Have you ever tried to wrap a beef fillet in a salt crust and bake it in the oven? If not, I highly recommend doing it. First of all, it’s a nerve-wrecking adventure, second, if you get it right, you’ll be able to serve a world-class meal: meat so tender and regularly cooked that you won’t believe it; a texture so soft and yet firm that you’d need to invent new words for describing it; a roast so spectacular that it makes you sing and hum while chewing on it. No kidding!
You’ll need a lot of salt, A LOT of salt. For a roast of 1.5 kilograms think of buying 2.5 kilograms of sea salt. It has to be coarse sea salt, don’t use the snow-white refined one. You mix the salt with some egg whites, some water (you could add herbs, if you liked to) – and then work the crust. Bring out a thick layer on the tray, pose the meat, then use your hands to cover it entirely as above. Pre-heat the oven until very hot, 240°C (460°F). Put the beast into this burning hell. But for how long? Well, that’s the nerve-wrecking part.
You wouldn’t like the idea of ruining such a noble and expensive part of meat, would you? And this is a technique you rarely use, so you shouldn’t trust your good cook’s intuition at all. That’s why I recommend using high-tech-equipment for temperature control:
You can, roughly, count 30 minutes for a big piece of meat like the one I’ve used. But you should control the core temperature or should I say: closely monitor it?, beginning after 25 minutes. Here’s the basic rules: at 55-60°C (140°F) core temperature the roast is rare (really rare, what the French call “bleu”). Between 60 and 65° it’s perfect, I’d say, rare to medium, at 70° and more you enter the well-done section (=ruined).
This rules applies to any beef roast, with or without a crust. But beware: When you pull out the roast (to let it rest for at least 20 to 30 minutes), the core temperature is still slightly on the rise. In other words: When you measure 60°C and pull it out of the oven, it won’t simply stop there, it’s still cooking for a while! So here, in the end, your intuition is needed again.
PS: My friend Michael does the salt-crust thing with whole chicken. I’ve been lacking audacity to try it so far. Yet Michael swears that the results are fantastic…