Prime Rib Alert

I am pleased to announce that Thérèse and Trish “the Dish” have picked up the Christmas Day Prime Rib from our favorite local butcher and market, LaRocca’s Country Market.

Prime Rib

I have written extensively on best practices when it comes to preparing and cooking prime rib, so for those just getting started, please refer to previous Gourmay articles on the subject:

Now, I have been lobbying for quite some time to reverse the usual baking process by cooking the prime rib at 200° F until the internal temperature reaches 120°F and then crust the outside under high heat for about 8 minutes.  Thérèse sternly advises me that this is not going to happen this year – and perhaps never!

In any event, I will be priming the roast with a sea salt rub this evening and  then place the roast uncovered on a rack in the refrigerator for 48 hours.  This allows the excess fluids to be released to allow the surface of the roast to crisp better.   Before roasting on Christmas Day, we cover the roast with a mixture of flour, salt and pepper and that miracle of all spices, Fenugreek.   (Editor’s Note:  Prime Rib without a hint of Fenugreek is like Christmas without a Christmas tree).

For vegetarians and animal activists, we will also be serving roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

Prime Rib Roast: Suggestions from the Pros

Prime Rib RoastOther than Haggis, the carnivores in our family prefer Prime Rib for our big Christmas meal.  Personally, I have always thought Thérèse does a great job of cooking Prime Rib, owing mainly to the fact that she uses that secret spice:  Fenugreek.   She claims that she was introduced to this culinary stroke of genius by Rosemary “Grand Dame” Gourmay, who presumably was just following a recipe handed down by her parents.  Whatever the origins, Funugreek works great on prime rib, but the pungent smell will linger in your home for several days.

(Editor’s Note: As reported earlier in Gourmay,  “Fenugreek seed is also widely used as a galactagogue (milk producing agent) by nursing mothers to increase inadequate breast milk supply. Studies have shown that fenugreek is a potent stimulator of breast milk production and its use was associated with increases in milk production. It can be found in capsule form in many health food stores.  This is good news as we have a new and expectant mother joining us for Christmas dinner this year.)

Having a great cut of meat is essential.  Other than salt, pepper a touch of flour (to improve crusting) and fenugreek, the real test of a cook’s meddle is how the meat is prepped and then roasted.   While we don’t plan on any major changes this year, I do think it would be useful to expound on a few roasting suggestions by some serious culinary professionals.

The recent Cook’s illustrated attempts to duplicate a cooking technique that employs a blowtorch and roasting the prime rib for 18 hours at 120ºF.  Needless to say, neither the test kitchen experts at Cook’s Illustrated or our already taxed Gourmay’s kitchen staff were prepared to replicate this technique.  Nevertheless, there are a couple of suggestions that we plan to follow:

  • Moisture needs to be removed from the meat to improve crusting.  One way of doing this is by applying a dry rub of sea salt and allow the roast to sit on a rack uncovered in the refrigerator for anywhere from 24 to 96 hours.  This has the effect of reducing surplus fluids from the roast.  We plan on aging the dry-rub roast for 48 hours.
  • Have your butcher cut the loin off the ribs but reapply with string and cook the roast with the bones.  It distributes the oven heat more evenly.

In a similar vein,  J. Kenji Lopez-Alt who is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab, provides a beautiful and colorful analysis to achieve roasting perfection.  According to Mr. Lopez-Alt, the perfectly roasted prime rib must satisfy these three conditions or Commandments:

Commandment I:   The Perfect Prime Rib must have a deep brown, crisp, crackly, salty crust on its exterior.

Commandment II:   In the Perfect Prime Rib, the gradient at the interface between the brown crust and the perfectly medium-rare interior must be absolutely minimized (as in, I don’t want a layer of overcooked meat around the edges).

Commandment III:   The Perfect Prime Rib must retain as many juices as possible.

For those interested in both the science and experimentation of Mr. Lopez-Alt’s search for excellence, I refer you to his Food Lab Blog.   It makes for compelling reading.    In effect, Mr. Lopez-Alt recommends cooking the roast at a low temperature (200ºF is about as low as most consumer ovens can reliably hold the desired temperature) until the internal temperature of the roast is around 120ºF (medium rare).   Take the roast out and allow to sit for between 20 to 30 minutes and turn the oven up to 550ºF.   Place the roast back into the oven for 6 to 8 minutes to crust the surface (now that the excess moisture has been removed) and then cut and serve immediately.

Editor’s Note:  The technique is sound, but what about the gravy and other uses for the oven?  These are issues that will be decided  by Thérèse, but a combination of removing the moisture (brining and aging) and roasting at a high temperature for a brief period of time will give you the best crust.

Surprise: Roast Beast It Is!

In a surprise development, the Therese let slip that Roast Beast will be served on Christmas Day!  This is only the second time in close to 20 years that standing prime rib will make a welcome return visit to the May dining table on Christmas Day.  This is clearly a major setback for vegetarians, vegans, health-addicts, dietitians and those concerned with global warming, but certainly a welcome victory for the few remaining carnivores.

2009 Gourmay Meat Selections

It is not surprising that pork (anyway) made such a strong showing and I am delighted to confirm that  Dan “Pit Bull” Broderick will be treating arriving guests to Jamie Oliver’s slow-cooked pork on December 23rd.  Everyone is sure to be in hog heaven.

Standing Prime Rib RoastStanding rib roast and Yorkshire pudding will be served on Christmas Day.  The raging debate this week is whether we will do 5 or 6 ribs.  I now have it on good authority that the Therese has opted for 6 ribs, so we should have plenty of leftovers.  Of more interest to beef-lovers everywhere is that this lovely beast will be heavily seasoned with that great Indian spice, Fenugreek.    The Therese was first exposed to fenugreek by my mother and, quite frankly, prime rib is simply not prime rib without the liberal application of this unusually aromatic herb which accentuates the flavor of practically all meats.

Therese was consulting today with The Dish on side dishes and it appears almost certain that roast potatoes will be featured.  It is also likely that Brussels sprouts will make an appearance, but there is still some debate on how it will be prepared.  In any event, I don’t think anyone will go away from the table hungry.  The wine pairing is expected to be something quite memorable as Top Sommelier Dan “Pit Bull” Broderick will be contributing some elegant and hard-to-find wines from a much sought-after vintner.

He himself is so looking forward to carve the Roast Beast.