Friday, January 6, 2012

Standing Rib Roast - A Holiday Meal

You have to spoil yourself once in a while. This year, we went with a standing rib roast for the Christmas holiday, served up with some carrots, sweet potato, collard greens, and a little prepared horseradish on the side. I've done rib roasts in the past for the holidays, so I almost did something like a fresh ham or a leg of lamb instead, but I don't regret cooking this great cut of beef again.

I couldn't find a large standing rib roast this year, so I went with two smaller ones. This turned out to be a better idea, since I was cooking for some people that prefer their beef more cooked than others- so I could cook one roast the way I like it, and leave the other in the oven a little extra time. The preparation actually started when I brought the roast home from the market two days prior. I unwrapped both roasts, rubbed them down with a decent amount of salt and pepper, then loosely covered them with wax paper so they could breathe a little, and let them rest in the refrigerator until it was time to cook. Basically, I gave the meat a very brief dry-aging time- allowing it to lose some of it's excess moisture, and a little bit of a dry brine / light cure at the same time - similar to what you would do to a turkey. This will help allow the seasoning to penetrate deeper into the meat, and help the outside form a nice crust in the oven.

So on the day of the big meal, I'm planning on serving dinner around 4pm - meaning I'll take the roasts out of the refrigerator around noon, to let them come up to room temperature, and figure on getting them in the oven around 1pm. In addition to the salt and pepper already applied to them, they'll get a liberal amount of fresh rosemary leaves pressed onto them. You really don't need much else. I also insert the probe from my digital probe thermometer into the center of the thicker roast. This is the one I will target to medium rare-ish. The second, slightly thinner roast will stay in the oven an extra five to ten minutes, which should place it at about medium well.

To get your roast a nice even medium rare to medium in the center, and render all those fats out, you'll want to cook it at a relatively low temperature - I'm going with 250 degrees, which should fit my timeline, even if I have to bump up the oven temperature a little towards the end. I set the alarm on the probe thermometer for 125 degrees- just a little past medium rare, but not quite "medium" yet. The advantage of using a probe thermometer that stays in the meat through the entire roasting process, which lets you gague how well you are doing on time. About 40 minutes before my target time, my roast  temperature seemed a little under, so I finished the meat at about 300 degrees, which landed me on 125 right on schedule, and give the outside a little extra crust. The second roast got to stay in the oven an extra seven minutes or so, bringing it firmly into "medium" territory. Both roasts deserve at least a fifteen minute rest before carving- allow the meat to cool off, and allow the muscle fibers to "unclench" and re-absorb all those wonderful juices.

When I carve a rib roast, I usually leave the bone-in, and carve large slabs- one slice off the end, one slice including the first bone, the next slice has no bone, then another bone-in slice.. this time I had a few too many guests to make that an effective way of portioning things out, so I carved the meat off the bones, and went with thinner (but still pretty massive) slabs of beef. The bones, and the meat between them won't be going to waste though, they were promptly bagged along with some of the pan drippings and hidden in the freezer- they will eventually become a base for a stew or a gravy/sauce.

Of course, a great slab of tender, juicy beef is nothing without sides. Carrots are always a great complement for beef- so my first side will be a simple  one- baby carrots, boiled until tender, then tossed with a touch of brown sugar as soon as they come out of the pot. Beef always pairs well with any kind of bitter green leaf vegetable- so I'm going for it and pairing mine with classic collard greens that have been slowly cooking in broth with some onion and chunks of ham all day. To round things out, I'll also add in a simple baked sweet potato topped with butter and brown sugar. All in all, a decadent, but complete holiday meal.

No comments:

Post a Comment