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Feed holiday crowds with affordable, marinated eye round or a side of salmon

This image shows a recipe for prune, peppercorn and fresh herb-rubbed roast beef. Milk Street via AP

Holiday parties often call for feeding crowds all at once, so this year we offer two impressive main courses that make that easy. They are as good at room temperature as they are hot from the oven.

For a beef option, we challenged ourselves to transform a thrifty, low-cost cut of beef into a lush, celebratory meal. The answer was eye round, a roast often deemed too lean to be tender. To roast this tough cut and get succulent, perfectly cooked results, we marinated the meat in ingredients that would do the work for us — starting with a sticky, sweet puree of prunes. That may sound unusual, but prunes are high in hygroscopic sorbitol and fructose, which — along with salt and soy sauce — amplify the way the meat absorbs flavor.

The sugars in the prunes and ketchup create a nicely caramelized crust, while the salt and soy sauce provide seasoning that flavors the meat. Anchovies also may be unexpected, but they add rich umami notes.

A whole side of salmon also is an excellent choice — and relatively hands off. A quick marinade in soy sauce infuses the fish with earthy dimension, but be sure to not marinate for more than 20 minutes or its saltiness will become overpowering.

The salmon is drizzled with dry vermouth, then roasts in a foil-wrapped baking dish with shallot, carrot, celery and thyme. The vermouth’s herbal elements add dimension to the dish. Once the fish is cooked, the drippings are transformed into a delicious sauce enriched with butter and fresh dill. A squeeze of lemon enlivens the flavors.

Prune, Peppercorn and Fresh Herb-Rubbed Roast Beef

Start to finish: 2¾ hours, plus 48 hours to marinate

Servings: 10

A prune-based marinade helped us transform an economical eye round into a tender and juicy roast. To boost the marinade’s effect, we trim the silver skin and also poke the meat repeatedly with a fork. The roast beef tasted best after marinating for 48 hours, but 24 will work, too. Serve thinly sliced with fresh horseradish sauce for a clean, contrasting bite.

Don’t check the roast too frequently. A succulent roast relied on even cooking at a low temperature; opening the oven door interrupts the process. Instead, use an oven-safe thermometer (the type that can be left in the roast as it cooks) to monitor the meat’s temperature during cooking.

8 ounces pitted prunes (about 1½ cups)

½ cup soy sauce

¼ cup ketchup

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons fresh thyme

3 oil-packed anchovy fillets

Kosher salt

5- to 6-pound beef eye round roast, trimmed of silver skin

Fresh horseradish sauce, to serve (optional)

In a food processor, blend the prunes, soy sauce, ketchup, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, anchovies and 4 teaspoons salt until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a 2-gallon zip-close bag. Poke the roast all over with a fork, then place in the bag. Turn to coat, then seal the bag and refrigerate for 48 hours.

Heat the oven to 275°F with a rack in the middle position. Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. Remove the roast from the bag and transfer to the rack. Discard the marinade in the bag and brush any marinade clinging to the roast’s surface into an even coating. Roast until the center of the meat registers 125°F, 1¾ hours to 2 hours.

Transfer the roast to a carving board, tent with foil and let rest for 30 minutes. Thinly slice and serve with the horseradish sauce, if desired.

Oven-Poached Salmon with Thyme, Dill and Vermouth

Start to finish: 1½ hours

Servings: 8

When shopping for the side of salmon, ask for a fillet between 1½ and 1¾ inches thick for the best results. We found temperature was a better indicator for doneness than cooking time. To test the salmon’s temperature, carefully peel back the foil just enough to insert an instant thermometer at the thickest end. The best way to perfectly cook this dish was to remove it from the oven a bit before the salmon was fully cooked. The residual heat gently finishes the cooking.

½ cup soy sauce

3½- to 4-pound salmon fillet, skin on, pin bones removed

2 medium carrots, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 shallot, thinly sliced

8 sprigs fresh thyme

8 sprigs fresh dill, plus 3 teaspoons minced, divided

Kosher salt

1 cup dry vermouth

Ground black pepper

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Lemon wedges, to serve

Heat the oven to 500°F with a rack in the middle position. Pour the soy sauce into a baking dish large enough to fit the salmon. Add the fish, flesh side down. Marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl toss the carrots, celery, shallot, thyme, dill sprigs and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside. Fold an 18-inch-long sheet of foil lengthwise into a strip wide enough for the salmon to fit on. Lightly coat the foil with oil, then place it, oiled side up, in the center of a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the carrot-celery mixture around the outside edges of the foil. Drizzle the vegetables with the vermouth. Place the salmon on the foil, flesh side up. Season with pepper.

Cover the entire pan tightly with foil, allowing it to dome over the salmon. Roast until the salmon registers 120°F, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, keeping the foil in place, and let the salmon rest until it is between 125°F and 130°F, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the top foil, then use the foil under the salmon to lift and transfer it to a serving platter. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, strain the liquid and solids on the baking sheet into a saucepan. Discard the solids and all but ¾ cup of the liquid. Over medium heat, bring the liquid to a simmer. Off heat, stir in the butter, lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of the minced dill. Season with salt and pepper. Pour 3 tablespoons of the sauce over the salmon. Sprinkle the remaining 2 teaspoons dill over the salmon. Serve with lemon wedges and the remaining sauce.

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