There’s something about a T-bone. (The meat-shy might like to look away at this point.) It’s a quartet of things. The T-shaped bone gives the meat attached to it more flavour. The layer of fat, which must be left on so that the meat near it can absorb its tenderising essences. And the fact that you get two cuts of meat on a T-bone: The sirloin or porterhouse steak on one side of the bone, with its firmer texture and deeper flavour, and the slimmer fillet, more tender, like an extra morsel or three, a bonus for the steakaholic. That’s everybody’s best bit.
But did you know that you can treat a T-bone as a roast? A joint, just like a hunk of topside, silverside or (best of all) prime rib? Just ask your butcher if she (okay, or he) has a T-bone that hasn’t yet been cut into portions, and get the equivalent of two, four or more steaks, but all in one piece.
I became a fan of a prime rib roast while living in the UK. It’s a wonderful cut of meat, gorgeously marbled with fat and tissue, with plenty of bone to add yet more flavour, and I found it could be cooked to medium rare perfection in well under an hour, with added resting time for tenderising the joint.
So recently I tried the same method on a similar joint of T-bone, with similar results. Looking at a T-bone and a prime rib joint – let’s say a whole piece equivalent to four steaks – you may be hard-pressed to tell them apart. And you can use either and roast them in exactly the same way. I am also a fan of a whole sirloin roast. That’s the thicker side of the T-bone, without the bone or attached fillet, roasted in one whole piece, with the fatty layer on top adding oodles of flavour to the end result as it browns and crisps in the oven.
Which is all far more interesting than the old ubiquitous topside, silverside or aitchbone, which are pretty much all the major supermarkets care to put out in their meat fridges, yet all of which are potentially tougher and more stringy if not treated very carefully.
With any of these beef joints, you can choose to go the slow-cooking route – and have it end up very well done, in which case rather regard it as a potroast, with plenty of liquid such as wine and also lots of aromatics, say garlic, onion, carrot, celery and herbs. Or do what I did and cook it quickly at a relatively high temperature. I chose 200° for between 40 and 50 minutes. It’s too tempting to leave it in a little longer and important (if you like your beef pink in the centre) to remember that it does continue cooking while the meat is ‘resting’ i.e. while it is either in a turned-off oven with the door ajar, or wrapped tightly in foil and left to rest to one side somewhere in a warm kitchen. Either way, give it a good 20 minutes to half an hour before you unleash it on your guests.
Roast T-bone with a balsamic and sage reduction
1 x 1.6kg joint of T-bone steak, whole
Butter for browning
Sage leaves (lots, Daisy, not everything in life needs to be counted)
1 cup (250ml) balsamic vinegar, the best and most ‘vintage’ you can afford
2 cups stock (vegetable or beef)
1 cup dry red wine
A splash or port, sherry or muscadel
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
The T-bone joint for my recipe should be about 400g a person, given that the (obviously inedible) bone is also part of the weight. But I tend to the generous portion for my guests (and I have to say that it’s rare that anything’s left on my dinner plates, so maybe there’s something in that).
Melt some butter in a roasting pan on the stove top with finely chopped sage in it. Rub the joint all over with garlic (cut through the garlic first and use the exposed side). Brown the joint on all sides. Pay particular attention to the fatty side – let it simmer fat-down for a good five minutes at a not-too-high heat to break down all the tissue in there before it roasts.
Season the joint and place it in an oven pre-heated to 200°, with the sage butter juices basted over it. After about 35 minutes, test the thickest part (sirloin side) of the meat with a skewer for doneness. If the juices run red, it’s underdone, pink it’s perfect, but clear is too well done. When the juices are running pink, remove and wrap in foil and then leave in the oven to rest. Meanwhile, place the oven pan on the stove top. Spoon off any superfluous fat and add the red wine to the pan. Scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the pan and add the balsamic vinegar, stock and port or sherry or muscadel. Reduce on a highish heat, stirring, until it has the desired consistency, then season with salt and black pepper and strain through a fine sieve.
To serve, cut the whole steak sections away from the bone in one piece, then cut into slices and arrange on plates. Make sure everyone gets both sirloin and fillet. And that’s a “steak dinner” worthy of a dinner party.
First published in Weekend Argus 2012