Let’s get one thing out of the way: Stephen Alexander, the tall, slim, charming owner of two Cumbrae’s butcher shops in Toronto specializing in naturally-raised meat (there’s also one in Dundas near Hamilton) , is easy on the eyes.
This third-generation Aussie butcher is also easy on the ears when he talks about his passion: things carnivorous and how to prepare them.
At a recent class held at the Bonnie Stern School of Cooking in North Toronto, he and Cumbrae’s lively resident chef Jerry Meneses outlined the principles of roasting meat properly as they prepared the following: a prime rib roast, boneless lamb loin and chicken stuffed under the skin with herb butter. Each was then served with accompanying veg from Stern’s repertoire that included roasted ratatouille, cauliflower puree and corn ragout. The meal was followed by her sensational version of sticky toffee pudding.
Alexander insists on this key step when roasting meat: Use a meat thermometer. In the case of prime rib, he recommends starting at 400F (200C) and reducing the heat to 350F after about 15 minutes for an average roast (about 5 lb/2 1/2 kilos).
The temperatures he gave for prime rib: 130F for rare; 135 to 140F for medium-rare; 140 to 145F for medium and 145 to 150F for medium-well. It’s ideal to wind up with varying degrees of doneness in a roast so people can choose. He doesn’t believe in calculating the number of minutes per pound as there are too many variables.
He also insists that roast meat must rest (uncovered) at room temperature before being sliced; 15 minutes is a good length of time to let the juices soak in rather than run out during slicing.
He cited some tasty, lesser-known cuts of beef – in particular hanger and bavette steaks which are both flavourful and inexpensive. He also mentioned the delicious Berkshire pork now popular among chefs.
This appetizer served before class was a big hit. The recipe is from wonderful Italian-American chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Biba Caggiano. Slow-cooking half the tomatoes is a clever twist on this traditional theme.
Bruschetta with Caramelized Tomatoes
5 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Salt to taste
1 tbsp granulated sugar
10 basil leaves, julienned
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
16 slices baguette, about 1/2-inch thick
2 large garlic cloves, peeled, halved
Preheat oven to 250F.
Place half of tomatoes, cut side up, in baking dish. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Place in oven; bake about 2 1/2 hours, checking at intervals to make sure they don’t burn. During last half hour of cooking, sprinkle with sugar. Cool.
Increase oven temperature to 400F.
In bowl, toss cooked tomatoes with uncooked ones. Add basil, salt, pepper and olive oil.
Brush baguette slices on both sides with olive oil from tomato mixture. Place slices in single layer on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in oven; bake until lightly browned, about 5 to 10 minutes. Rub each slice with cut side of garlic. Spoon a little of cooled tomato mixture on each slice.
Makes about 16.