Ungraded beef is not necessarily a second-rate choice. Indeed, Carol Carroll of Winchester, Va., won third place in a national beef cook-off with a recipe for which she generally uses ungraded beef.
Carroll, a nurse and supervisor for a home health agency, says this roast is successful with ungraded eye-of-round, sirloin tip and chuck roast. Next, she says, she'll experiment with pork.
The recipe was originally designed for the grill. It called for coating the meat with mustard and salt and placing it right on the coals -- not on a rack or aluminum foil but literally right on the coals. Carroll adapted the recipe for oven cooking, but says the coating will still turn black and crusty.
The unusual cooking directions discouraged her from trying the recipe for many years. But now she depends on it as a quick meal to prepare if she's entertaining after work. It takes less than an hour to cook to medium rare (it can be cooked well done, but loses a lot of flavor).
Before serving, the crust is removed and discarded. The meat should be placed on a tray or board that will catch the juices sealed in by the crust. Carroll usually completes the meal with spinach salad and rice.
Ungraded beef also adapts successfully to beef and bean burritos, which calls for braising the meat with tomatoes and green chilies. The long, moist-heat cooking tenderizes the meat, as does the acid in the tomato juice. This delicious Mexican recipe can be made with browned hamburger if time is short; otherwise, the shredded beef makes the meal something special.
Graded beef -- USDA Choice -- might be more appropriate for a beef salad, particularly when it is made with broiled beef, such as the tarragon beefsteak salad below. A well-marbled piece of meat is essential for broiling, which tends to toughen and dry meat. Natural fat throughout the muscle will keep the meat moist; thin slicing tenderizes it.
Originally devised for a buffet by Marcia Dillon Whitson of Silver Spring, this beef salad won second place in the national beef cook-off.
"It's been a really handy dish for me because I'm always busy. It's quick, it's easy and it keeps for a week," says Whitson, who cautions that if you plan to keep it a week, add the mushrooms just a few hours before serving.
MAGIC EYE OF THE ROUND (At least 10 servings) 4 1/2 pounds beef eye of round 8 ounces prepared brown mustard 3 to 4 cups kosher salt
Cover all sides and end of roast with brown mustard, using entire amount. Place kosher salt on a plate; roll roast in salt, covering completely. (Salt coating should be thick, with no meat or mustard visible.) Place on rack in roasting pan. Bake in very hot oven (475 to 500 degrees) for 10 to 12 minutes per pound for medium rare or 15 to 20 minutes for well done. (Note: A 4 1/2 pound roast should take about 45 minutes.) When roast is cooked to desired degree of doneness, lift it from the rack using a pair of tongs and crack the surface with a knife to remove outer casing of salt and mustard (have pan available to hold juices). Carve roast in thin slices. Be sure to handle roast with tongs at all times. A fork or knife might pierce the salt casing.
The roast slices into pieces perfect for sandwiches, so be prepared the next day with good bread, mayonnaise and some tomato slices.
BEEF BURRITOS (6 to 8 servings) 2 medium yellow onions, chopped 4 cloves garlic, minced 1/4 cup olive oil 2 pounds chuck roast 4 pounds canned tomatoes 3 4-ounce cans chopped green chilies 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano 14 to 18 large flour tortillas 4 cups refried beans 1/4 pound grated cheddar cheese (optional)
In a large dutch oven, saute' onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until the onions begin to wilt. Add beef and brown on all sides. Add 2 pounds of canned tomatoes, 2 cans green chilies and oregano. Cover pot closely and simmer until the meat is tender (1 1/2 to 2 hours -- the process takes less time if the meat is cut in chunks. Meat may also be cooked in crockery cooker).
When meat is tender, remove it to a large plate. Leave the sauce uncovered and increase the heat so that the sauce reduces. With two forks, shred the meat by pulling in opposite directions. Add shredded meat to sauce and allow to simmer.
Meanwhile, combine remaining canned tomatoes and chilies in a large skillet and reduce over medium-high heat until it is a thick sauce.
Dip flour tortilla in sauce in skillet. A little off-center, spread a line of refried beans (about 3 tablespoons) and top the beans with some of the meat mixture. Roll the tortilla and place, seam side down, in a large, lightly greased casserole (you may need more than one casserole). Repeat with remaining beans and beef.
Pour the tomato-chili mixture over the tortillas and bake in 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. The last 15 minutes of baking, sprinkle with grated cheese, if desired.
TARRAGON BEEFSTEAK SALAD (8 to 10 servings) 2 pounds round steak, cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick 1 cup salad oil (part olive oil, if desired) 1/3 cup red wine vinegar 1 tablespoon tarragon leaves 1 teaspoon salt 3/4 teaspoon sugar 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 2 large red onions, sliced and separated into rings 1/2 pound fresh, sliced mushrooms, if desired Romaine or lettuce leaves 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley 2 tablespoons capers
Broil round steak 3 to 4 minutes on each side (cooking just to rare). Cool slightly for handling. Using a very sharp knife, carve steak into very thin strips, 2 to 3 inches long. Combine oil, vinegar, tarragon, salt, sugar, mustard, pepper and garlic powder in large bowl. Add beef strips, onion rings and mushrooms, tossing lightly to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours (or overnight).
To serve, arrange lettuce on a large platter or in a salad bowl. Place steak salad on leaves. Sprinkle with parsley and capers.