Which are the right steps to make a good roast?
The oven temperature can vary during cooking depending on the needs, circumstance and preferences. For meats, begin by searing the whole surface at a temperature of at least 200 °C (392 °F, gas mark 6) (without covering), then continue roasting at a lower temperature (160-180 °C, 320-356 °F, gas mark 3-4), while basting frequently with its cooking juices so that it does not dry out and become stringy.
The Right Cut
The best cuts of meat for oven roasting are large cuts of red and white meats (as they are or in a crust), large fish (also as is or in a crust/parchment paper wrap), poultry and game. Other oven-baked dishes include roast potatoes, casseroles, pasta dishes, savoury tarts, pastries and breads. Spit-roasted meats should also start cooking at very high temperatures (up to 250-280 °C, 482-536 °F, gas mark 9), with a successive reduction to as low as 150-250 °C (302-482 °F, gas mark 4-9). In this case, baste the meat frequently with the cooking juices that have fallen into the dripping-pan. Spit-roasting gives the best results with whole cuts, barnyard animals, birds and poultry, game and large fish.
Lean cuts of meat should be cooked for less time at a higher temperature. In general, good quality cuts of meat must contain a certain percentage of fat; otherwise, long cooking will dry them out. The presence of fat distributed throughout the muscular mass is necessary to make the meat tender.
Let the roast rest for a quarter hour after cooking, before serving. On the one hand, slices will be neater if the meat is not cut when too hot and they will also be more aromatic and tasty.
This technique applies to medium or large size fish.
- Gash large fish in the thickest parts of the meat to favour faster cooking.
- Stuff the fish with parsley, sage and bay leaf to make it aromatic (A) and distribute a few leaves on the surface as well.
- Season with salt, pepper, olive oil and white wine (B), and let the fish marinate for a few hours in a cool place.
- Bake in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes (C).
While baking, do not turn the fish but baste it with the marinating liquid and some additional white wine if needed.
Dripping-pan: the recipient that collects the cooking juices that drip from a roast. In today’s oven, this an extractable pan under the cooking rack.
Parsley: use of fresh raw parsley is preferable to conserve all its properties (including high levels of vitamins and mineral salts) and the content of essential oil that is responsible for its aroma and taste, which deteriorate quickly with heat. That is why parsley is always added after cooking. It goes well with many dishes of the Mediterranean kitchen, especially in sauces for charcoal-roasted meats and in marinades. It is indispensable for fish recipes and vegetable conserves.
Sage: sage leaves contain bitter substances, phenolic acids, flavonoids and an essential oil that give it an intense aroma with spicy notes. They are used fresh or dried because the aroma remains intense even after time. Sage is used mainly for meat and fish recipes, for sauces and gravies, for egg dishes and savoury tarts, for herb teas and soups. Sage leaves are also delicious fried in batter, for a light and tasty appetizer.
Bay leaves: these leaves, rich with aromatic essential oils, are used both fresh and dried to flavour roasts and stews, soups and pasta, vegetables (beans, lentils and potatoes) and, in general, recipes that require long cooking. After cooking, the leaves (one or two will usually suffice) are removed from the dish because they are too tough for eating.