Mrs. O'Leary's Cow Crust
"Late last night while we were all in bed, Mrs. O'Leary left a lantern in a the shed. Her cow kicked it over and winked her eye and said, There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight." Anonymous
Catherine O'Leary was a humble Irish immigrant living on Chicago's near Southside. Late in the night of Octover 8, 1871 her barn caught on fire, and the conflagration spread on the wings of high winds through thousands of wooden structures. More than 2,000 acres were destroyed and 90,000 were left homeless. The Chicago Tribune reported that the cause of the Great Chicago Fire was Catherine's cow Daisy kicking over a lantern. Years later the story's author admitted he made up the story, but Mrs. O'Leary's cow continues to take the rap. So I have named this rub after her to help rehabilitate her rep.
Most spice rubs are a mix of herbs and spices and we rub them into the meat before cooking. This rub starts out that way, but then we transform it into a thick oil-based paste. The idea is, because most of the ingredients are oil soluble, by mixing them in oil we can extract more flavors and get them into the little pits and cracks on the surface of the meat. Normally marinades and rubs don't go very deep into the meat, but they can change the composition of the surface, and the use of oil helps transmit heat to the surface, fills the microscopic gaps on the surface with fat and flavor, and enhances browning and crust formation by simulating the effects of frying. The key is to pat the meat dry before adding the oiled rub.
Beef Rub Recipe
Makes. 5 tablespoons of dry rub, and when mixed with oil makes enough paste for a 10 pound roast.
Takes. 15 minutes.
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons dried thyme or oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon American paprika
1/2 teaspoon chipotle or cayenne powder
5 tablespoons olive oil or another vegetable oil
About the rosemary. You can leave the leaves whole or break them a bit with your hands. I throw them into a mortar and pestle and crush them just a bit to release their flavors. If you have fresh, double the quantity and coarsely chop it.
About the chipotle. Don't be a wuss. This is only 1/2 teaspoon for 10 pounds of meat, and it is all on the surface, not the interior. Like a viola, you don't notice it, but take it out of the orchestra and something is missing.
Where's the salt? I have left the salt out of this and most of my spice blend recipes. That's because occasionally we want to use it on something that has been brined or salted like my prime rib recipe. If the meat has not been salted, you absolutely must add salt. It is a major flavor enhancer, it helps build crust, and helps proteins retain water. Read more about how salt is important here. Just sprinkle it with what you think is the right amount.
Optional. Add 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish.
Why dried herbs? You can use fresh, but dried herbs yield more flavor when mixed in oil than fresh. Fresh herbs have a lot of water in them, and oil and water don't mix.
1) Mix everything except the olive oil in a bowl. Store in a jar for use later or proceed to the next step if you plan to use it now.
2) When it is time to use the rub, you can use it straight, or mix 1 part of the dry rub with 1 part oil to make a paste. If you make a paste, let it sit for an hour so the oil can extract flavors from the herbs.
3) Pat the meat dry with paper towels (this is very important), pour the paste on and rub it in. You can cook right away, but if you can leave it sit for 24 to 48 hours it will penetrate a little better (but it will not go more than 1/4" deep). If the meat has not been salted, then salt it liberally.
This page was revised 12/25/2013
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