1 roast of beef, sirloin or rib
Paste of flour and water (optional)
The best pieces for roasting are the sirloin and rib pieces. The latter are oftenest used by small families. Make your butcher remove most of the bone, and skewer the meat into the shape of a round. If you roast in an oven, it is a good plan to dash a small cup of boiling water over the meat in first putting it down, letting it trickle into the pan. This, for a season, checks the escape of the juices, and allows the meat to get warmed through before the top dries by said escape.
If there is much fat upon the upper surface, cover with a paste of flour and water until it is nearly done. Baste frequently, at first with salt and water, afterward with the drippings. Allow about a quarter of an hour to a pound, if you like your meat rare; more, if you prefer to have it well done. Some, when the meat is almost done, dredge with flour and baste with butter–only once.
Remove the beef, when quite ready, to a heated dish; skim the drippings; add a teacupful of boiling water, boil up once, and send to table in a gravy-boat. Many reject made gravy altogether, and only serve the red liquor that runs from the meat into the dish as it is cut. This is the practice with some–indeed most of our best housekeepers. If you have made gravy in a sauce-boat, give your guest his choice between that and the juice in the dish. Serve with mustard, or scraped horse-radish and vinegar.
From Common Sense in the Household by Marion Harland, New York, 1871
Comment: Note the fact that Mrs. Harland lists “an oven” as a possible device which her readers might be using for beef roasting. This marks her as a very progressive and up-to-date cookbook author, as stoves with ovens suitable for roasting (as opposed to bake ovens) were just coming into widespread use during the Civil War era. (Culinary historian Karen Hess has a rule of thumb that new cooking techniques, recipes, etc., have usually been in fairly widespread use for at least ten years before they are ever mentioned in a published cookbook.)
The default was still the open hearth, with roasting done on a spit before the fire with a pan underneath to catch drippings. This is still regarded by many as the ideal way to roast meats of any sort, considering oven “roasted” meats to be better named as either baked (if an open pan is used) or boiled (if cooked in a lidded vessel.)