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Founded in the mid-1800s, London's Claridge's Hotel has long been celebrated for its timeless style and award-winning dining—specifically its iconic afternoon tea. Now, Claridge's Executive Chef, Martyn Nail, as well as cookbook author Meredith Erickson share the secrets to the hotel's delicious dishes in a new book. Here, Nail and Erickson share an expanded excerpt on Claridge's traditional carving technique, written specifically for Food52.
I have been working at Claridge’s for my entire career—over thirty years now—and in that time, have learned a few valuable lessons. One is to never mess with a pastry chef. Ours is Francois Grange and he has been working the midnight shift longer than my tenure—imagine no sun for decades! The other is to not intervene with an American’s Thanksgiving ritual. This festive meal is a deeply personal tradition, often passed through generations, where prep can take days, if not weeks, of planning (I know I’m preaching to choir of Food52ers!).
And so, if I may, I would like to make a quiet suggestion, albeit a sacrilegious one: Consider roast beef for this Thanksgiving meal. If I haven’t lost you already, please hear me out:
Roast beef is familiar. This is not the once –per-year-I’ve-forgotten-what-I’m-doing recipe. The familiarity extends from the recipe to the actual procuring of the beef: we have a great farmer for our turkey at Claridge’s but I assume many home cooks do not, and the only purchase option is the stacked and cellophane-d birds at your local grocery store. This is not bad, of course. But to date, it is easier to find high quality rib of beef….
Roast beef is easy to make. Ask your butcher a few days in advance for a 4kg (9lbs) rib of beef. A few onions, salt, pepper, a roasting pan and you’re good to go. Plus sides, which is really the X Factor and will elevate your dinner to the next stratosphere. And if it’s easier to make it also means…
You have more time for entertaining your guests. Less prep time means more entertaining time, i.e. more time for popping that first bottle of bubbles or mixing that first Old Fashioned. Being present in body and mind is the first step to hosting.
At one time a gentleman’s education would not be complete until he had mastered the art of carving. At Claridge’s, we see nobility in both the butcher’s and carver’s roles: as there is nothing to carve if the meat is not of good quality or hasn’t been cooked properly. Our advice to you about butchering meat is to defer to a local butcher whom you trust, someone you can ask for the appropriate cut.
But back to carving. Once or twice a year we hold a Carving Masterclass in our kitchen. It is booked almost immediately. The guests are often husbands whose wives have sent them, or wives whose husbands have sent them, or wives whose wives have sent them, or husbands whose husbands have sent them—we all want a partner who can carve the roast as we raise our glass and smile across the table. Here’s how you can fulfill that duty with the deftness of a knight.
- Select an appropriate cut of meat. This is where our friend the butcher comes in. Choose larger cuts of meat since they will be firmer, easier to carve and will lose fewer juices when cut. Meat with most of (or all) the bones removed will be easier to cut.
- Let all roasts rest for at least 10 minutes before carving. This will not only increase the flavor of the meat, but also allow the roast to firm up.
- Remove strings, skewers the kitchen, before you head out into the limelight.
- Have your tools in order. It is best to use 2 knives: a long-bladed one for slicing and a short-bladed one for trimming and separating joints. Have a warm platter at the ready, and a pair of kitchen scissors. There you are, ready to go, knife in hand and all eyes on you.
- Allow elbow room at the table. Always stand, never sit.
- Carve uniform, attractive slices perpendicular to the grain of the meat.
So, would you serve roast beef for your Thanksgiving meal? Let us know why or why not below.