers, “You’ve got to make sure you’ve got an even heat.  You want to check both the temperature of teh grill and the internal temperature of the roast.  You don’t do that, you’ve got problems, boy-chick.  Buh-leave me.”

Now it happens that the vast majority of my grilling experience is with steaks and burgers.  There’s no science involved .  Indeed, as “they” say, it’s so easy even a caveman could do it.  You bank up a big ol’ heap of coals on one side, you wait till they get white hot, you go for it.

Roasting, on the other hand, requires more skill.  And skill only comes with experience.  Which is why I feel it necessary to emphasize that heretofore (heretofore, mark you!), I really hadn’t had any.

This fact manifested itself from the outset.  After figuring out a precise schedule of When Things Needed To Be Started in order to have all of dinner ready at the same time,  I duly loaded up the charcoal baskets with briquets, placed them on the sides with the drip pan in the middle, lit them and waited patiently until they were white hot and ready to go.

At which time I discovered that I had used entirely too much charcoal and that I’d achieved a heat a good 175 degrees higher than what I wanted.  D’oh!

Cursing myself under my breath, I grabbed a bucket of water and started chucking burning coals into it with the tongs, a thing which under other circumstances would have been a lot of fun.  And of course, like a panicking rookie pilot fiddling with his throttle, I went too far the other direction, nearly stalling out completely (to continue the simile).  For the next half hour or so I rollercoastered back and forth, the needle swinging wildly between 250 and 475.

In the middle of all this, Cousin C showed up:  She stood on the deck for a few minutes watching me feverishly tonging coals back and forth and popping the lid on and off like a shell game sharper and then wandered back into the house, no doubt convinced that I am quite mad.  Meanwhile, the chill thought was slowly forming in the back of my mind: “Good Lord, I’m going to blow this completely, aren’t I.”

Finally, I got the temperature settled about where I wanted it and got the meat going.  But by that point I was so flustered that I daredn’t leave the grill for more than a minute or two.  Eventually, after scuttling in and out of the house half a dozen times, I gave up trying to play host, grabbed a bottle and a glass, explained the situation and went to camp out by the grill.  Fortunately, Cousin C and Mrs. R get on extremely well, so they were content to gossip between themselves in my absence.

About an hour into grill time, I was aware that I needed to add more charcoal.  Once again, I found myself in the position of a rookie pilot, alternately fire-walling the engine and almost stalling it.  The problem here, or so I thought, was that if I added more briquets and immediately put the lid back on, they would go out and need to be relit.  On the other hand, if I left the lid off long enough for the new briquets to get established, I would lose roasting time.  My solution to this predicament was a series of manuevers shifting the lid open just far enough to allow for good air flow while at the same time not causing the thermometer to drop too much.  (In this way, by the bye, I also wound up thoroughly smoking myself.  I can still taste it.)

Eventually, after a total of a couple hours and change and (surprisingly) more or less about when I had planned for it, I decided that I was about done.  Conscientiously, because everyone had said I had to, I got my meat thermometer and shoved it into the roast to read its internal temp.  It was close to what the experts recommend, but not quite there.  “Damn that,” I said to myself, “Let’s take a real dekko.”  Whereupon I sliced deep into the middle of the roast and gently pulled back the sides of the cut.

And it was perfect.  Any landing you can walk away from and all that, but I mean it was perfect.  A glorious red,  juuuuust shading into pink, right the way through.   (I am of the school of thought that says if a piece of beef isn’t still actively fighting back, you’ve probably over-cooked it.)

And once we set it down at table (accompanied by pop-overs, asparagus and gravy the preparation of which was easy-peasy in comparison), it tasted every bit as good as it looked.  Much smokier than what I’m used to in a roast, but delicious.  For those interested, I did not seer, and I didn’t find that this unduly effected the juiciness. (The rub by the bye, was simply a mix of salt, pepper, assorted herbs and olive oil.  I put it on about an hour before cooking.)  When I tell you that everybody cleaned their plates, I think that says it all.  (Fortunately, however, there is enough left over to keep me in sammiches for a couple days.)

So that was Robbo’s Great Grill Roast Adventure, that was.  On the whole, although I probably would have preferred a trial run without the pressure of cooking for company,  I was well-pleased with things.  I still don’t feel that I have the whole heat-regulation biznay completely figured out, but at least I feel game for another go.

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