A Sinfully Decadent Holiday Meal Extravaganza

Sometimes you have to throw caution (or more precisely, diets) to the wind and just go for the gusto. And Christmas Eve dinner this year was one of those times. What was on the menu? Well the star of the show was definitely the standing prime rib roast. Mind you, this was a near 9-pounder of well-marbled prime beef rib—and a pretty penny to boot. But all three kids (they’ll always be “the kids” no matter what their age!) were going to be joining us for the feast, and we wanted it to be special.

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The reasons why this roast works so perfectly is the low and slow start which delivers perfectly, evenly cooked, medium-rare doneness all the way from edge to center. Then blasting the prime rib with heat just before serving gives you a crackling-crisp, browned crust. By cooking it at a low temperature, you make sure to minimize the volume of beef that comes above the ideal final temperature and almost completely eliminate the gray band of overcooked meat.

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A few hours before dinner we all enjoyed some Gambas al Ajillo, sizzling garlic shrimp.

Whether you buy prime or select, fresh or dry-aged, corn-stuffed or grass-fed, if you don’t cook it right, it ain’t going to be good. Period. Here is chef/author Kenji’s definition of perfection, in three 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.

The best part? By cooking with this two stage method, there is a much larger window of time to serve the beef allowing you time to relax with your family/guests. Once you get past the initial low-temperature phase of cooking, so long as the roast is covered in foil, it stays warm for up to almost two hours. All you have to do is pop it back into its 550°F oven 8 minutes before guests are ready to eat, and the roast emerges hot, sizzling, and ready to carve—no need to rest it after that, since the only part that is being affected is the very exterior.

Slow-roasted prime rib with a rich red wine jus and a side of braised oxtail makes the perfect holiday centerpiece. Serves 3 to 12, depending on size of roast. We actually did make a “reverse sear” Prime Rib for Christmas a few years ago, and you can check out that blog here. The directions are somewhat different from this recipe, but the concept is the same.

From 2 to 6 ribs (3-12 pounds), this recipe works for roasts of almost any size. Plan on one pound of bone-in roast per guest (or more if you want leftovers 🙂 ) For best results use a dry-aged prime-grade or grass-fed roast. Cooking time is identical regardless of the size of the roast. To improve the crust, allow it to air-dry, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight before roasting. Seasoning with salt up to a day in advance will help the seasoning penetrate the meat more deeply, which is an extra step that we made sure to follow.

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Totally sinful, but well worth it—every now and again. What are you waiting for? Here’s your preplanned menu for a New Year’s celebration…

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds beef shins or oxtail
  • 1 pound beef or veal soup bones
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 ribs celery, roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 (750ml) bottle dry red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 parsley stems
  • 1 quart chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 standing rib roast (prime rib)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower position and preheat oven to 250°F. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat until lightly smoking. Add beef shins or oxtail and soup bones. Cook, flipping and stirring pieces occasionally, until well browned on all surfaces, about 15 minutes. Using tongs, transfer beef to a large plate and set aside.
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  2. Add carrot, celery, and onion to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to lightly brown, about 8 minutes.
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  3. Add wine, bay leaves, thyme, and parsley and cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
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  4. Add chicken stock, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, another 10 minutes.
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  5. Arrange beef shins/oxtail and bones in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Pour entire contents of Dutch oven on top of bones and spread vegetables around into an even layer. Place a V-rack on top, arranging meat and vegetables so that rack rests on bottom of pan.
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  6. Season rib roast generously with salt and pepper on all sides and place on rack with fat cap facing up. Place in oven and cook until center of roast registers 125°F on an
  7. Remove roast from oven, transfer to a large plate, and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Place in a warm spot in the kitchen and allow to rest while you finish the jus. Meanwhile, increase oven temperature to highest possible setting, 500 to 550°F.
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  8. Using tongs, remove shins/oxtail from roasting pan and transfer to a medium saucepan. Pour remaining contents of pan through a fine-mesh strainer into saucepan. Discard strained vegetables and bones. (Reserve marrow, if you like, for spreading on bread or mixing back into jus.)
  9. Using a ladle, skim excess fat off top of liquid and discard. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until shins/oxtail are completely tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer shins/oxtail to a serving plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Season jus to taste with salt and pepper (you may not need any salt). Stir in butter off heat. Keep warm.
    IMG_1879A platter of the cooked oxtails, above.
  10. Wipe out roasting pan and replace V-rack. Remove foil from prime rib and place on top of rack with fat cap facing up. Ten minutes before guests are ready to be served, place roast back in hot oven and cook until well browned and crisp on the exterior, 6 to 10 minutes.
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  11. Remove from oven, carve, and serve immediately, serving shin/oxtail meat on the side and passing hot jus around the table.
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Prime Rib recipe from J. KENJI LÓPEZ-ALT

Our next dilemma was what to serve with the Prime Rib, a Potato Gratin or my famous Twice-Baked Potatoes? Then Russ threw in a curve ball with the Whipped Potatoes with Horseradish recipe by a favorite chef/author Molly Stevens (he didn’t even realize it was one of her recipes until I pointed out the fact.) Instant winner!

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Yes, they are a bit more involved, but after all ’tis the season—plus you can make a day ahead, see note below. While most reviewers were fine with the quantity of horseradish, both Russ and I thought it was too subtle, and next time we’re going to double the amount. And we will also add less milk, the consistency was just a bit too soupy for us.

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided, plus 1/2 cup (1 stick), cut into 1″ cubes, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 2″ pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1″ cubes, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 2/3 cup whole milk, warmed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and pale-green parts only, minced (about 2/3 cup loosely packed)
  • Hungarian sweet paprika

Directions

  1. Brush an 8x8x2″ or other 6-cup baking dish with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Place potatoes in a large pot and add cold water to cover by 1″. Add a large pinch of salt; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover with lid slightly ajar and gently simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Drain potatoes; return to same pot. Shake and stir with a wooden spoon over very low heat until dry.IMG_1781
  3. Then, using a potato masher, mash coarsely. Using a hand mixer, beat 1/2 cup butter into potatoes, a few pieces at a time, until blended. Beat in cream cheese, adding a few pieces at a time, then horseradish.
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  4. With motor running, gradually add milk, beating until potatoes are light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper.
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  5. Stir in scallions. Scrape potatoes into prepared dish.
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  6. Use a spatula to create peaks across the surface. Drizzle potatoes with remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter and sprinkle with paprika. DO AHEAD: Potatoes can be made 1 day ahead. Let stand at room temperature to cool. Cover and chill.
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  7. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake potatoes, uncovered, until they are heated through and top is golden, about 40 minutes (if chilled, add 10 minutes).

Of course, what’s a special meal without dessert? For this dinner the answer was Profiteroles with Peppermint Ice Cream. But you’ll have to wait until the next blog…

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